Shame and disconnection

When I googled 'shame' and clicked on images, I noticed that almost every picture showed someone with their hands over their face. Brown's research says that shame disconnects us from others, and I think that the images prove it.

Brene Brown became a researcher on the topic of shame because of these words that her boss at the time said to her: "You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviours".

From there sprang a career in researching shame in the lives of women and then men. She's written several books and is on the speaking circuit (including in Sydney this week!)

I read her book I thought it was just me (but it isn't) and came out with a few things.


  • Change is not possible when we are in a state of shame. 
  • Shame is basically disconnection from other people.
  • Shame in the lives of women comes from a web of competing expectations, both cultural and individual, across many areas of life. 
  • The only real way through shame is talking about it and connecting with other people.


Interestingly, studies have shown that children who are prone to shame (as opposed to guilt) feelings in upper primary school are more susceptible to depression, addictions and self-harming behaviours as adults.

I need to read the whole thing again once I get my own copy and make notes in the margins. (I can't really write in my friend's copy, now can I!)

My 'to do' take home message is to stop any form of stereotyping or depersonalising speech about others. Brown argues that these attitudes come from my own hidden, inner shame. I don't consciously want to talk like that about people, but it's easy to do, and it does sneak up. I'm committed to examining my speech and its origins when I hear myself say something that dismisses others, and to not passing on the shame of disconnection.