Beware the Walk of Shame
Did that get your attention? If so, my guess is you’re probably either (a) a former Game of Thrones fan who’s still missing it and pinning for a spin-off series (like me) or (b) you meant to click delete and have now, inadvertently, become interested. Because let’s face it, shame is about as off-putting a title as you get in this or any blog (except to RP diehards of course). I mean who wants to think about something as seemingly negative and uncomfortable like that, unless of course you’re that Game of Thrones fan and remember that scene (for anyone who’s not seen GOT just check out Cerci’s walk of shame at this point. I was no fan of hers but no one deserves that).
And yet, and yet and yet….. We continue to ignore shame at our peril, and at the risk of endangering our relationships. And what happens if we continue to ignore it? Because (and this is going to rock you) shame is all around us EVERY day of our lives AND, here’s the mindblower, it’s not what you thought it was. Allow me to illustrate with two examples:
Exhibit A: A young girl of 10 years of age is discovered to have secretly and (almost) successfully removed her vegetables from the dinner plate to her bin upstairs using the sleeve of her dressing gown. Upon discovery of this, the parent (ok, ok you guessed it’s me) has a choice. Do I ignore the indescretion or confront on her on it? And, if I do confront, how do I do this? I mean have you ever taken a note pad or pen from the office (eh, no, me neither)? Imagine what it would be like for the boss to meet you at the door and have a conversation about it? That’s shame baby, that’s shame. So that’s what my daughter was going to experience if I decided to confront. And it would be me inducing it. As it turned out she herself was looking for a treat later that evening which, in a way, forced my hand. I let her know that I had discovered the offending petit pois, which it turned out she had in fact at least tried to eat. (Removing them is also a brilliant example of the first defence of shame, i.e. we hide from it or, in this case, hide the evidence). Anyway back to my soon to be busted daughter. A few years ago, without understanding shame or its effects, I’d have just named and “shamed” her. Now however I knew I’d have to let her down easy. Her face and body language and level of discomfort when she realised that I knew was something to behold. My guess is she would have preferred to be anywhere at that stage rather than where she was. By the way, did you know the word mortification comes from the French word morte, which is means to die? And as I always point out in my training, even your dog can’t bear to look you in the eye when you give out and they feel shame. It’s that powerful. Anyways, all I could do with my daughter was to hug her to let it know it was ok. No pea is worth that. As for healthy eating? My wife and I will come at that another way on another day, but not that day.
Exhibit B: An anonymous (no this time I actually do mean anonymous because I don’t even know what they look like) book club member recommends Blind Boy Boat Club’s recent effort for the monthly book club*. Now this does not exactly prove to be an inspired choice because, between them, three close neighbours fail to read more than half the book between them. As the night approaches it transpires that a significant number of members are rather underwhelmed by the famous Bubberbandit's creative efforts. My thoughts though are immediately with the “selector” of this book. Again, armed with an understanding of shame, my guess is this lady is sure to be in need of support on the night (best case scenario, she’s well able to take the inevitable slagging). I appraise my wife of this hunch and suggest she be prepared to offer consolation if needed. I have to say I was more than a little curious to discover the outcome (you see I’m not even a member of the book club). How did it go? I won’t lie. I was actually annoyed I didn’t predict it. She never showed up on the night. What a “shame”, eh? Note the use of the first defence again, i.e. to withdraw. What are the other defences you ask? For the record they are Attack self and/or others, or avoidance (just tough it out), i.e. pretend you’re not even aware of what the other person is talking about (in extreme cases this is aided and abetted by drink or even drugs). That’s shame and its effects.
Of course dealing with some of the other defences can be a lot harder than if someone just withdraws. The teenager who employs the “attack is the best form of defence” tactic to dealing with shame is no laughing matter. But the first step is still the same, i.e. recognising what’s in front of you. And why is this important? Because how can you respond to something you don’t understand? Many of the troubled youth in our classes and in our homes are acting out to escape the shame in their lives. And, what’s most tragic, quite often neither they nor their carers realise what’s happening. Furthermore society has the well-intentioned, but decidedly unhelpful, habit of heaping further shame on people who transgress. Talk about pouring petrol on the flames. I'm not for a second saying we let people do what they want here, but I am saying we need to think this through a little more (GOT fans will note by now that Cerci's walk of shame didn't exactly cure her either).
Some of you are probably still struggling to reconcile this version and understanding of shame with the one our society (especially Ireland with its various historical episodes of shame) presents. That’s ok. It takes time for new ideas to take hold. Far better people than me (if you want another source google Brene Brown on the topic) have been bringing this topic to a wider audience for years. To be sure they are going through the usual pattern of firstly being ignored, then fiercely resisted before, in time, being taken as just common sense. Such is the way with things. For now I ask just one thing, if it’s not too difficult to embrace. Don’t force vegetables on your child!
That’s Restorative Practices
*The author in no way endorses the aforementioned book club’s view of Blindboy’s book and apologises for any offense caused to Blindboy if he ever becomes aware of this blog.
My name is Joe Power and I am the RP development officer for Limerick. I thought I would write about my experiences in developing my own understanding of RP, as well as in trying to spread it across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my own and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for others to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it.
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