Shame Equals the Global Inner Belief of "I Am Bad."
Energy has to go somewhere. Negative feelings and thoughts are energy. If the powerful feelings are not discharged, they are stored in the body. They may be denied and forgotten, but they remain as a negative force and the person goes through life with a nagging belief of not measuring up. When there are many unresolved experiences of shame in a child's life, the self evaluation becomes global. The child has a core belief of "All of me is bad." The child with a large amount of shame who makes a mistake does not make a specific attribution regarding an event such as "I did this. It was wrong and I can correct it" but goes automatically to feelings of unworthiness. The child then substitutes another emotion or numbs himself to avoid feeling the shame further stamping in the belief of being inadequate and helpless.
Scheff's theory is that shame causes a breakdown of the integrated self. The bypassed, unacknowledged pain is not available to be looked at due to the mechanism of denial. Dissociation and repression of the bad feelings allow distance from the shame with a cover up of "I am not this needy. This is not me. I cannot feel this vulnerable." Tension is discharged partially through substitute emotions but the core of shame grows even bigger as the individual engages in unhealthy behavior.
"Shame is the shaper of symptoms," said Donald Nathanson. The unacknowledged thoughts and feelings become repressed and surface later through substitute emotions and dysfunctional behavior. Other emotions are substituted to hide the shame and maintain self esteem. Anger, depression, exaggerated pride, anxiety and helplessness are substituted to keep from feeling the total blackness of being bad. The buried shame is expressed through defense mechanisms that shield negative unconscious material from surfacing.