I found an excerpt from this piece by Nora Samaran saved in my drafts from a year ago. While I take issue with parts of the article (and specifically the haphazard discussion of attachment theory), this passage still feels important now as I continue to reflect on how to work with the men in my life from a place of compassion and integrity.
Shame and guilt unhealed and unaddressed remain powerful and, like a volcano, rise up in surprising ways. For instance, shame can lead men to shut down and run or blame women or act defensive instead of offering comfort and nurturance when someone they care about needs them. It can, alternately, lead men to ignore signs that someone does not want them close.
These are two sides of the same system, and must be understood together, because in a culture that does not expect men to show up for their own emotions, women get blamed for unaddressed male shame.
In other words, it seems possible that shame and guilt, left subterranean, interrupt attunement, and can lead to an inability or unwillingness to properly respond to the needs of others, whether for nurturance or for space. I mean the really deep, structural kind of shame, that is so old and convincing, it doesn’t even appear as anything in particular. It just appears as ‘the way the world is,’ laid down in patterns in the limbic brain. This kind of shame hides, appears as nothing in particular, until questioned with compassion and curiosity, deeply, in safe company.