In the scary world of the supernatural, shape-shifters are entities which transform themselves from one thing to another. Shame can circle through life the same way: as soon as you get one aspect of self under control and start to feel proud, up pops another behavior that generates shame and brings you down. Shame-shifting won’t stop until you recognize that shame manifests what you basically feel/think about yourself.
Shame is the zinger that warns us we may have done something wrong, bad or hurtful. If we experience that zing and consider that what we did was indeed inappropriate or uncalled for, shame is doing its work to prevent us from acting in a like manner again. In a healthy person who believes she is good at core, perfectly imperfect and of value, this conditioning (like rats getting zapped to deter specific behavior) works effectively. She refrains from repeating transgressions to avoid feeling badly because she knows, at heart, she is not a bad person. She is, in general, proud of who she is and her default setting is pride. The unhealthy, shame-based person, however, believes she’s bad at core, defective and undeserving. Her default setting is shame, not pride.
Many dysregulated eaters get their eating under control, then resume smoking (granted there are other reasons this might occur as well), or finally start keeping their house clean, but begin to arrive late to appointments. Or get the hang of disciplining their children effectively, then fall short of taking care of themselves. It’s as if they need to have something to remind them they’re undeserving and unworthy because bottom-line belief is that this is the truth. Feeling proud, deserving and worthy is unnatural to them; feeling ashamed and defective is sadly familiar, the way they came to view and feel about themselves from the way they were treated in their dysfunctional childhoods.
Shame-shifting ensures that you will never feel good about yourself, never feel proud, successful, full of the joy at being who you are. If you’re someone who was brought up to believe that there is something deeply, defectively, unfixably wrong with you, it’s likely that you engage in shame-based behaviors. Moreover, until you transform this most basic assessment of yourself, you’ll continue to exhibit shame-shifting that reinforces this negative conclusion. And round and round we go. Examine your core view of yourself and make sure that its foundation is self-love not self-hate, that you seek ongoing pride, not shame. If you can’t shake the latter (or have tried on your own and failed), it’s time to engage professional help. If not, you might be condemning yourself to a frustrating lifetime of endless shame-shifting behaviors.