Shame can feel like an effective tool to change behavior. Like spanking, it’s quick and seems to stop the behavior rather quickly. But for the long term, it is not effective, and it can create a lot of other unforeseen, and damaging challenges later in life.
Shame contributes to a low sense of self-worth. People who live with shame often experience feelings of worthlessness, depression, and anxiety. Depression often follows the shameful feelings because those thoughts are being directed inward towards self.
Shame is often used as a vehicle to discourage people, in particular young individuals, to engage in sexual activities (masturbation, viewing of pornography, sex outside of marriage) because it is believed to be an effective tool.
Again, like spanking, it seems to be effective. It can, at least at first glance, stop a behavior, but it is usually temporary. It is not only ineffective at stopping a behavior, but it can make a situation much worse.
As a sex therapist, I see the harmful impacts of shame. Here are some of the challenges that I see with some of my clients who have experienced the utilization of shame to dissuade behaviors:
- Lying. People will lie if they think they are going to get into trouble. Especially if this is a repeated issue. So, lying becomes normalized. I will lie when necessary to escape the shame and embarrassment of doing something I am not supposed to do.
- Secrecy. I live two experiences. One that I do openly and one I do in secret. The second, I do with shame since I have been told I should not be doing it. Which makes me doing things in secret feel worse. So, when I am in a committed relationship that is supposed to be built on trust and honesty, I don’t share my secret life. And when this “secret life” is discovered, trust is lost and damages the marital bond.
- Dislike or disgust of myself. We are sexual beings. Denying that instead of normalizing that we are sexual beings, with natural urges, and finding healthy and reasonable outlets, is a disservice to ourselves and our loved ones. When I shame others or shame myself for this natural and biological urge to be sexual, creates a recipe for a tangled web of emotions, that will impact your relationship with a loved one and yourself.
- Performance anxiety. When our head is riddled with shameful thoughts, or complicated emotions, this can prevent us from being in the present moment and experiencing the pleasure and joy of sexually connecting with ourselves or our partner(s). Being fully present and enjoying connection and the pleasure of touch allows for a healthy natural progression of a sexual experience.
These are a few challenges that may happen when one has been living with shame as it relates to their sexual experiences. If you are struggling with these or any other issue as it relates to shame and sexuality, please contact me to schedule a phone consultation.