Two Types of Shame

Two Types of Shame

On the subject of shame – dominant emotional undercurrent for Enneagram types 2 -3 – 4. These types develop around the need to be seen and valued and therefore tend to have shame as more of a focal point.

Peter Levine talks about 2 types of shame. Agitated shame which presents as a sympathetic/ excited state in the nervous system versus full collapse shame.

The former is easier to work with and can be seen as a healthy version of shame. i.e. shame as an important biological function that maintains hierarchies for social animals. For instance, little boy pokes sisters eye and parents stop it in a way that induces this version of healthy shame, where little boy knows he did something wrong.

If the parents come back and ‘repair‘ the shame they would say something like – ‘nothing wrong with you my child but you can’t do that again’. It means that the child does not integrate feeling of ‘something wrong with me’ into their sense of self/ identity. Instead child understands that it was their behaviour that was at fault and learns appropriately.

On the other hand, full collapse shame (which is more often the case in early childhood) happens where there is no repair and the child develops the sense that there is something wrong with them and constructs identity around that wounding.
Shame needs to be attended to in a way where we can create a holding space for ourselves and really feel how it shapes the body. From there we can begin to release it and return to our worth as a reality that transcends past behaviours. Importantly, being careful not to bypass the information that our shame reflects to us.