Posted by: Botolff | August 17, 2009

Shame: The Underside of Narcissism- Part 1

I am encouraged to see that Corey has been posting regularly, because I’ve been side-tracked.  But the more my attention got redirected, the harder it was to come back to posting again.  I found myself thinking, “How do I reenter this blog when I’ve only written one post in the last two and a half weeks?”  I started to find myself lacking the motivation to get back in to it.  Apathy started setting in.  I even got a little frustrated because I felt so ambivalent about it.  That’s when I realized I was feeling some shame. 

I was a little ashamed for having dropped off the radar for a bit.  I started to feel as if I owed you our readers something, or even owed myself something by blogging.  I don’t believe I have made any commitments to you or myself that should legitimately make me feel that way, but none the less, I was starting to.  And I realized that in order to be able to write again, I was going to have to face the shame I was feeling for not writing.  It’s like those relationships that we have some times when we don’t talk to someone for a while and then we start to get concerned that there’s a reason for that.  We begin to think that maybe the other person is mad at us or doesn’t like us any more.  We start feeling shame, even if there is not necessarily any reason to.  But, it’s enough to keep us from calling the other person, and even to convince ourselves that the other person should be the one calling us.  Maybe we’re even beginning to wonder if the relationship is worth what we’re going through.  Now, I’m not talking about the false sense of shame we feel when we’ve exerted effort to try and connect with someone who won’t give anything back, or when we are pulled by someone who feeds off of our loyalty and uses our shame as a tool to keep us around.  I’m talking about the shame that comes when there is just plain uncertainty, or even a fear that we did something wrong. 

Shame is such a powerful emotion.  Andrew Morrison wrote a book called “Shame: The Underside of Narcissism.”  I haven’t had a chance to get through the whole thing, but so far I’m convinced he is addressing the very core of the issues we are talking about in this blog.  He says…hand in cookie jar

“Shame frequently causes one to hide, to avoid interpersonal contact as a protection against rejection, and to conceal the affective experience from one’s own awareness.  As guilt invites confession and forgiveness, shame generates concealment out of fear of rendering the self unacceptable.”

In other words, shame is what we feel when we think we may not be accepted by the people around us, and that is compounded when we do something we know we shouldn’t.  It’s what we feel while we have our hand in the cookie jar, or after we get caught with our hand in the cookie jar.  One of the problems is that if we don’t own up to and deal with our shame, then it will increase even more as we try to cover up our errors with our finely crafted excuses, or as we redirect it onto someone else.  And if hiding becomes our primary way of relating with people, then over time, we can even convince ourselves that we are o.k., and can extract a lot of the awareness of our shame from our minds.  Inevitably when we do that, we will begin to live our lives in such a way that others become the victims of our shame so that we don’t have to deal with it.  We become so full of shame, that we begin to feel shameless.  And that is when we give birth to narcissism. 

More to come…



  1. Wow. This is going to be intense. I can tell because of the reaction that I had to this post. Sounds like I have some of my own shame issues to work through.

  2. You and me both Corey. I even felt a little shame when I saw your comment, because I realized I didn’t even mention you in the piece about who I may have been letting down by not writing. I’m sorry if that felt dismissing. Oh how pervasive shame can be.

    I don’t think our experience of shame will disappear, or be conquered, as long as we are on this earth. If that was possible, we wouldn’t need a Savior. But I think that our chance of working through our shame is much better than some, just because we can admit we have it, and it’s ours. That’s the difference.

  3. Thanks for writing! Looking forward to your next post on that subject. Have definitely experienced that before.

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