O Shame, Where is Thy Secret Source?

We can penetrate more deeply into the roots of shame.

Self-knowledge helps us to penetrate more deeply into the roots of shame.

Shame is a powerful and self-damaging emotion, and many books in recent years have tackled the subject in search of its roots. Some experts say shame is “the quintessential negative emotion” because it influences so many different moods and behaviors.

While shame can saturate our emotional life, most sufferers don’t understand its roots deep in our psyche. (I wrote about shame in an earlier post, “How Deeper Awareness Can Eliminate Shame,” and this is a fresh attempt to help readers understand the affliction.)

Shame is the painful sense that there exists a dark secret or an exposed truth about some vile, disgusting, or pitiful aspect of oneself. The negative emotion sometimes lies dormant until triggered by a situation or event in a person’s life. Other times, shame is active within us on a daily basis. Whether we’re conscious of our shame or not, it can play an important role in obesity, addictions, depression, crime, violent behaviors, sexual offenses, social phobias, career failure, outbursts of anger, and other self-defeating behaviors.

Shame is often associated with external variables such as our appearance, clothes, social skills, and a sense of physical and mental ineptitude. It’s also associated with inner fears such as being exposed as a fake or phony, and experiencing or imagining ridicule over our handling of money.

We have a better chance of overcoming shame when we know where it comes from and how it’s produced. Shame itself is a byproduct of forces, drives, and conflicts in our psyche. [Read more...]

The Dreary Distress of Boredom

Boredom is easily avoided once we discover the inner processes that produce it

Yawn. Nothing interesting going on today. Day after day, the same old thing, going around in a daze, inwardly dead. Life used to be more fun. Why is the world so dull? Why am I bored so much of the time?

Hey, it’s natural enough to be bored when waiting two hours in a doctor’s office or at a garage getting your car repaired. It’s clinical or chronic boredom that we want to avoid. A whole range of painful symptoms—from drug addiction to compulsive gambling to poor performance at work and school—are associated with chronic boredom.

Some people believe that boredom is normal. In Boredom: A Lively History (Yale University Press, 2011) Prof. Peter Toohey concludes his book by writing that, “Boredom is a normal, useful, and incredibly common part of human experience. That many of us suffer it should be no cause for embarrassment. Boredom simply deserves respect for the, well, boring experience that it is.”

Toohey, a professor of classics, is wrong to say that boredom—a negative emotion akin to a toothache—is normal and useful. Boredom is a bummer, a form of unnecessary suffering, when, in its chronic form, it’s a significant part of one’s daily experience. Toohey’s book touches on superficial psychological ideas concerning boredom, but he doesn’t explore (or even mention) depth psychology where the remedy can be found. [Read more...]