Last week I wrote about secrets, the central series or motif of the memoir I’m writing. Sherri, from A View From My Summerhouse, mentioned the destructiveness of secrets and linked it to shame. This resonates with me because I’ve found that shame wells up in my story at every “low elevation,” like water pooling at a sandy beach. In fact, shame seems to drive reactions in my central characters far too often. That’s why it’s one of the 12 series of my book.
I never thought too much about shame until I studied Pia Mellody‘s 8 major emotions:
Then I realized that not only is shame important and that I had been ignoring it, but that it was the creepy emotion. It’s the one that makes me feel . . . creeped out. Humiliation, regret, self-hatred, mortification, embarrassment, I could go on. There are so many words for these feelings. But no matter what, shame makes me feel YUCKY.
You’ve heard of the “it factor” that celebrities with charisma have? Shame has the ICK factor.
As a kid, my shame came mainly from two sources. One was my dad yelling at me where other kids could hear. Sometimes it was just that he was yelling in the house, and they could hear him. Other times it was that he would yell and punish me in front of friends.
The other source was when I felt embarrassed by being singled out or feeling that I was drawing potentially negative attention to myself, such as by wearing the wrong clothes. I hated negative attention and mistrusted positive attention.
Do you have memories about shame? Do they still control your life or not? Do you write about them?