Common Responses to Shame
This occurs when the shamed person wants to respond to someone but can’t seem to find the words, stand up for themselves but becomes too afraid, or wants to run away from a situation but can’t seem to move.
The shamed person is often exhausted by being around others. They also rarely feel safe or at peace when in others company because they think they will be found out as a fraud. They look for places where no one can seem them in their shame.
Different from escapism, withdrawal occurs emotionally. The shamed person creates masks and other elaborate ways of avoiding being themselves. Some common ways to withdrawal are hiding behind humor, people pleasing, or pretending to be in control.
The shamed person usually believes that if they could just be perfect there wouldn’t be anything for them to be ashamed about. This causes them to try to reach perfection in every area of their lives and avoid mistakes at all costs. Deep down they know they aren’t perfect, but they keep up the act so no one will know they are flawed.
Similar to perfectionism the shamed person denies that they have anything to be ashamed of. If they let themselves become aware of their shame they fear that they might not be able to handle it. They send the message to others that they completely accept themselves and others.
Criticism and Blame
In order to protect themselves and shift the focus off of their own shame, the shamed person will often make fun of, or belittle the people around him/her. Every time they put someone down they feel superior and don’t have to deal with their own shame for a little longer.
Sometimes the shamed person takes criticism and blame to another level. Instead of attacking their own shame, the person attacks the people that they feel vulnerable with. The shamed person who is rageful can risk becoming verbally abusive in order to protect his/her fragile identity.
While most people respond to shame by wanting to hide and withdrawal, sometimes the shamed person can do the exact opposite. In this case, the shamed person has decided that if they completely put themselves out there, (physically, emotionally, spiritually) and the person they are talking to ends up rejecting them then they don’t have much to lose because they were in control of being rejected. If they took it slow, growing in relationship with someone, they wouldn’t know when the other person was about to reject them. The shamed person expects to be rejected so sometimes, throwing themselves out there feels better.