Barnhart Media

carpe bucko

shame, an intro to an intro



Of course, as soon as I start thinking about shame, someone posts something on Facebook at Brené Brown and shame, and now I have some help on the matter. And the first thing I have learned is that I know jack-shit about shame.

[Say it with me: Shame on you.]

This blog, Carpe Bucko, has served as a kind of (sporadic) notebook of my thoughts regarding mental health, and mostly my own mental health. However, my issues lack the kind of narrative drama needed to engage an audience. This has less to do with my depression lacking excitement (I am happy to have non-dramatic depression) as me writing too infrequently to develop any kind of narrative style.

So a few weeks ago, I made and started to follow through on a commitment to write and post regularly. That’s when the tendonitis/arthritis struck my right thumb, put me in one of those thumb immobilizers, and made typing a pain in the ass as well as the hand. That pain could linger for some time or even get worse, so I have to learn how to type in a way that protects my thumb while still allowing me to develop my narrative voice.

All of which is loosely connected to shame as it applies to my life and this blog. 

I have a lot to learn about a lot of mental health issues. I barely understand the nature of my own depression, much less the myriad ways other people experience it. (For example, is depression an actual illness?) My plan is to start a podcast soon that looks at mental health issues more generally, but with a focus on Oregon: people and politics and more.

This is where my various issues intersect.

I have started lots of projects over the years, and I cannot say I have been successful in any. Skipping a lot of the details, two of the most significant outcomes of various attempts to start something and not seeing it through are:

1, I am ashamed of my many failures; and

2, I am too ashamed to try again.

Or, to put it another way – the knife-in-the-back kind of way – I am ashamed of myself for being a failure.

The first thing I learned from Brown about shame surprised me: the root of shame is vulnerability, and those who are willing to be vulnerable are the ones with the most courage. Those who are tied by shame, however, are too afraid to be vulnerable and, therefore, too afraid to try things that require courage, risk, etc. 

And although she didn’t say this in her TED Talk, the shame-failure-vulnerability connection is a self-reinforcing dynamic. Because, as she notes, 99% of the time, the words we hear inside that unleash the shame are spoken with our voice. 

We shame ourselves. I know I do, in part because, to be frank, too few people give too very few fucks about whether I want to attempt something or not.

This post seems to have turned into an intro to an intro to shame. I have much to learn about the topic, and even more to unpack from my life. But now that I understand the issue exists, that shame has been like a cancer in my mind for all these years (and may well be a major factor in my depression), I can begin exploring it more. 

Brown provides guidance on removing shame from its dominant role, and that’s what I need to learn more about and try to apply. Because if I am honest with myself, I have very little to be ashamed of. I did not ask to have a mental illness (or several). I’m not responsible for my parents’ failures as parents. If others choose to treat me badly, that’s on them. Even the things that are my “fault” – well, as the Buddha spent decades trying to make clear, you can’t change the past so let it go and learn how to be fully alive here and now.

I have very little to be ashamed of. I need to learn that lesson, and I need to live it.

T.A. Barnhart