Friday, May 25, 2012

Vulnerability and Shame

Saw this over at the MensRights reddit a while back:
From TED talks on Vulnerability and Shame:
"Here's what you need to know. Shame is highly, highly correlated, with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders. And here's what you even need to know more: Guilt? Inversely correlated with those things. The ability to hold something we've done or want to do up against who we want to be, is incredibly adaptive. It's uncomfortable, but it's adaptive.

The other thing you need to know about shame is it's absolutely organized by gender.... Shame for women is this web of unattainable, conflicting, competing expectations of who we're supposed to be. And it's a straitjacket. For men, shame is not a bunch of competing, conflicting expectations. Shame is one: Do not be perceived as weak.

I did not interview men for the first four years of my study. And it wasn't until a man looked at me one day after a book signing and said to me, "I love what you have to say about shame, but I'm curious why you didn't mention men." And I said, "I don't study men." And he said, "That's convenient." And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Because you say to reach out, tell our story, be vulnerable. But you see those books you just signed for my wife and my three daughters? They'd rather me die on top of my horse than watch me fall down. When we reach out and be vulnerable, we get the shit beat out of us. And don't tell me from the guys and the coaches and the dads. Because the women in my life are harder on me than anyone else."

Point being you can't say that you are a researcher into guilt, shame, and vulnerability but then leave out massive chunks of the population.

I have to say I think that shame for men is more of a competition than than Brown realizes.

We're supposed to work to support family but get accused of being negligent if we don't spend enough time with them.

We're supposed to make the first move in dating but we are too often called "pushy", "perverted", and of course "creepy" when making that first move.

We're supposed to be aggressive but we are often looked down upon as mindless brutes for it.

We're supposed to be emotionally open but we are often chided for that very emotional openness.

The piece I quoted above is from Brown's talk "Listening to Shame" and an interaction she had with a man at one of her book signings. I think he points out something that people tend to not want to listen to when it comes to gender intersecting with guilt/shame/vulnerability there is this belief that when it comes to men being beaten back when we try to open up it's all happening in a male only vacuum where women simply don't exist. That's not the case.

I know from my own experiences when it came to doing something unconventional in the end men were more accepting of it than women.

If we want to allow for people to be vulnerable as a part of their own growth then it has to be open to everyone, not just the people we want to allow to grow.

Here are links to the videos "Listening to Shame" (which is where the quoted bit above comes from) and her older video "The Power of Vulnerability":