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Education Bookcast

Sep 27, 2017

This book is about shame.

Shame is a taboo emotion in our culture. It is not talked about, which is part of what makes it so powerful, and part of its essence - it is an emotion of disconnection, or feeling rejected or not worthy of the group. It can affect students as well as teachers, almost always negatively. Students can experience it coming from teachers (often with good intentions), or coming from other students as a form of bullying.

In an educational or work setting, shame is often used as a motivator. It doesn't work, though. Guilt can be a motivator, because guilt is about regretting something that you have done; but shame is about regretting who you are, which does not spur one on to action. Guilt and shame can be seen as the growth- and fixed-mindset versions of the same psychological mechanism (this last is my conclusion, not Dr Brown's).

Shame is also distinct from humiliation. Humiliation is when you don't believe that you deserve the undermining of your dignity that has occurred; whereas shame is when you believe that you do deserve it.  

Whether shame is deliberately meted out or happens upon someone with nobody else's intention, it is a terrible feeling, often described as "the worst feeling in the world". It paralyses people and makes it difficult for them to make progress, or even function normally.

Dr Brené Brown has made a career of studying shame, and this book is based on the results of hundreds of interviews that she conducted for her research. She discusses what shame is, how it works, and how to build "shame resilience" - the ability to pass through shame in the fastest and most constructive way, and to feel less suffering than one otherwise would.

Enjoy the episode.

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