Shame is a powerful, primal human emotion, stirring up for us as it does the overwhelming sense that ‘I shouldn’t be here… I cannot be here…’. It has us contract, freeze, mute ourselves, and make ourselves acceptable at the price of our aliveness and creativity.
It is the perfect mood for forcing us to fit in, to withhold anything that might cause others trouble, to keep us in line. Which is why it’s used so powerfully and effectively in the life of organisations.
And because owning up to shame is, for most of us, itself shameful, we hide it from others and deny it to ourselves, living quietly with the suffering and wounding that it brings. We pretend we are not feeling shame even as we experience it most acutely.
And we pretend not to see how our leadership and organisational structures actively promote it – how shame is often the unspoken currency of organisational life.