Exploring Shame in Childhood

This resource is designed to be used with the 'What do you Feel?' cards as a starting point for thinking about some of the common roots of shame.

Shame differs from guilt. Guilt is evoked by an action: when we do something, say something or think something ‘bad’, usually in relation to another individual or a group, then guilty feelings are triggered. Shame describes what we feel when we imagine that we are ‘bad’ – we feel shame literally about who we are.

The most effective way of processing shame is to acknowledge its source openly and honestly, understand its context and use this understanding to deepen our awareness of human nature. The words ‘human’, ‘humiliating’ and ‘humble’ share the same root. To be human is to suffer humiliation from time to time which, in turn, teaches us about humility provided we do not keep our pain a shameful secret.

This resource is used in conjunction with five cards drawn from the Emotional Learning Cards series What do you Feel? For each card we have developed questions, comments and suggestions for activity that will support a professional who is exploring the concept of shame with a young person or adult. Each section starts with a response to the work depicted on the card; then allows for an exploration on the topic before leading to a more personal reflection from the participant.

Image credit: Yinka Shonibare,’Dysfunctional Family’, 1999