Shame Generators

Posted August 19, 2013 by Monica O'Connell in Life After Five

I’m kind of obsessed with talking about shame, vulnerability and connection.  Brene Brown, the author/researcher/speaker about shame and I must be kindred spirits or coworkers in another life.  In a consultation group I recently attended, we dove into some definitions and experiences of shame I just loved and couldn’t wait to share with you.


Our constant and natural state is to be in connection. Right?

Babies show us this. They grow inside of people. It’s the deepest way of being connected.  They’re vulnerable in the most ultimate ways.  All of their needs are met through connection.  We continue to grow through connection and thrive within it.

Shame is the physiological response to a perceived or actual disconnection.

Here’s what sucks.

When we are in an experience of shame and if we are prone to having multiple shame experiences, we will diminish our sense of self. Hello low- self esteem.  Hello feeling one way, but doing it the way I think someone else wants me to. Hello pretending. Hello oh whatever you want.  Hello outside approval seeking.

When we start to know where our shame lies, we can stop diminishing our sense of self for the sake of connection.

One of my favorite therapists labels these places, people and things where we find shame as “Shame Generators.”

Shame generators are situations or people or instances when we are more prone to experience shame based on our past shame experiences. For some of us, these come most at work. Our boss, maybe? A co-worker? Or maybe when we’re giving presentations.  For some people it comes at home or at parties or at the gym.

If you can find yours, you can label it and start to change your own language about it.  You can practice maintaining and protecting your sense of self instead of diminishing it, no matter where you are, who you’re with or what you’re doing.

What are your shame generators?

About the Author

Monica O'Connell

Monica O’Connell is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her practice, she spends her career cheering on “Career Girls” as they learn how to get the most out of life. Monica works with arguably some of the most successful, intelligent, inspiring women in the Twin Cities who tackle self-discovery, career success, and what’s getting in the way of their true desires. She shares her favorite moments as those “best described not by words but by the stomach aching, face soreness that comes from spending an entire day laughing with loved ones.”