Julie Ferman

What's SHAME doing to our men?
by Wayne M. Levine, M.A.
What is shame? To understand what shame is, it’s important to delineate between shame and guilt. Guilt is when you feel you’ve done something wrong. Shame is when you feel there’s something wrong with you. A significant distinction.

Where does shame come from? Shame comes from the lessons we learn while growing up. Shame develops over time as we’re told that what we’re doing, what we’re feeling, how we’re expressing ourselves, or what our dreams are is somehow wrong, unacceptable, "not what’s done in this house," or "not what good little boys do."

But when we, as little boys, continue to have those feelings, continue to want to behave like boys, or express ourselves as we see fit, or dream those unacceptable dreams, we eventually come to believe that there must be something wrong with us. The little boys then grow up.

We become men who believe there’s something wrong with us. We can become angry, depressed and lonely. We can become over-achievers, absent fathers, and unhappy men. Tragically, all this pain is suffered because of the misguided belief that there is something wrong with who we are. All of this pain is caused by shame.

By the time most men find their way to counseling, or other form of support, shame has taken a devastating toll of their lives and on the lives of the people they love and who love them. The good news is that men can shed the shame they’ve been carrying—through the support of other men.

In man-to-man counsling, in men’s groups and through experiences like men’s weekends, men’s lives can change dramatically. Men come to find that not only are they not alone in carrying the shame, but that with strong and trusting relationships with other men, they can learn that there’s actually nothing "wrong" with who they are and how they feel. In time, self-esteem increases and relationships throughout the man’s life improve.

Wayne M. Levine, M.A. is the director of the West Coast Men’s Center in Agoura Hills, CA, offering individual, couples and group counseling as well as the BetterMen weekend retreats for men. Wayne can be reached at 818-879-1600 or at www.westcoastmenscenter.com.

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