How Does Shame Show Up In The Body?
Shame shows up in the physical body in many different ways. From posture challenges and chronic aches to dis-eases such as adrenal fatigue and digestive challenges.
What is Shame?
Shame is a mysterious, insidious, and shape-shifting emotion. It’s deeper than guilt, which is an awareness of wrongdoing and a sense of remorse. Shame is an internalization of guilt, wherein you believe there’s something inherently wrong about you.
Shame involves silence, secrecy, a fear of being seen, a fear of expressing, a fear of being found out. It’s very isolating.
In a nutshell, we’ve constructed a universal baseline for ourselves regarding conduct, appearance, etc. Then we assume everyone else knows it, too, and is fiercely measuring us up against it.
Since it’s an impossible mark, we’re perpetually in conflict with ourselves and ashamed of our shortcomings and how they also influence those around us.
Internalizing False Beliefs
The key here is the internalization and making it a story about ourselves. This creates immense stress, creates a new tainted lens for us to view the world, and creates body armor and habits.
Acting from this place creates a cycle of more shame and more circumstances and situations to perpetuate the shame and the beliefs we’re now holding about ourselves and our lives.
It’s a vicious cycle with many facets.
Shame Lives in the Body
The body is transient and ever-changing. It’s passive, shifting, impermanent, just like the moon.
We resist aging, we resist our bodies changing, we are ashamed of bodily functions and go to great lengths to hide the fact that we may produce odors, excrete waste, and make sounds we cannot control.
We’re programmed to mistrust and dislike that which is in flux… as humans, and women especially, our very nature is in flux, so even without the added external shame, we’re carrying these subconscious beliefs about ourselves
The Spiral Principle is all that is transient, shifting, passive, and cyclical, like the moon.The Triangle Principle is all that is fixed, structured, active, and linear, like the sun.
We’ve been taught to celebrate structure, outward expression, productivity, even flow, and action; to view it as safe, while anything that is transient, passive, and changeable is deemed unsafe and something of which to be wary.
Shame In The Body: Specifics
Shame is an emotion that is the result of a mental body story, cellular memory, ancestral trauma, energetic imprint, empathically responding to and internalizing the emotions and stories of others, and more.
In the physical body, shame can show up in a variety of ways. I’ll touch on a few today to paint a picture and provide examples so you can begin to understand the origin of your physical challenges.
You have more power over your own health than you’ve been led to believe. You can heal the root rather than pacifying symptoms continually.
Poor posture results when we don’t feel comfortable, supported, safe, and strong in our bodies. The barrier to these states of being, which are your birthright, is shame.
We’re ashamed of our bodies, ashamed of our lack of support, ashamed of our lack of strength. Rather than seeing it as a temporary state of being and something we have control over and can turnaround at any time, we fall victim to shame and perpetuate it through the way we hold our body. Our bodies have a memory and postural patterns reflect our infernal dialogue. Working on both levels – physical and mental – simultaneously results in rapid change.
Additionally, carrying around a burden of shame doesn’t have to just be the slouched or hunched-over depressive posture. An aggressive or defensive posture may be the tendency depending on the individual and their unique shame story.
Digestive challenges, especially constipation, can be the result of shame. We carry shame in our center and in our place of power, the solar plexus chakra. Feelings of early life powerlessness result in a heightened need to control, which can mean controlling the body and its natural processes, like defecation.
The shame lies in feeling like it was our fault that we were powerless and internalizing the treatment we received or the circumstances we endured, as well as soaking in the collective’s shame of the body and in particular, bowel movements. I’ve seen this especially in women.
Sexual dissatisfaction can show up in a variety of ways. From an inability to perform, to an inability to climax, to low libido, to a general dislike of sex, and more.
This is a very loaded and multifaceted topic that could be a series of posts and of itself. For now, I’d like to presence that shame of the body and a deep cultural programming of how sex is shameful have resulted in a perverted society devoid of a healthy, innate, innocent sexual appreciation and appetite.
Shame of enjoying ourselves, shame of how we’ll be perceived by our partners, shame of how our bodies look, shame of looking or sounding weird, shame of being too experienced, shame of being inexperienced, shame of taking too long, shame of not taking long enough… for many, sex elicits so much shameful anxiety that it’s no wonder there’s a loss of libido or an inability to climax and more!
Disordered Eating & A Poor Relationship With Food
Relationships with food are very intimately tied in with relationships with our Earth mothers or mother figures. Our desire to be nourished and have our needs met can feel shameful.
We either internalize the shortcomings of our caretakers as a reflection on us, or we simply feel ashamed for having the need to be loved and nurtured.
In any case, turning to food is a reliable, safe fix. The food won’t judge and won’t shame us.
Restrictive eating comes from that early life experience with powerlessness that I mentioned with constipation. It’s a form of control.
Binge eating is a way of punishing ourselves and taking out deeply held frustrations, anger, and desperation.
We can also feel ashamed to eat in front of others because we don’t want them to see us enjoy our nourishment or to feel judged. We place a sense of morality on ourselves based on what we eat – “I was so good today! I ate my vegetables.” Or “I was bad today, I ate cake.” Nourishment is a basic necessity and not something to be ashamed of, yet there is that tricky emotion popping up again.
Endocrine Disorders Like Adrenal Fatigue, Hypothyroidism, & Reproductive Challenges
These challenges are symptoms in my book. Sure, they’re diagnoses, yet, the body doesn’t just decide to malfunction. These are symptoms of underlying, subtle imprints. The subtle is always creating the gross. The subtle goes askew when it’s coated in different nuances of the shame story.
Adrenal Fatigue & Shame
In Adrenal Insufficiency or Adrenal Fatigue as it’s commonly referred to as, there is such deep, deep imprints of shame that drive perfectionism, anxiety, fear, feeling like one’s survival is threatened, isolation, and loneliness. A sense of defeat and that we have made our bed, this is how it has to be.
Shame is preventing the adrenal fatigue sufferer from receiving new options and possibilities, receiving support, admitting they need help, facing their unique, particular experiences that have resulted in living this way.
Hypothyroidism & Shame
Hypothyroidism is linked to shame around expressing and sharing one’s self. Continually swallowing one’s truth, holding one’s self back from being seen in the world and sharing one’s gifts. Hypothyroidism energetically and physically is directly linked to anything involving the adrenals and often times, contrary to western medicine’s testing practices, hypothyroidism is a secondary ailment due to taxed adrenals.
Reproductive Challenges & Shame
Reproductive hormones and functions also tie into this little triad energetically and physiologically, as well. This can be linked to shame around the body, shame around being a woman, shame around one’s own childhood, and more. And, the same goes for this – there’s most always an adrenal component when anything regarding the reproduction is challenged.
This is just a sampling of the ways shame can manifest in the physical body. Are you experiencing challenges in your physical body? What do you believe is the root and how does it relate to a deeply held shame story? Reach out and tell me about it and ask questions in my private Facebook group.
Devon Ray Battaglia, MS, NC, RYT is a Holistic Life Coach + Catalyst + Intuitive + Writer obsessed with guiding others to their fullest potential through transmuting pain into purpose. Devon lives in a deep piney forestland where she enjoys plenty of raw cacao, being barefoot, and laughing until she can’t breathe along with her partner and their canine roommate (who really runs the whole show). Reach out for your complimentary session: http://bit.ly/ScheduleDiscoverySession