We are continuing this series on shame and its effect on passive men. Once again, I was inspired to work on this series after reading an article titled, Turning Shame to Gold: Men Feeling Shame, Men Healing Shame by Dr. Guarnaschelli. This is a kind of dark topic for most men so consider if it is a post you can read without letting it weigh you down too much. Today we are going to look at how shame creates a fear of being exposed in men.
A man can be infected by shame to the point that it affects his typical behavior on a day to day basis. This affect can be to the point that he can’t find comfort in his self. He doesn’t allow himself to find any fulfillment in any area of his life. Dr. Guarnaschelli describes this as, “He even becomes ‘unsoothed’ for wanting to be soothed.”
The pursuit to happiness can lead to much worse things, however. Repeated attempts to treat the pain of shame can often lead to addictions. These can be problems with money, gambling, food, sex, drugs, or any other addiction that might come his way. Dr. Guarnaschelli states that, “It is far more likely that we are compulsively driven further and further into addictive behaviors, regardless of the chosen object of addiction, because, though we repeatedly attempt to do so, shame will simply not allow us to experience any sort of satisfaction.”
Shame often has the effect of creating a “fear of being exposed or fear of being seen when I don’t want to be seen.” Shamed men often operate with the need for privacy around everything that they do. It is a mechanism where he feels fear constantly, wants to be out of sight, wants to run away, or goes to great lengths to protect his ideas. This is the point a husband often gets to where he has cut out any semblance of vulnerability to his wife. He is a shell but the man that his wife married has been totally removed.
Shame’s fear of being exposed may be a result of feeling “repeatedly attacked or unsupported for what he wants, a man has finally ingested the lesson. Dr. Guarnashelli explains, “Wrong again and again for wanting certain specific things, he at last ‘always feels wrong’ both for wanting any one thing and for the act of wanting itself. He must not be caught in the act of wanting anything.” Chronically shamed men lose confidence in themselves and confidence in others around them. They lose any ability to be decisive because they feel wrong about the selfishness involved with making a decision. Dr. Guarnaschelli goes on to say, “A chronically shamed man fears exposure because when he wants anything he feels profoundly ‘wrong.’ Therefore he is evil, bad, off-base, strange, defective, abnormal, weird, weak, unallowable, egotistical, selfish…permutations of ‘wrongness’ that must be understood as endless. Chronic shame’s incapacitating destruction of a man’s sovereign authority to be himself—to stand in his own feelings, define his own truth, possess his own energy or power, confidently pursue his own needs and goals—could not have been more clearly stated. It has become a crippling of his actions and a crippling of his very existence.”
In some men, the feeling of shame leads to a response as from an attack like that of rage. This could be a verbal attack but just as easily could end up as a physical attack if the man is not able to express his feelings in a verbal fashion. While usually not severe, rage events are usually the result of a long period of pain and are usually seen as the man blowing up over some small event that triggers him.
Chronic shame is often unrecognized by a man. Dr. Guarnaschelli says,”a man is usually too ashamed to feel shame. Thus, as shame’s crowning achievement, he commonly doesn’t know he is shamed. His shame becomes quite literally invisible. Instead, he may become conscious of a host of other deficiencies: weakness, profound hopelessness, vagueness, chronic confusion, feeling blocked, persistent tardiness or procrastination, painful emptiness, complete absence of feelings, physical pain in the shoulders or back, constant anxiety, nervousness, uncontrollable anger, constant rage, boredom, absence of the ability to finish things, lack of confidence, needy dependence, inescapable addiction, feelings of not being enough, insomnia, depression, insatiable hunger for all he lacks, sense of not existing, or a feeling of vagueness.”
In essence, he feels stuck in idle. He can’t go forward or backward by pushing the gas. He feels stuck in place and unable to get anything into gear. We will stop there for today. I quoted a lot directly from Dr. Guarnaschelli today but I felt it was important to get a lot of that material in. There is hope on the way and we will get into that soon.