NEW BOOK BY UH PROF CONCLUDES SHAME DOESN’T
HAVE TO HIDE ITS FACE
Brené Brown’s Offering Studies Women and Shame
HOUSTON, March 8, 2007—It has the power to oppress, silence
and shape the way we live, love, work and parent. It’s shame,
and while it may be debilitating and isolating, one University of
Houston professor and researcher contends in her new book, “I
Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a
Culture of Shame,” the time is right to bring it out into
“Shame is a social epidemic,” said Brené Brown,
a shame and empathy researcher at the UH Graduate College of Social
Work. “We are shamed into thinking we are too fat, bad moms,
not sexual enough. In our culture, the fear of not belonging and
not being acceptable is so insidious that it changes our relationships,
families and communities without us even knowing.”
Brown, a qualitative researcher, discovered that shame manifests
itself in many ways including addiction, perfectionism, fear and
blame. She spent six years interviewing approximately 400 women
about their most personal moments of shame—from the woman
who was criticized by the gas station clerk when her credit card
was declined (she later raged at her unsuspecting toddler as part
of the vicious shame cycle), to the high school teacher who was
labeled as a rabble-rouser when she spoke out at a faculty meeting
(she later quit teaching).
“Shame lurks in all of the familiar places like body image,
motherhood, family, parenting, money and work, mental and physical
health, addiction, sex, aging and religion,” Brown said. “When
we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight, and all we
see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling. We think to ourselves,
‘I’m the only one. Something is wrong with me. I am
alone.’ The less we understand shame and how it affects our
feelings, thoughts and behaviors, the more power it exerts over
While Brown explains that we cannot be completely resistant to
shame, we can develop the resilience we need to recognize shame,
move through it constructively and grow from the experiences. Across
the interviews, women with high levels of shame resilience shared
four things in common, which Brown refers to as “The Four
Elements of Shame Resilience.”
“These include the ability to recognize shame and understand
what triggers it and developing critical awareness about the messages
and expectations that drive shame,” Brown said. “In
addition, those with high levels of shame resilience can reach out
and share their stories. They have connection networks and are able
to ‘speak shame.’ They can use the word. They can be
honest about their feelings and ask for what they need, rather than
acting out or shutting down.”
One of Brown’s goals with this research is to create a national
dialogue on the issue of shame, so the feelings of pain and isolation
can be transformed into compassion and connection.
“My greatest hope is that we will reach out across our differences
and through our shame to share our stories and to connect with those
who need to hear, ‘You are not alone,’” Brown
Brown currently is conducting research on men and shame and how
shame is used in parenting and education.
She holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees
in social work, and is a licensed social worker. She teaches graduate
courses on women’s issues, shame and empathy, advocacy-based
research and global justice. She also is a founding working board
member of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.
For more information on the UH Graduate College of Social Work,
please visit www.sw.uh.edu/home.php.
For more information on Brené Brown, please visit www.brenebrown.com/brenebrown.cfm.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan
research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research
centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with
corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse
research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education,
research and service with more than 35,000 students.
About the UH Graduate College of Social Work
The mission of the Graduate College of Social Work is to
promote social, economic and political justice and to advance knowledge
for competent, ethical practice and leadership with diverse populations.
Established by the Texas State Legislature in 1967, the College
includes 24 full-time faculty, including a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
The College offers a Master of Social Work, and Ph.D. with emphasis
on political social work, children and families, gerontological
social work, health care and mental health.
For more information about UH visit the universitys Newsroom at www.uh.edu/admin/media/newsroom.