2 Sneaky Ways Shame Affects Your Happiness

Photo: Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
shame and depression

Remember the cartoon strip Peanuts? Believe it or not, there are some amazingly valuable lessons in the Peanuts comics and cartoons on how to be happy and how shame can make you depressed and feel anxious.

From Charlie Brown to Lucy, and Pig Pen to Linus, they offer us multiple glimpses of shame in action.

"You're a winner, Charlie Brown!" His friends tell him as he attempts to kick the football, running with all his might into the field.

Just before his claim to success, Lucy pulls the football away. He lands on his back in front of everyone. Humiliated, again and again, he always goes back for one more shot.

Pig Pen is a happy-go-lucky person. Yet the dust that circulates around him all day keeps him as an outsider, even though he's supposed to be on the inside of their little gang.

Linus experiences bouts of rejection, and comes across as quiet and too unassuming to be noticed — or so he thinks.

Lucy loves Schroeder— or at least tries to, but every time she makes her move, she is met with rejection. Still, she persists. 

Somehow Snoopy never misses a beat on how to be happy. Rarely discouraged, he always finds a way to live out his big dreams. 

What makes Peanuts so relevant, even today, is how we identify with these characters. For some, shame is a huge part of their identities. Others are resilient, and still others (ahem, Lucy) seem totally shameless.

What do the Snoopys of the world know that the rest of us — the Linuses and Charlie Browns — don't?

There is a complicated science to shame that helps explain why it's so hard to beat. When researchers studied the likelihood of criminals to get into more trouble after serving their time, they found that the shame-prone ones were most likely to see the inside of a jail cell again. 

That's how unproductive shame can be — and why we need to face it, deal with it, and move past it. 

But how do we beat shame, when it is so sneaky?

We asked our YT Experts to explain to us how to stop the shame that blocks happiness. They surprised us with two sneaky ways that shame deeply affects happiness.

And once we understand how shame works to sabotage us, we can start the work of combating it and moving on (finally!).

1.  Fear triggers a chemical chain reaction that affects a person's view of the world.

“We experience shame in the limbic region (primitive brain). Shame sends a fear-based message to our prefrontal cortex (executive brain) that says, in effect, ‘No matter what I do, there will never be a payoff. I can never win.’ Living with this mindset raises the cortisol level in our bodies and can have a profound impact on our lives and happiness.

We can become complacent lacking self-will, seeking validation from others in extreme service, or we can become human ‘doings’ who compulsively act in ways or do things to feel okay about ourselves, to overcome this false sense of who we think we are.

Shame causes us to become inauthentic in who we are, leaving us with the mindset that nothing we do will ever be good enough, and rips potential happiness out of our grasp.”

Donna Daigle is a certified coach, health and wellness educator, and the founder of Fiery Heart Solutions. You can find out more about her coaching and follow her blog on her website.

2. Shame lurks quietly in the dark ... but there IS a way to stop it and find your happiness again. 

“The shadows of shame hijack any peace and happiness you are trying to experience. They whisper lies that unravel the sense of confidence and empowerment that we long to feel and instead are left with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and a desire to numb out.

The shadows of shame are sneaky. They show up when we least expect them, and their incessant chatter beats us to the point of feeling powerless and defeated. But when we notice the shadow and begin to shine light on what is true… those shadows dry up almost immediately.”

Troy L. Love is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Amazon Bestselling Author of Finding Peace: Healing from Loss, Neglect, Rejection, Abandonment, Betrayal, Abuse. You can read his blog on YourTango or his website

For more support and advice from incredible people in helping professions, look to our Experts. They're here to help!

When Aria Gmitter isn’t creating magic with words, she can be found traveling the country in search of a perfect cup of coffee and the next best hiking trail.  You can follow her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook…and learn more about her work on LinkedIn.