Yesterday Scott dared us to disagree with the premise that we like to shame others because “it works”. I accept the challenge.
Unfortunately, I agree with Scott that shaming SEEMS to work, and that is why people use it as a tool of manipulation. Some of us will “go along to get along” when dealing with a person who uses shame to try to control others. Guilty as charged officers; for years, shaming was an effective way to throw me off and get me to forget who I am and how I want to live and love.
But I disagree with the premise (and this is not what he’s saying, but work with me) that shaming actually WORKS. What shaming does do is cause distance in relationships and pushes people away from the shamer. So if one’s goal is to have superficial relationships where people learn how to “go along to get along” for short bursts of time while simultaneously working hard to avoid contact as often as possible – shame works.
When my poor mother tried to shame me into changing my skirt, she was harkening back to an old emotional memory when she believed that my appearance reflected in some way on her. She didn’t want to be seen with me wearing a skirt that she thought was best worn when a woman was going clubbing. For the record, I drove by a club New Year’s Eve where young men and women were waiting in line to gain entry into a club and not ONE woman had on a maxi anything. For the record, but beside the point! I understood that whatever was going on in my mom’s brain really wasn’t about me. I didn’t like it, but I understand that my mother feels very freaked out and insecure in her current state of confusion. Even if my mother is lashing out, I know that this attack is not personal or even sensible. It hurts, but it would be an indication of my own insecurity and unresolved issues if I couldn’t reach into my tool bag, find my capacity to pause to prepare and empathetically, compassionately and honestly recognize that my mother is not well.
Shaming does NOT work on people who do their own work and learn skill sets that foster personal responsibility. Shaming does NOT work to elicit compliance in people who are no longer in bondage to shame or people pleasing. Shaming does NOT work on people who seek to avoid uncomfortable emotions by being swayed by an emotional shamer. Shaming does NOT work on people who consciously, deliberately, thoughtfully, and prayerfully make decisions that fit with their inspired way of seeing instead of taking the easy road of “going along to get along”. What this means, I think, is that if we do our work, there will be far less opportunity for other folks to learn that shaming is an effective tool because it will fail to be an effective tool the second we stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated by our emotional responses! Notice what I just said: I did NOT say manipulated by others. I said: manipulated by our emotional responses. It is NOT the other person who is controlling us so much as it is our reaction to them that is putting us in bondage to misguided attempts to treat others in ways that are disrespectful. How about you? Are you acquiring the tools you need to gain freedom and immunity from shame attacks?