Your shame is self destructive
"Perhaps there is a fear of failure and shame associated with a sense of inadequacy."
Perhaps worse than guilt, shame is self destructive and a form of self imprisonment. There is not much spoken of this in ACIM. But shame is very prevalent and heavy and harmful.
I looked up psychology definitions of how shame and guilt are different. A loose summary goes like this...
GUILT - A kind of internal judgement that you feel, based on what you did outside of yourself. Like attacking another person or breaking some moral or social code. It's not too far removed from remorse or regret, and somewhat "feels sorry for" the person. It to some degree recognizes that your behavior was wrong but it doesn't condemn your entire self.
SHAME - A kind of external judgement upon your entire inner self, based on what seems to be true of you. This can be based on something you did that you're guilty of, or just on some condition that you have. It can be based on your body's state or life situation or relationship status or whatever.
It's a condemnation that you are not deserving of love, you're lacking, deficient, inadequate, not good enough, weak, decrepit, insufficient, inferior, bad, sinful, evil, unlovable. Somehow that your SELF is fundamentally judged as "of lesser or no value". That you are not equal to others, you're beneath them.
When you apply shame to yourself, it's like a form of self punishment and imprisonment. ACIM does say that when you attack in any way, it induces guilt. But what it doesn't go into is that once you've found yourself to be guilty, you now decide that BECAUSE OF your guilt, you do not deserve forgiveness. To be found guilty is to sin and NOT forgive it. Having found yourself guilty, you've decided you are UNFORGIVABLE. And that also means you should not be loved, you are unworthy, and you should be ashamed. That you should feel deeply bad about yourself as if you've "become a permanent sinner".
Feeling ashamed is feeling really bad about who you are, as if you are inherently flawed. It causes you to withdraw and separate and hide and shrivel up. It's a disempowered state. Shame can also be fairly closely tied to embarassment. E.g. if you get pulled over by the cops for speeding for you might feel guilty for breaking the law, and then feel ashamed at having to "face the judgement" and be found guilty, for it to be proven that you were deficient and flawed. And if that's taking place in public with a crowd watching, you're going to feel shameful.
Shame is very self destructive. It's one thing to feel guilty, and the course talks a lot about guilt. But once you've found yourself guilty, you start to punish yourself. You agree you do not deserve forgiveness, which relegates you to being some kind of inferior creature. Something that does not DESERVE to be treated well. Like some caged animal that has no rights.
Because surely there is something inherently WRONG with you, that you did this. And this puts a major dent in your sense of worthiness. You feel unworthy of love and forgiveness. You feel unworthy of happiness. You feel unworthy of having relationships. You feel unworthy of existing, because you're not valuable enough to "qualify".
Within that state, a person moves further towards suicide. It's like they are bringing a ton of bricks down upon their own head. It's self condemnation. A desire to hurt and destroy oneself. And it's rooted in this belief that you don't deserve to live or be happy, therefore you deserve to DIE and be unhappy. And if death were to come to punish you, you'd practically welcome it, unwilling to choose against it, because you yourself think it would be justified, based on your self loathing.
You can become ashamed even just through simple mistakes. You can mistakenly accidentally hurt someone. And then you might feel ashamed of yourself that you were so incapable of avoiding it that there must be something wrong with you. You can also take on shame through public judgement by others, peer pressure, social pressures and so on.
You can feel ashamed from not fitting in, being different, looking and moving differently, not matching up to some kind of ideal standard. Shame is always a discrepancy between what you are "meant" to be like ideally, and what you are actually like (due to ego). You can feel ashamed for having an uncommon trait or body shape or being "too this" or "not enough of that." Not measuring up. Shame evaluates that you are simply LACKING, which places you below everyone else in the pits of hell.
Feeling ashamed makes you feel like you are some kind of lesser creature. That you don't have the same rights as others. That you can be used and stepped upon and mistreated, and you have no right to stand up to it. It's welcomed as though you think you deserve it, like you're this hideous unlovable ugly wart of inhumanity that everyone hates. And because you then believe you do not deserve love or respect or freedom, your only seeming remaining option is to seek out distorted forms of affection and attention - little conditional scraps here and there, from those who typically want highly special relationships and to take from you. Which feeds right into becoming a martyr, a slave, a victim and a punching bag for others.
Perhaps the worst part about shame is that it's really an attempt to destroy your very self, and your identity. To de-value and de-humanize you. It strips you of your freedom, your rights, your validity, your sacredness. It labels you and puts you in a box. It cuts you down and diminishes you and stomps all over your dignity.
It puts you out of touch with who you really are. It's a major loss of power and a state of weakness and fear. It makes you live in a little darkened cage like an animal, with no friends and no allies. It puts you into isolation, separates you off, portrays you as worth nothing, and seeks your destruction. Shame is like being eaten alive from the inside out.
When you have shame, therefore... through "secret sins", this HAS to be healed. You have to find forgiveness. And you have to find a way to regain your "self worth" - to recognize your value. You have to get your power back and become able to stand up to those who might try to diminish your light or limit you. In particular you have to find a way to forgive YOURSELF, in order to approach a sense of being valuable to God, to regain acceptance of your innocence.
In shame, it will always seem like everyone else has power over you, that you are not good enough, strong enough, capable enough, powerful enough, smart enough, creative enough, good enough, loveable enough etc.... just not enough... for anything or anyone. And this will make you feel limited and like a constant failure.
You'll avoid doing things because you believe you'll fail at it because you're already a failure. You'll fear the judgement and rejection and punishment of what you think is others, for an inevitable insufficiency and heaps of mistakes that you are destined to make, because you believe you are fundamentally flawed. And this will turn you away from expressing and creating and playing and enjoying simply on the basis that it threatens to expose you. It threatens to put you in the spotlight in the arena where you are much more likely to be called out for being unworthy.
The only way though that this can seem to affect you is by you yourself agreeing to it. Which means its your own harsh judgement of yourself that you have to get past. It's really not other people holding you down or making you inferior, it's you. It's your decision that you are unworthy because of your guilt. That has to go, so that you're not constantly second-guessing everything you do. You cannot feel confident about anything while you're riddled with self-sacrificing martyrdom and making yourself small and playing the part of weak and helpless.
Then you'll find that what was really holding you back was YOUR shame, which you imposed upon yourself. And it wasn't really that other people were keeping you locked in a tiny corner of the world, but your own unwillingness to be seen, to be heard, to stand up, to own yourself, to be authentically you, or to stand firm in the face of un-called-for criticism. You have to grow in your strength and power and your imperviousness to judgement.
Ultimately the fact is that all mistakes are forgivable, everyone is worthy to God, no-one ever needs to feel guilty or ashamed, and everyone is loveable. Whatever you did that you feel so bad about, that you're dragging along the ground like a ball and chain around your ankle, you don't deserve that. And because you don't deserve punishment, you don't deserve to die. And that means you deserve to live and resurrect and enjoy your life. You deserve freedom and power and health and joy and relationships.
Below are some of the very brief things ACIM says about shame...
"Perhaps there is a fear of failure and shame associated with a sense of inadequacy."
"The seeds of sickness and the shame of guilt He cannot bridge,..."
"For specialness is triumph, and its victory is his defeat and shame. 9 How can he live, with all your sins upon him?"
"Let not some dreams be more acceptable, reserving shame and secrecy for others."
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