We Need to Stop Communicating Like This if We are to Advance as a Society.

How would you react if someone shamed you for what you believe?
Businessmen screaming into a megaphone at each other having an angry debate

How would you react if someone shamed you for what you believe?

Acted passive aggressively towards you?

Would you be more likely to listen?

Would you be more open to their perspective?

Or would you become defensive?

Perhaps equally as aggressive?

How would you react?

How have you reacted to this behavior in the past? ⁠

Now be completely honest with yourself; have you communicated in this way towards others? ⁠

Let me help you out: There is no shame, in admitting to shaming and passive aggressive behavior. I’ve been on both ends of this equation, and I imagine most people have as well (whether they admit it or not.)

This is a large part of human communication in the year 2021. Everything is politicized or polarized. Mass generalizations and prejudices. Media (mainstream and social) use extremes to represent the masses. This incites fear, outrage, anger, and often a sense of righteousness. Division takes place. Sides are created across this divide.

Attachment to ideas, beliefs, individuals ensues.

Tribalism reigns supreme. Shame and aggression follow.

Despite the fact that this is how a lot of communication is taking place in our world, this is not a new phenomenon. We have been under the illusion that our emotional, mental, and spiritual intelligence have kept pace with a physically advancing world. And it’s just that. An illusion.

Shaming and passive aggressive behaviors are signs and symptoms of how disconnected we are from our true selves. From our emotions. From our relationship to self and others. The longer these behaviors remain unconscious, the more time they have to wreak havoc on our minds, relationships, and world.

Shame on you!

Shame can be traced back to the very beginning of the Bible. In Genesis chapter 3, we are told the infamous story of Adam and Eve’s exile from the Garden of Eden; the first incidence of shame in the Bible and we’re only 3 chapters in. In the following chapter, we have Cain’s shame for his offering and the shame that came from killing his brother, Abel.

Shame is at the heart of the modern human struggle. What is shame, exactly?

Famous shame researcher and author Brené Brown defines shame as such:

“I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging — something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.” — Brené Brown

Shame is one of, if not the most common underlying emotions relating to depression, anxiety, suicide, homicide, PTSD, violent behavior, and addictive behavior. I can attest to this wholeheartedly. Shame puts us in an extremely low vibrational state. Many would say it’s the lowest ( which when coupled with shame being the first negative emotion experienced by Adam and Eve in the Bible, makes some sense.)

A large part of my journey of self-study and self-mastery has been the dismantling of my behavior and methods of communication that have been built upon feelings of immense shame and unworthiness. I was at a time severely depressed, socially anxious to the point of physical ailment, suicidal, and addicted. After years of learning and growing, the heart of my pain was rooted in shame. I’ve observed the same patterns with friends, family, and many of my clients, and it’s truly heartbreaking to see.

So why do we so flagrantly shame others?

If you knew your words and actions could stimulate depression, anxiety, suicide, violence, and addiction within another, would you still do it?

Well, “because the internet” is an upsettingly acceptable answer. But diving deeper into that, we can see that attachment is at the heart of shame.

The 2nd Noble Truth of Buddhism states that suffering arises from attachment.

In the context of shame and communication, how does that fit in?

As mentioned earlier, much of this way of communication is a result of division. Political, religious, racial, ethnic, financial, etc. Division creates both attachment and separation.

Once you have aligned with a side of the divide, you are effectively attaching to that side. And as a result of attaching to that side, you disconnect or separate from anything that is not that side.

Increased attachment leads to increased identification with an idea, belief, person, party, etc.

Once you’ve identified fully with a side, anything that’s in conflict with your side is essentially death to your ego. That’s what tribalism is. This form of thinking leads to dehumanizing those that disagree with us, which makes it easier for us to mock, insult and shame them. Not only is this damaging to the person who receives the shame, but it ignites ego, pride, and righteousness within the shamer.

Nothing about shaming, even if on the internet or in a comments section, leads to any productive or constructive outcomes. Yet our attachments are so strong, that we become jaded to the fact that the “they” are human beings, living a largely identical experience of attachment.

Observing and assessing our attachments and biases is key. The act of observing itself will give us space and distance. This space gives us perspective. From this broader open vantage point, we can begin to see where we may be using shame as a weapon and where we may be feeling shame ourselves.

Passive Aggression *eye-roll

Get it? Because eye rolls are passive aggressive.

Avoidance. Resistance. Unwillingness to be vulnerable.

That’s what is at the heart of passive aggressive communication. On the internet or in a social media meme, it’s a great way to “get a win” without having to actually engage with an opposing belief.

It may not seem like it, but those imaginary arguments you have in the shower or in the car, are forms of passive aggression (although my shower debates are HBO crime drama worthy.) In your mind you’re acting aggressively towards whoever or whatever, and because it’s not really happening it’s as passive as can be.

It’s a way to engage with confrontation, without really having to be present for direct communication and conversation. This is a fear-based response. This is ineffective communication.

It’s much safer to be passive aggressive than it is to confront another directly. Doing so would mean being vulnerable, and being vulnerable in a human experience means being attacked, wounded or dying.

Ironically, it is vulnerability that actually empowers us.

Who seems like the stronger individual: someone that throws stones at you from a tower, occasionally yelling not-creative insults? Or someone that comes up to your face, gets in your space, staring you in the eyes; Not with rage, but with an eerie calm?

It is easy to create a story in our head of what we’d do to that asshole chucking rocks in the tower if they were right in front of us. But they may never come down, and we may never reach them. We may never communicate with them in any other way than rock throwing. That interaction may become the blueprint for how we communicate with others we are in conflict with.

But when we can openly and clearly communicate with another person, we get rid of the need for all the rock nonsense and can actually move towards resolution. If not resolution, at least an understanding and sense of empathy for the other person. For the other “side.” Two individuals completely exposed communicating with each other is an intimate experience that fosters respect and connection between two seemingly divided parties.

We can dance around communication and deal with the explosive consequences later, OR take a deep breath and step into a vulnerable space, risking our sense of security for a chance at unity.

Exercise awareness for Anti-inflammatory communication

When we communicate in these ways, we can do some serious unconscious damage to ourselves and others. It creates a cycle where we fight fire with fire and create ( drum roll….) more fire.

We cement ourselves in our separateness as a result of attachment to our beliefs. Fueling aggression and diminishing empathy and compassion.

Our vision tunnels.
We become less open-minded.
Less open-hearted.

Much of the time we justify our behavior.
We justify shaming others.
We justify our passive aggression.

And for what?

To be right? To let them know how wrong they are?⁠

Is it more important to effectively communicate with people you disagree with? ⁠

Or to let them know how ignorant they are and how righteous you are?⁠⁠

Everyone claims compassion and unity as their mission, but is this the type of behavior that brings people together? Or further divides them?⁠ It exhausts me to see this happening over and over again in our age of disconnected social media communication. The wheels keep spinning and we continue to ask ourselves why we’re no closer to the peace we all believe in.⁠

There is a better way. ⁠ And it begins with self-awareness of our attachments and of our fear of vulnerability. Once we can at least understand those aspects of ourselves, we will be much better equipped to communicate in ways that unite and restore the world instead of ways that divide and destroy it.

You're on Your Way.

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