A grounded theory attempt to explore how people overcome feelings of shame can be found in Shame Resilience Theory (SRT). SRT is an attempt to define shame and its consequences, as well as the ways that people (specifically women, in the original 2006 study) respond to shame. According to Brené Brown, shame causes people to feel “trapped, powerless, and isolated” (Brown, 2006). Brown also suggests that while shame triggers can vary between individuals and cultures, there are certain triggers that are more common than others, such as:
“appearance and body image, sexuality, family, motherhood, parenting, professional identity and work, mental and physical health, aging, religion, speaking out, and surviving trauma”.
This wide range of examples shows that shame can occur in all aspects of someone’s life, underscoring the importance of SRT.
The main idea behind SRT is studying the strategies that people employ to avoid feeling trapped, powerless, or isolated in the face of feelings of shame. A goal of shame resilience is to help those who feel shame feel “empathy, connection, power, and freedom” instead, emotions that can be considered the opposite of shame (Brown, 2006). Based on this goal of reaching feelings of empathy, connection, power, and freedom, SRT proposes that shame resilience is essentially made up of four steps:
- Recognizing the personal vulnerability that led to the feelings of shame
- Recognizing the external factors that led to the feelings of shame
- Connecting with others to receive and offer empathy
- Discussing and deconstructing the feelings of shame themselves
In other words, a crucial aspect of SRT is being able to recognize that shame needs to be acknowledged and understood before it can be overcome. SRT research suggests that shame is most harmful when it goes unacknowledged and is not spoken of.
Assuming this is true, it underscores the importance of research into shame and SRT, as the more people know about shame the easier they can overcome it.