Using Shame as a Weapon on Another
Each of us has someone that we wish would change. We have tried being supportive, understanding, helpful and directive, but still they remain unchanged. It can be extremely frustrating and can lead to us wanting to shame them into change. But does this work?
Using shame to change another
We all know that shame is a powerful influence on a person's personality. We only have to think back to the times that we have been shamed by other people and we cringe with the memory of it, even after all these years. And often the thing that stays with us isn't that the person was wrong to shame us, but that we are still so eternally and irredeemably bad.
Knowing how powerful shame is, it is tempting to use it – consciously or unconsciously – to try to change another person. We usually don't mean it but it's often there in our words.
The risk is not that it won't work
The risk in shaming another person is not that it won't work, but that it will. Shame suppresses, contracts, limits and weakens the person who is shamed. But this isn't usually what we want the other person to be like. We want them to be wiser, more active, more confident and better; shame only takes them further from these desirable qualities. When a person is shamed, their motivation ebbs away and they are much less likely to be able to change.
Working with shame
Counsellers and psychotherapists have plenty of experience in working with shame – it is a thing that brings a great many people to therapy. Our work would go nowhere if we made people feel more shameful; instead the process of recovery and change is one of helping the other person feel understood, accepted and empathised with. This builds people; and once people feel stronger, then of their own accord people change the parts of their life that they couldn't tackle from a position of shame.
– Tim Hill
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