MC: “Types of Shame”

I wrote the following as part of an ongoing discussion elsewhere on this site.  I keep coming back to it.  It seems like it brings out some topics that might merit their own discussion here. . .

I think many of us felt shame, but I suspect it’s worth understanding the different reasons for this shame. I haven’t yet see anyone write about those distinctions. Here’s my thinking.

First, there is the type of shame that starts a man down the path of unhealthy behavior in the first place. In my case, this was shame about not being as successful as I wished to be according to some very archaic, even sick, masculine stereotypes. I felt that shame as a child every time I was awkward athletically. As an older kid, I felt it each time I was awkward with girls or in social settings. Then comes the part I could have prevented. Instead of taking responsibility for those feelings and doing something about them, I told myself I could not control them. That was untrue. I could have practiced more at athletic endeavors. Instead, I chose not to develop resiliency. I chose not to try. I could have chosen not to obsess about awkward social interactions, to let them be water under the bridge, and to learn from them. Instead, I chose to feel sorry for myself and to think God owed me something. So, there’s the first type of shame that seems to play a role here.

Second, when I hid and used porn or saw prostitutes, I felt shame as I did those things. It was a different kind of shame. I was ashamed because I was violating social norms and I was wasting time and money.

Third, I was also ashamed that I was getting sexual satisfaction in a manner that detracted from my masculine (according to the aforementioned archaic, sick definition of masculine) confidence rather than contributed to it.

Fourth, when I committed affairs, I did not feel shame at the time. I choose those as a sick means of trying to satisfy my insatiable desire for sex, self-validation, and empty flattery. I only felt shame about those experiences after I was forced to confront the pain they caused TL and the fact that I did those things for very unhealthy reasons.

TL asked why I was ashamed on account of societal norms with regard to porn and prostitution but not with regard to affairs. The answer says something even more disappointing about my previous, sick and wrong way of thinking. I actually thought affairs were less threatening to my pride than porn and prostitution were. In fact, my concern about societal norms was tied to my view of what was more masculine — not to some view of what was more moral. Maybe most people see societal norms as important because they indicate morality. I did not see it that way. Societal norms were important to me only for purely self-centered, Machiavellian reasons. They were a means to an end, not an end in and of themselves. That has all changed for me now, but only through therapy, religious study, and lots of ongoing hard work.

I’d be curious to hear from other unfaithful spouses about the different types of shame they experienced.


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