Thursday, August 18, 2011

What is Shame?

image courtesy of
One of my favorite quotes by Julia Cameron is this: “Anger is meant to be acted upon, not acted out.” So simple, and so true.  This statement alone has helped me navigate so many difficult situations in my life. When I begin to feel angry about something, I think…wow, there is something I need to act upon here. My boundaries are being crossed, I’m hurt, I need to speak up and establish my boundaries clearly. If I don’t, I will carry that anger, and it will be projected onto people who don’t deserve it.

And so it is with shame. Shame, like every emotion we have, is there to send us a message. It is an emotion that initially that tells us “this isn’t right for me”. At times, it can be good for us- it acts as our conscience. We stole from the corner market, we feel ashamed (this isn’t right for me) and we don’t do it again. We’ve hurt someone unnecessarily, we bullied someone…we feel shame, act upon it ( apologize, discontinue the behavior) let it go, and move forward. When we act upon it, we are enlightened and changed by the experience. When we don’t, we either turn inward against ourselves, or project our shame onto others.

When we carry negative emotions like shame, fear, anger, regret, jealousy, the weight of it wears us down. It steals our joy, sabotages relationships, even weakens our immune system. When held inside, each of these emotions picks up a partner. Fear’s partner is paralysis. Anger’s partners are suppression and rage. Regret’s partner is worthlessness. Jealousy’s partner is criticism (of self and others). And Shame’s partner is silence. It is miraculous how your life can shift by letting go of that “partner”.

Letting go of Shame’s partner is as simple as breaking the silence

It is the carrying of Shame that Amy Ferris and I would like to eradicate from this planet, through sharing stories in our anthology The Shame Prom, and in our workshops.


  1. Great words Hollye. You described it perfectly. Let's get rid of it for good.

  2. It always amazes me when the universe sends me exactly the right message I need to hear that day and that moment. This was it for me today. Wonderful words of wisdom. Thank you.

  3. This is just perfectly perfectly said! Thanks, Hollye, for another great "food for thought" moment. I so wish I could be at the workshop!!
    xo B

  4. Yes Madge- let's!
    Michael Ann, I'm so glad to be your messenger today. I received a lovely message from your blog today, too!
    Deb and Barb- Oh for chrissakes, just get on the plane and fly your Canadian butts over here! xoxo


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