The Unexpected Reason It’s Healthy To Feel Shame

Carl Jung, the Swiss founder of analytical psychology, called shame a “soul-eating emotion.”

Following the Jungian model, author and shame expert Dr. Brene Brown has called the emotion the “swamplands of the soul” — something that makes us see ourselves as defective and worthless.

People often confuse shame with guilt, but Brown says there’s an important distinction between the two: Feelings of guilt revolve around “I did something bad,” but shame has more to do with the feeling of “I am bad.”

Shame has been linked to addiction, perfectionism, depression and low self-esteem. Sounds like a pretty unproductive emotion, right? Well, new research suggests this maybe not be entirely true.

Shame has evolved to serve the important function of being a social defense, according to a study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This adds some nuance to the traditional belief that shame stems from a feeling of being deficient.

“We’ve been puzzled by these very prominent hypotheses in social psychology that shame really isn’t about people’s concerns over how others see them,” Dr. Daniel Sznycer, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “It didn’t make sense to us that shame would be completely divorced from concerns about the evaluations of others.”

Similar to the way pain protects us from things that hurt us physically, shame may protect us from things that threaten our social identity, the research suggests.

In other words, “the function of shame is to prevent us from damaging our social relationships, or to motivate us to repair them,” Sznycer explained in a statement. It makes us care what others think of us, and helps to us determine the “social cost” of a —> Read More