Rick Hanson PhD
Jun 24, 2015
Have you ever scolded a dog and seen him or her look guilty?
Obviously, animals do not have the elaborated textures of thoughts and feelings that humans do. But our emotions, even the subtlest ones, have their roots in our ancient evolutionary history. By understanding that history better, we do not reduce our feelings to animal instincts, but instead find illuminations from our past that paradoxically give us more choices in manifesting ourselves as fully human.
We can find two sources of shame spectrum emotions in our evolutionary history.
First, many animal species live in social groups with clear dominance hierarchies. Once those pecking orders are established, it can be … Read more »
May 11, 2014
Someone recently wrote to tell me that she suffers extreme embarrassment when meditating with other people, because her IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) causes a lot of intestinal gurgling. She becomes self-conscious about these noises, finds that the anxiety about them dominates her meditations, and has been so upset at times that she’s left the meditation room in tears. Also, her anxiety around making noise actually causes her condition to get worse.
I can appreciate her anxiety. I think we’ve all had times when we’ve been self-conscious about bodily noises (gas, swallowing, coughing, etc.), but to have it be more than an occasional thing must be very hard indeed.
If you’re … Read more »
Apr 30, 2013
People use the words “guilt” and “shame” in different ways. I use “shame” to translate the Buddhist word “hiri” and see guilt as being something entirely different. And I think an awareness of this difference is very important to recognize when we’re trying to live with more kindness.
In Buddhist psychology shame (hiri) is a skillful rather than an unskillful mental state. This may be surprising! We usually think of “skillful” mental states as being pleasant, and shame is definitely not pleasant. In fact it can be rather painful. So what does it mean to say that shame is skillful?
Shame is considered to be a spiritually useful emotion — … Read more »