We talked about jealousy last month, a feeling that we want to believe disowning it, a feeling of us we deny. These feelings are of no small matter. Wondering which of them I should mention this month, “shame”, unspoken neither in group sessions, nor in individual meetings, evokes itself in waves. We disown it so much that, when we asked them to “try to envision one of the most embarrassing moments of your life”, 3 of the group of 8 did not envision even a glimpse from their entire lives of no less than 35 years. Yet, it is such a feeling we come face to face no less than once a month.


Shame is one of the feelings that are hardest to remember, adopt, and exchange. Because when you try to remember it, you are embarrassed again. Thus, reminiscences of shame are restrained at the least accessible parts of the mind.


When a person is embarrassed, he/she feels him/herself as separated and isolated from all those left behind. He/she starts thinking whether the same thing occurred to someone else until then. Image of “me in the view of someone else” is shaken. Because, shame is a feeling, being felt when one thinks of being humiliated before others due to doing something wrong, and that he/she will be laughed at, found worthless, and mocked at by others accordingly.


Do you know when people feel ashamed mostly? According to the researchers: When they stumble and fall, when they spill their drinks, when their trousers are torn, when their cars stop all of a sudden in the middle of the road, when their personal secrets are revealed, when they burp/fart, when they attract unwanted eyes, when they forget the name of the person they talk to… In short, due to such deeds of them mostly done unintentionally, without control, and perhaps for such deeds they are not actually responsible from. On the other hand, one may be embarrassed from quite pleasant, beautiful things. Upon putting on a new cloth, and being admired for how it suits, upon being appreciated by seniors for a good job…


Like the things they feel embarrassed for, the ways they reveal their embarrassment may also vary: They may turn their eyes away, and look down, smile with the side of their lips sneered, turn their heads away, touch their own faces, blush…


Just as we mentioned while talking about jealousy, feelings do have their own functions just like behaviors, and therefore evolutionally maintain their continuity. So, how could such an irritant feeling have a function?


Main function of shame is to keep people open for good and self-development among others. Shame, in fact, rests at the other end of glory. People’s motivation for priding themselves is the thrust that keeps them struggle and seeks success at all times. We feel ashamed, and we avoid from shameful situations, so as to do things we may pride ourselves.


In addition thereto, shame also functions as an apology for an actually unintentional mistake. In other words, it is our embarrassment towards such situations that makes us forgiven by others more easily. We may secure our status as being beloved and appreciated. People therefore do not think that we are shameless.

Despite we do not want to remember it, and we bury its reminiscences into deep, shame is a positive feeling with all these aspects. If we may treat moments of shame as such, we do not have to bury them into deep. We should keep it in mind that, it is impossible to control the things we cannot remember, and avoid them to direct us.


Derya Gülterler, MS

Clinical Psychologist