Overcoming Shame

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I think shame is something everybody experiences and carries. For me, it’s very different from embarrassment or guilt, even though guilt is oftentimes a byproduct of that shame. Some of us have found ourselves in uncomfortable or traumatic situations that have led to years of negative thoughts and feelings that later manifest themselves in unhealthy ways. But can we move past it all and live in the present for our own sake? To heal? Let’s tawk.

Please be advised that this episode features conversations about sexual assault. Let’s Tawk also contains mature themes and may not be appropriate for all listeners.

Keep up with Jaime on Twitter at @JaimePrimak and on Instagram at @jaimepsullivan. Watch her Facebook Live series – Cawfee Tawk – here. And stay up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @LemonadaMedia.

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Jaime Primak Sullivan

Jaime Primak Sullivan  00:00

Hey guys, before we get into today’s episode, I just like to give you a trigger warning that we talk about things that can be painful. For a lot of people. We talk about experiences, and trauma that can be very scary for people painful for people. So I urge you to listen to this episode when you feel that you are ready.

Jaime Primak Sullivan  00:31

Hey, guys, I’m Jaime Primak-Sullivan and you’re listening to this week’s episode of Let’s Tawk. Shit. Just kidding. It’s just less talk. I wanted to talk to you guys today about shame. I’m putting on my glasses. I like to make notes. So I don’t forget the things I want to talk about. First of all, I think shame is something everybody experiences. And everybody carries. Only some people carry it for short amounts of time. And some people carry it for their whole lives. I, I don’t know that everybody knows the difference between say, embarrassment, and shame. So I wrote it down. Embarrassment is a response to something that threatens our projected image, but is otherwise morally neutral. For example, if you’re a very polished person, and you trip on a flight of stairs in front of, you know, your garden club, that may be very embarrassing to you, right? If you are a woman who like me, who never farts in front of your husband, or, you know, whatever, and then you sneeze and accidentally rip your ass cheeks apart. That could be embarrassing. But it’s morally neutral. So typically, it fades into the whatever stratosphere. Shame is a response to something that is morally wrong or considered reprehensible. So we could argue, well, what’s morally wrong? Who determines morals? Is there a board? Is there a moral board? Do people sit down and go? Like, should we be adding anything else to the moral scale today? I don’t know. I think what some people feel is morally wrong, could differ from what other people certainly cultures have different moral scales. You know, what’s appropriate in France necessarily, you know, isn’t appropriate in Kansas, I’m sure. Though, I’ve never been to Kansas, admittedly, they could be very French there. I have no idea. But you get it. Right. But I think there are certain things that bring stigma that are universal. And let me give a trigger warning that I may say words, that may feel triggering to you. So you know, anytime you have a conversation about shame, and you’re talking, you know, peripherally about things that are universally, morally wrong, i.e., what’s an example of that Jamie? Okay. Poopoo, trigger warning, rape. I think we all agree that rape is wrong, it’s morally wrong. What happens when a woman is raped is she typically carry shame. Because morally it is such an infraction, it is hard not to carry some of the low vibrational particles that that moral infraction brings, where you start to try to figure out what your part of that was, what did I do to contribute to this grave moral infraction, it’s hard to rectify in your mind that you didn’t do anything. Because for women, sometimes it’s simply like, having the whole. You know what I mean? Like literally just having the whole. Didn’t matter what you wore didn’t matter what you said, didn’t matter where you were, you can certainly analyze like, well, if I didn’t go to Target at 11 o’clock, and if I didn’t park behind the building, and if I didn’t walk alone, sure, but those are all things that people do every single day, and don’t experience grave moral infraction. So those are not things you should feel shame for. Right? Sometimes, like, those things just happen, and shame comes from, but why me? How could this happen to me, right? Other times, keeping with the same example for with the word that we don’t need to keep saying, you know the person, right? In my instances, I knew the people. I willingly invited them into my life, into my space.

Jaime Primak Sullivan  05:12

So essentially what I did was I open the door for the moral infraction, I willingly entered this thing. So, the shame comes from my contribution to that, right? Like, in fact, the trauma of the actual incidents, the physical acts for me, are less than the you knew better, Jaime? Why did you do X, Y, and Z? Why did you, because you knew better. Maybe not when I was 16, when I was 16, and the first time that it happened, and some of you may be listening to this going first time. Does that mean there was a second time? Sadly, yes. And a lot of shame comes from that, too. So what do you do with shame? We don’t have to browbeat where shame comes from. Right? Because we all have places and experiences that have capacity for shame. Right? Like you lend someone a lot of money. I mean, we have a whole business in entertainment, doing true crimes on people who get what’s the word not exploited extorted? They get extorted? They get blackmailed, you know? And you you’re watching going, how, how could she? How could she, the same fucking way gonna happen to you? The same way this shit happens to me the same way, you know what I’m saying? Like, it’s the ways in which shame comes, can be fairly universal in that there are only certain so many, you know, moral infractions in the pool of universal moral infractions, right? So what then do you do with shame? And I want to talk about that. So, with shame comes guilt. That’s a heavy one. We have guilt in our actions, right? In our behaviors, our contributions, I feel guilty that I sent the money, I feel guilty that I let him into my apartment, I feel guilty that I posted those photos, I feel guilty that I blankety blank, right, you have guilt for that. So you beat yourself up. That guilt, if not rectified, will turn into shame. Right? It will turn into like intense pain, where you believe you are morally flawed. I am a morally flawed human being because if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have X. Okay, well, first, let me assure you and I hope you are listening. We are all morally flawed. All of us. Every single one of us is morally flawed, to some degree. Some gravely worse than others, the people who do the very bad things, right? They are like the people who extort, the people who rate the people who do those things are significantly more morally compromised. But we are all morally compromised. And I need to remind you, if this is your belief, and if it isn’t, guess what, we’re all still morally compromised. But Jesus didn’t hang on that cross for nothing. If we weren’t morally compromised, if we weren’t born sinners, none of that would have happened. We wouldn’t even have Easter y’all because he wouldn’t have been able to get up and move that rock away. So lean back, lean back. Oh, no, that’s not it. It’s not a Fat Joe song. But I do love that. Guilt focuses on our behaviors. I’m so guilty because I feel so guilty that I lied. I feel so guilty that I snuck behind your back I feel so guilty that I drank too much so I did X, I feel so guilty.

Jaime Primak Sullivan  09:48

Guilt is a liar. What your mind is looking for is acknowledgement and a lesson. What did you do and what can you learn from it, move on and guilt goes no, don’t move on. Stay right here and beat yourself up over and over and over again. And shame goes Yes, because that’s the only way I can come in. Shame wants to be let in. Right? And then shame tells us we’re not lovable. We have no self-worth, you know, well, if you didn’t take a stranger back to your apartment, you know, because you weren’t overweight. And if you weren’t overweight, you wouldn’t have done this. Or if you weren’t, it’s all lies, it’s all lies. It’s a very unhealthy coping mechanism. And, guys, let me explain something to you. Guilt in small doses is healthy, going back to what I just said, because that’s where the lesson comes from. A little, a little bit of guilt is healthy, a little bit, small doses, maybe you shouldn’t have drank so much. You feel like shit, the next day, you’re dragging it work, you’re dehydrated, you can’t poop, the whole thing. Sure, small doses of guilt. But if you are chronically beating yourself up about something, and you are laboring over it to the point that now you feel less worthy. You feel disgusting. You feel harmful to yourself. You can’t get control of your thoughts. Now you’re in the shame stage of the game. And you’ve let it go on way too far. You got to pull it back and go, okay, hold on self. I’m not the only person who gives people money. You know, I’m not the only sucker who lends people money that I shouldn’t lend or whatever the case may be. I’ve certainly done it. I’ll do it again. I’m sure. Right. I’m not the only person who uploads boob pictures to the cloud. I don’t know, whatever these a parent more than, you know, morally compromised. It’s hard to think of examples because you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Who’s out there like fuck, I gave somebody a lot of money. Well, guess what? Me too. And her too. And him too. And her too. And him too. You are not alone. In whatever moral composition you have found yourself in. You are not alone. So feel a little guilt, learn the lesson and move on. Take the lesson. Okay. I’m never fucking doing that again. I’m never putting my tits on the cloud again. Done. learned it. Got it because my mother in law accidentally saw my tests when she went on my cloud to find pictures of her grandchildren. That’s not real, but it could happen. You know what I mean? So like, okay, oh, I feel guilty because now she’s traumatized. Okay, well, lesson learned. You can’t go into the shame space of it. You can feel bad about things in guilt. But if you maintain that you don’t start to lose self-worth. Because then shame wants to try to define you. You’re the dirty girl who liked the man into your part. You’re the fool who gave them money. You’re the it’s like, sit down shame.


Jaime Primak Sullivan  13:19

Why am I having this conversation? It’s not an easy conversation to have. If I could talk to my 16 year old self. After that incident, I would say to her, do you think you’re the only girl in this house that would have got up and gone to him when he called her name. Every girl wanted to be chosen. You were no different than any other teenager in that house. But it was you that night. And even though you were young, and even though you were nervous, and even though you were inexperienced, and even though you had too much to drink. You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re no different than anyone else. Not to say that other girls wouldn’t have gone but you’re not the only one that would have gone. And once you were in the situation, why didn’t you leave? Well, I now understand young Jaime, that you didn’t really believe he would do that. You thought at some point. It would change that he would see you the way you wanted him to see you that when he kissed you it was because he liked you and he chose you because he liked you. You didn’t understand that for him. It was shooting fish in a barrel because Jamie you don’t think like that. You don’t believe that people are that way. And when you started to get scared, and you started to realize that you had no control of the situation? Well, you didn’t scream, because you understood how many people wanted to be in that very spot. And you understood, or you believed that no one would believe that he, the most popular boy in school would need to do that. You yourself couldn’t understand why he felt he needed to do that. Because perhaps, if you’re being really honest, because you wanted to be chosen so badly, how do you approach the situation differently? You may have done it willingly. But we’ll never know. And I wish that I had had someone to say to me, zero, part of his moral compromise is your fault, 0 part, there is no part of his moral compromise. That is your fault. He was morally compromised before you walked in that room. He was morally compromised before the party happened that night. That is all him. I understand that now. But I didn’t have anybody to explain it to me that way that you can have some guilt, about the things you could control, lying to your mom about where you were staying. Drinking under age. These are things Jaime that you had control over. Right? You can look at the parts of that moral compromise and go, okay, you were a teenager who lied to your mom about where she was. You were breaking the law, essentially, you were drinking underage. Those are things you can control. And you can feel bad about them. But the second you cross the threshold into that room, and everything that happened to you from that point on, had nothing to do with you. You can’t control that. And that is where you have to release the shame. And that is where I had to get because shame only gets heavier. It never gets lighter. So if you carry it for one year, it’s heavy. If you carry it for five years, it’s five years heavier. That’s just the way it is. You can compartmentalize it; you can put it in parts of your brain. It never goes away. It’s an open tab. That is why I say trigger. That’s why we have to say things like trigger warning. Because it isn’t the necessarily the act that needs the trigger. It’s the shame immediately that shows up. Did somebody say rape? I’m still here. Shame is still here. Shameful. Oh, god, me too. What did I do? Why did I contribute? Right away. Right away.

Jaime Primak Sullivan  18:19

And I have learned, I honestly don’t tear up for Jaime now. I really don’t. I really am good and strong. But I tear up for the versions of myself that entered those rooms. Because in a lot of ways she was totally alone in a world that was very noisy around her. I have as we know; I’ve I feel like I should wear it on a t shirt at this point hyper independence. And so I like to walk into rooms pretending that I don’t need, not pretending but like as such that I don’t need anybody for anything. But you can’t live that way. Because then people think you don’t need them for anything and people don’t check on you. They don’t look out for you. And you enter those rooms. So I have learned some coping mechanisms, probably not enough.

Jaime Primak Sullivan  20:04

You know, shame is basically the fear that when people learn something, that you are shame that they won’t love you, right? In whatever way you want them to love you. That comes from maybe, you know, being gay or experiencing trauma or making a, you know, morally compromising decision depending on you know, whose barometer of moral composition you’re going by it could be anything, right? I like even with my own children, I had to rip the gay band aid off, rip it right off. My children brought up Ellen DeGeneres, they were having a conversation. One child said, I think she’s married to a woman, another child said, what? And I in that moment, became incredibly shameful. Whoa. They said, these three human beings mean more to me than anything, or anyone in the world. And they think who and what I am is disgusting. I don’t know why or how and that’s it later. You know, we had to get to that later. But in that moment, I knew if I didn’t say it immediately, I would not say it. And I was like, hold on, everybody freeze. I know exactly where we were. I was in my minivan. We were outside the same. The school, they were going in for basketball practice. And they were like, mom, we have to go, I was like everybody freeze. And I said, I need you to understand something right now, who people love is none of your business. Who people marry is none of your business. And I am married to your father and I love him very much. But before I was with your father, I was in a relationship with a woman. And I cannot and will not allow you to go through life saying things like ew, when people talk about gay people, I will not tolerate it. I will not accept it. When you move out of my house. You can live your life, hopefully, I will have done my job properly and those feelings won’t remain. You will feel differently. But I can’t, I will not allow this and the truth about me is I am gay. But you’re married. Okay. Now you want to ask questions. I’m here to answer your questions. I’m happy to have the bisexual versus lesbian versus homosexual versus gay versus whatever. That’s fine. You’re welcome to ask questions, but you are not welcome to add shame, that I won’t tolerate. And they got out of the car and I literally fucking hyperventilated. I had to call Michael immediately because that is not that is not by the way I want anybody listening to know right now my husband has zero shame about who I am, who I dated before him, whatever, he does not care. But those are his children too. And that’s a very big bandaid to rip off without giving your husband a heads up or having him present. He was wonderful. He said listen, I don’t want my children saying you when they hear about gays either so good for you. Thank you for having the conversation. He could not have handled it any better, but I stopped he’s like why are you crying? And I was like, because I so badly want them to respect me and love me. And there is a level of shame not I don’t like I’m not cloaked in shame about being gay I but there is a certain like, because it has a stigma right? Anything that has a stigma, you gave someone money you never met, you send someone a photo you didn’t know, you know, you what? And so you feel like stigmatized like fuck, I’m one of those people. Well, guess what, if you’re one of those people, you’re with me and I’m pretty fucking fun. Okay, apparently I wear my fanny pack all over […] which is true, by the way.

Jaime Primak Sullivan  25:00

But just because you’re flawed does not make you unworthy of love. You were created in love. You were born in love, you are love, you will return to love. You are worthy. You were born in worth; you have worth, you will die and return to our maker in worth, there is, you can’t fucking tell me that Jeffrey Dahmer gets to die and accept Jesus as his Savior in Purgatory. But like someone who sent a few naked pictures doesn’t get the same shit, like, get the fuck out here. I just I know that there are a lot of people who are living with a lot of shame right now. And I found something that helped me and I hope that maybe it can help you. And I hope that I help you. And I hope these conversations help you. And I hope that I can normalize some of the moral compromising that like we have magnified. Mike, that is so bad, you did wide like, shut up, okay? Because it’s hard enough for the people dealing with it. Okay, number one, stay in the present. I cannot tell you and I know it’s easier said than done. And time does help. But stay in the present. Because shame can only survive. If you live in the past. If you think in the past, if you exist in the past, I don’t even care if the thing you did was three hours ago, three days ago, three weeks ago, and I don’t want to say thing you did, by the way thing that happened thing that happened to you, you whatever the thing is, that has brought shame to you. I don’t care if it was an hour ago, like I said, or a year ago or whatever, present, you’re in the present now. If you feel guilty about a part of it, just take the lesson, and then leave the guilt and don’t even get, don’t stay in the present. Shame wants you to go backward. No. There is a certain integrity to owning your part. Because that’s the only way you can grow. Right? Like, the only lesson I have from the incident when I was 16 is you can’t lie to people about where you are. If people expect you to be somewhere, Jamie, you have got to tell the truth about where you are. Because all of the bad things that I can remember about my teenage years happened when I was lying to my mother about where I was, including the day, the night that my father died. And when she called when they called to tell me that he died. I wasn’t where I said I was. And that’s a big trigger for me is like, be where you say, you tell the people that you love are going to be and if you have to lie about where you’re going, rethink about where you’re going, or get brave enough to say listen, I know you don’t want me sleeping at my boyfriend’s house, but that’s what I’m doing. The other thing like that worked for me and I’ve learned this. And I’m still learning it and I hope I never stopped learning it. And I hope that you can learn it with me is to beat shame. You have to give compassion to yourself. You have to talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone else going through it. If you can look at someone else you care about and say stop. This wasn’t your fault.

Jaime Primak Sullivan  29:00

You’re not bad or wrong or whatever, you feel gross or whatever you feel about yourself. You’re human. You made a mistake. You trusted people you trot you know you whatever you compassion you can give to someone else. You’ve got to be able to give to yourself, you are no different than anybody else. And that is you know; I’ve always been very good at loving people back to life. I’ve always been very good at loving them through the rapids. And I and I’m grateful for that gift. And I’ve had to learn to do it for myself. Like Jaime, you’re not bad. You’re not gross. You did it, maybe you did a gross thing or you convert you made a bad whatever the situation is. But like I can’t live shame guys, I’m okay with the guilt part of the program because there’s a lesson for me there, but I lived with shame for a very long time. And it was such a fucking growing heavy burden for me. It made me angry, it made me violent. It made me self-harm. It made me self-medicate, that nothing good comes from shame, nothing. I want you to know that you are loved. I want you to know that I see you and I hear you and I’m with you. And I am you and I love you. And you are not alone in any of this. And you are worthy. And you have redemption. You don’t have to work for it. You don’t have to earn it. You just have to learn and you have it. God is merciful. He is forgiving. He is understanding, he created you in His glory, exactly who you are. So whatever parts of yourself you feel you need to hide or be shameful of. He already knows and loves you exactly the way you are and wants you to love yourself the same way and wants us to love each other the same way. So that is my conversation on shame. Some of it may not have made sense because when you’re speaking from the heart, and you’re speaking with emotion, it’s hard to and you have ADD as bad as I do. It is hard to follow one stream of consciousness but I hope that this made sense. And I hope it was helpful. And I hope you’ll share it as always, you know, please like and subscribe and share. And I promise that Let’s Tawk will be all of the conversations we wish we had when we needed them. So please tell a friend because it only works if we do. And I hope until next week. I love you so much. Have a great, great day.

Jaime Primak Sullivan  31:57

Let’s Tawk is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producer is Xorje Olivares. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer and Jamie Primak Sullivan. Mix and scoring is by Veronica Rodriguez. Music is by Dan Molad. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen. Catch my series Cawfee Tawk on the Jaime Primak Sullivan Facebook page. I’m also on Twitter at @JaimePrimak, and on Instagram at @JaimePSullivan. And follow at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms. If you want more Let’s Tawk, visit Lemonada Premium only on Apple podcasts.

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