The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson(Book review)

 

Ah shame, what a tough subject to discuss as it is tough to deal with it! Ever since the Fall, humanity has been marred by shame. It is a shadow that never ceases to follow you around and consume you. Not only does it distort your well-being but how you live life as well. You always feel like you are damaged goods, never good enough, and just never measuring up. God is seen a mean entity who cannot ever bear to look at you because you find yourself so sinful. That is merely a snapshot of how shame affects us. That is what Curt Thompson attempts to get at in this book and he does it well.

Shame is described and defined as you would expect. But one thing that Thomspson takes into account is the neurological effect on shame as a he is a psychiatrist with a neurological background. Thus adding an further in depth analysis on shame impact. For instance, shame affects our brain. The more we act out in shame, the more it is reinforced in our brain leading to a stasis in us. Moreover, shame distorts our walk with God, looking all the way back to the Fall and plenty of stories shared from people with shameful experiences. The remedy? vulnerability. First, seeing it in God who made Himself vulnerable in creating us to share in this world and also through Christ coming to die for our sins so that we would be reconciled to God the Father. As we live between now and the final consummation, the church must likewise grow in vulnerability with one another as it practices the same love and grace God bestows on us. Although shame is a life-long struggle, thankfully it will be forever gone in heaven as we will live on shameless, living fully in the very glory of God. So do yourself a favor and please check out this book. It will minister to you. It is always refreshing to see books that observe what is usually seen as psychological issues yet comes from a Christian foundation. Honestly, it is something we need more of.

 

Highlights

“When shame appears, especially in malignant forms, we are often driven to a felt sense of stasis. Our mind feels incapable of thinking. We may feel literally physically frozen in place when experiencing extreme humiliation, and if we are able to move, we feel like going somewhere we can hide and remain hidden without returning to engage others. We don’t necessarily experience this with minor insults, but there is no question that our ability to move creatively in our mind is slowed. This general idea that shame leads the world ultimately to a point of paralysis, vis-à-vis the movement that is required for creative engagement, will become more important when we explore the nature of God’s movement and its necessity for shame’s healing.”

“Attention is the engine of the mind’s train that pulls along the rest of the functional cars. Ultimately we become what we pay attention to, and the options available to us at any time are myriad, the most important of which being located within us. Paul, in his letter to the Romans knows this, stating flatly, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). To have one’s mind set on something is essentially about paying attention. What do I pay attention to? Paul says that what we pay attention to doubles back and governs us. Hence our attention is deeply associated with either death or life.”

“Remember, attention is the key to the engine that pulls the train of our mind; shame’s first priority is distraction.”

“Judgment strengthens shame’s grinding attempt at isolation. In order for me to judge someone, I must create enough distance between us in order to analyze him or her. With that judgment the distance grows. And with enough distance comes isolation.”

Shame Begets Stasis

As I am reading through the “Soul of Shame” by Curt Thompson, I found this noteworthy point about shame and how it distorts our lives so much that it leaves us in stasis.

“When shame appears, especially in malignant forms, we are often driven to a felt sense of stasis. Our mind feels incapable of thinking. We may feel literally physically frozen in place when experiencing extreme humiliation, and if we are able to move, we feel like going somewhere we can hide and remain hidden without returning to engage others. We don’t necessarily experience this with minor insults, but there is no question that our ability to move creatively in our mind is slowed. This general idea that shame leads the world ultimately to a point of paralysis, vis-à-vis the movement that is required for creative engagement, will become more important when we explore the nature of God’s movement and its necessity for shame’s healing.”