I’ve been making edits and additions to my growing reading list and finally spent some time tonight consolidating three different lists I had in different places. One of the books I had on my list was The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism – which I was able to get off the hold list from the library this week. Within the first few pages, it already felt like a book I knew I’d enjoy. One of the excerpts I’ve found interesting so far is this one that advises you to de-stigmatize discomfort by remembering that with over seven billion people on the planet, the chances are pretty much zero that you are the only one who has ever felt this level of shame, depression, sadness, or anger in life. Regarding shame, the author writes:
“Of all the emotions that human beings can feel, (shame) is one of the most toxic to health and happiness … (it’s defined as) “the fear of being unlovable: Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.
“Shame hits us so powerfully because it conveys a message about our fundamental acceptability as human beings. And in basic survival terms, if a tribe rejects you, you die. It is a life-and-death situation. The brain equates social needs with survival; being hungry and being ostracized activate similar neural responses. Somewhere in the back of our minds is the fear of being so disapproved-of that we’d be excluded by those who matter to our survival.”
I never really thought of shame in that way personally. I suppose I get it at a high level given that shame is the worst thing you can feel as an Asian child in an Asian family with extremely high expectations about everything from school performance to etiquette to career, hence the concept of “losing face.” But I never thought of defining it as the “fear of being unlovable.” When viewed that way, it would be no wonder that shame is the reason people run away from their lives or even go to the extreme of taking their own lives. It’s a terrible kind of pain for some people who experience it at that intense level.
I wonder if that was how Ed felt, like he didn’t deserve to be loved, as though it was some sort of deformity or disability he possessed that prevented him from being the person he hoped to be. It’s sad to read books that illustrate pieces of what my brother likely felt and believed.