I’ve been thinking about shame since I last wrote a post. Dreary as that may sound, its been enlightening! As I explained last time, I have to chew new ideas over for a while to make sense of them. While I might “get it” as I read it, it takes a while before I can talk about them, or apply them in any congruent way. And so on the back of reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, and watching this TED talk as I paired up socks this afternoon, the concept of shame is firmly in my consciousness, and in that way I sometimes do when I learn something new, or my perspective shifts, I start seeing it everywhere (a bit like a hypochondriac medical student).
And what I have realised most of all, is how much shame drives a lot of our behaviour. How we do, or more often, don’t do things, because of shame, to avoid shame, to dodge those most unwelcome feelings that envelop us when we are in shame. And its not hard to tap into that feeling. We all have our own triggers, and they’re often not that far beneath the surface.
And of course, shame is present in the realm of parenting, and never more so than when we are parenting publicly, and our shameful truths (that we are out of control, unsure, uncertain, angry or frightened) risk being exposed to those around us, that we are not as together or self assured as we like to appear – we run the risk of being “found out” as being the flawed individuals we actually are, to be “seen” – which feels vulnerable and uncomfortable and like something we’d really rather avoid if at all possible. So, if I think back my moment at the school gates, my desperate attempts to control my child’s perfectly understandable emotional outburst was driven by my desire to protect myself from being exposed as being caught off guard, unprepared and overwhelmed by his behaviour.
And now as I go through my parenting day, in public, or not, I realise how frequently these feelings pop up – in the relentless requests for more screen time, the carpet of clothes on the floor of my eldest’s bedroom, the supermarket tantrum….the parenting moments you’d rather no one else saw, the moments that make you hope no one’s watching, because they are the messy, flawed, desperate most human of moments. And there’s the crazy bit; that we should feel shame about being fundamentally human. The very thing that we all have in common, the thing that binds us all together.
And that makes me laugh, and shake my head in despair, but also makes me feel a little better in those moments. A little less desperate and a whole lot less ashamed. It’s a bit like a performer imagining the audience naked. Its humanising.