This past year has given me a lot of time to explore the origins and effects of trauma.
Decades of research point to shame as a significant factor underlying continued trauma. Shame is insidious because it gets in the way of understanding your trauma. That little voice in your head makes you feel responsible for the bad things that happen.
“What did I do to deserve this?”
“Why am I such a loser?”
“Why couldn’t I save her?”
Feeling ashamed suppresses our ability to talk about how we feel. The guilt associated with shame has us believing we’re somehow unworthy, broken, and unlovable. Those suppressed feelings can become physical and in many cases leads to disease (dis-ease). That disease can also create more shame. Unrecognized and untreated this cycle can be deadly.
Trauma can be inherited too. Our culture saddles all of us with some kind of shame and guilt.
This exchange from the movie The Edge starring Anthony Hopkins (playing Charles) and Alec Baldwin (playing Stephen) captures it perfectly:
Charles: “You know, I once read an interesting book which said that most people lost in the wilds, they, they die of shame.”
Charles: “Yeah, see, they die of shame. ‘What did I do wrong? How could I have gotten myself into this?’ And so they sit there and they... die. Because they didn't do the one thing that would save their lives.”
“And what is that, Charles?”
The artwork 'Shame Will Kill You', is a reminder to be aware of that shame-inducing voice in your head. What is it preventing you from saying or doing? How does that shame show up in your body? How is the trauma you feel linked to shame?
If you’d like to go deeper into understanding both individual and our collective trauma I recommend “The Myth of Normal” by Gabor Maté and “Trauma” by Paul Conti.
Dimensions: Acrylic on gallery quality canvas, vanished. 48" x 48"