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Oh for the Shame of it All: Shame Spiraling

Recently, Life Development Institute had the opportunity to share dinner with a few other members of our community who embrace the opportunity to serve students who may have Learning Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, or related disorders.  During this time, we spoke about many topics related to our students, our opportunities, and being part of their success and growth.  At one moment during our dinner, someone brought up an embarrassing moment that occurred in her life recently over New Year’s Eve.  This event caused her to “shame spiral.”  At the mention of this phrase, many were confused as to what she meant.  However, we would soon learn its meaning and quickly relate to its existence in our own lives.

Our friend and colleague disclosed in her story that she was leaving town for the holiday and was setting up her “away from office” message.  However, she had neglected one unknown step in this process, which led to sending massive emails to persons in her outlook.  This in turn cased automated responses, which continued to generate responses from her email.  Mortified, she disabled her email once she became aware to stop this from occurring.  In that moment of realization of what had happened, she “shame spiraled” and became frozen in embarrassment and fearful reality.

Aha!  Epiphany!  Finally, there is a phrase for this all too familiar state of being that many people have consistently felt in their own lives.  Many can recall times when they have sent emails to wrong persons due to the auto-correct feature found in Microsoft office or have sent an email to one person to only become away from the response email that they had actually sent it to another person.  The immediate sense in those situations, as the group from that night agreed, is URGENCY!  We all seem to sit there frozen in that “shame spiral” and desire to immediately resolve this uncomfortable feeling of insecurity and embarrassment.  Often times, this leads us to respond too quickly before thinking and making matters worse.  In these moments, pausing to breathe and just wait is usually the best first recourse.  Second to this, owning the moment enables freedom from such anxiety and realization that we all make mistakes and therefore should be willing to grant grace and forgiveness when others stumble in similar ways.

This moment of learning in our conversation that evening identified how strong “being stuck in a moment” of that “shame spiral” can cause the inability to function.  Can you imagine how this must be for someone who doesn’t recognize non-verbal’s or understand the importance of initiation?  Often times, we see with our eyes that people are people and therefore we believe that they must come equipped with the same reality we have.  However, we do not realize that hidden disabilities, such as Learning Disabilities, ASD, ADHD, and other related disorders can cause a similar sensation of “being stuck in a moment.” In as much as this was a great learning moment regarding email communication and the grace we seek and should offer, it was an even greater moment of clarity and understanding for how we should treat people regardless of how we perceive them.  We may not know the hidden battles they face.  We should, however, offer acceptance and understanding and should not use judgment.  Doing so will enable us to be an inclusive community that edifies each other instead of one that “shoots its own wounded.”

Posted by Jeremy Wine

This has been a special needs program update from Life Development Institute. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.