Roger is depressed because of the death of a close friend. He was told to go to a self help group.
Stacy fought depression all her adult life. She was told to get on a disciplined program of exercise, diet and meditation.
Allie was depressed after losing her job. She was told to contact a headhunter, join LinkedIn and to treat looking for a job as a job.
William is depressed and has no idea why. He was told to be grateful for all he has and to snap out of it.
None of this “helpful” advice actually helped. Why? Because each of these people have something in common: they feel shame. Depression and shame go hand-in-hand. Usually when you find one you will find the other, and they create a vicious cycle of self-condemnation, shame and depression. It goes the other way around as well: depression creating self-condemnation and shame.
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” Brene Brown
In short, shame is what makes a depressed person feel too worthless to get out of bed in the morning, and to avoid social gatherings for fear of being found out for the worthless person they believe they are. It is a major attack on the self that leads to self-condemnation. It is the belief that if anyone knew who you really are, you would be found unacceptable. Shame brings with it feelings of disgrace and
dishonor; a sense that you deserve nothing in life. It questions one’s right to exist.
The Purpose of Shame
As with all feelings, shame does have a purpose. When all goes well in a child’s life, shame exists to protect him or her from getting in trouble and danger. From there, things can go overboard. Shame that is created through childhood deficits, however, combines with other emotions, causing it to be complicated and hard to recognize. This is the kind of shame that fuels depression and hopelessness.
A person who feels shame wants to hide from everyone. They show the world a false self that they hope will be acceptable. Shame combines with depression, making it almost impossible for them to help themselves. They cannot make the depression go away therefore, they feel that something is wrong with them and that their friends, loved ones and employers are losing patience with them.
The Strong Independent Hero/Shero
In our society, being independent, autonomous and unemotional is prized and respected. The heroes and sheros who are respected are strong, courageous
and silent. They can prevail against all odds and seldom need help. The truth about being human is that we were created in need. Babies cannot survive unless their needs are fulfilled. Human adults need help as well, yet we are shown role models who can be more successful alone. This is a set up for shame and depression.
Something else that Roger, Stacy, Allie, and William have in common is that they need help to recognize and face the shame that drives their depression. As they recognize the shame, they can remember the events in their lives that created these feelings. Then they can work through them.
The first step toward dealing with depression and shame is to begin to name what hurts you and to talk to someone you believe will respect your words. I can be that person. Call me at: (919)881-2001.