When Anger is Shame on Fire!

Photo by Alain Bonnardeaux on Unsplash

Feelings are revealing. Most of us have habits of feeling, or feelings that are familiar and practiced.

Many of us avoid feeling shame at all costs.

Today I want to talk about getting curious about your anger to help process the feeling of shame.

First…what are your thoughts about shame?

If I were to do a survey on the street, most people would probably think it weird if I asked: “Are you comfortable feeling and processing shame?”

That’s an odd string of words for everyday conversation, right?

Shame is not something that we talk about often.

It is more socially acceptable to talk about being irritated, annoyed, and we can often identify anger in ourselves and others.

Which is why I think anger is sometimes shame “on fire.”

It’s easier to express anger. Anger at another. Anger at a situation.

Yes, even anger toward our own self.

Let’s connect to shame for a moment.

Can you imagine shame in your body, what it feels like and how your mind reacts?

Try to call up feeling embarrassed as a gateway.

Imagine doing something and having everyone around you laugh.

This happened to me when I was in second grade.

Shorts were not allowed at my school. But an adult in my household insisted I wear this cute pair of shorts to school one day.

I kept telling her, “No, no, shorts aren’t allowed.”

I was pooh-poohed and had to go to school in shorts.

It was horrifying to be corrected by the teacher in front of the class.

All day, the kids teased me.

I kept pulling on my shorts hem, unconsciously willing invisible magic to turn my shorts into pants so I could be “right” again.

I was embarrassed.

Below that was shame.

It sounded like this: “I should have known better. I live in a house where people aren’t paying attention. I’m never going to have a normal life with this family.”

It got dark and painful quickly.

So…anger to the rescue!

I remember getting mad. Mad at the teacher for thinking an 8 year old kid was in charge of clothes shopping — how dare she think I had a choice! Mad at the school for their stupid shorts rule! Mad at that obtuse and insensitive family member for not knowing the rules — why did I have to know everything!?! Mad at myself for not standing up louder, putting up a bigger fight. (Even though, in my family, resisting adults was physically dangerous.)

My shame was more than my little heart could bear and so my brain lit it on FIRE by turning it into anger.

Consider how anger can be covering shame, perhaps in yourself and possibly in others, sometimes in the way we think of our histories.

There are times when anger is a cover, a costume to hide the harder to feel, harder to process emotion labeled “shame.”

What would it be like if you took off the anger and felt the shame rise in you?

My shame, when I imagine it in my body, is midnight blue, viscous and heavy like tar, and it has flecks of silver…the “should have” thoughts.

My shame rolls out of me from my stomach to my throat.

Processing shame is a very real physical experience for me.

The first time I did it, I kind of thought I might actually die, the physical sensation was so intense.

Now…I notice anger when it arrives as a package for my shame.

And I let the tar boil up. And out. And I know that the feeling will pass as sure as 2019 passed into 2020 and as sure as gravity will hold me on my beloved home planet.

Find your shame on fire…and the courage to notice it for what it is. It takes courage to allow and process shame…and it’s a path to mental freedom.

P.S. I invite you to fall in love with my podcast, “Less Stress, More Fun.” Subscribe today! Each week’s episodes are short (14–18 mins, on average), smart (lots of research) and fun (especially if you love 80s music).

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Lisa Schwaller

Lisa Schwaller

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Stop overworking! I help professional people find work-life balance so you can have less stress & more fun. https://lisaschwaller.com