Hiding Our Faces


We might think that people who have lost their jobs or who have completed their formal education but have so far been unable to get jobs would seek understanding, support, and encouragement from their faith communities. We might think so, but much of the time we would be wrong.

Psychiatrist, professor, and theorist Donald L. Nathanson has provided us with “the compass of shame” which indicates the four natural but non-restorative responses to high intensities of the shame-humiliation affect: withdrawal, attack-self, avoidance, and attack-other. The first response to shame is to hide one’s face or wish to. People caught in sustained shame affect do not seek to be understood, supported, and encouraged; they seek to be rendered invisible and left alone. So, they stop attending worship services for the same kind of reasons they stay away from class reunions: they do not want to have to explain their situations or answer questions about their job searches. In our current recession, few people who have lost their jobs or have been unable so far to secure first jobs will wish to give weekly non-progress reports to even the most well-meaning and truly caring inquirers.

Shame does not make us want to be seen and understood. It does not welcome sympathy or encouragement. It wants to be hidden from sight.

Continue reading →

Job Loss and Undeserved Shame


May was a better month, we’re told. The good news was that last month our economy “shed” only 345,000 jobs. That number, of course, is a net figure obtained by subtracting jobs lost from jobs gained, which means that more than 345,000 people actually lost their jobs. I find the verb “shed” offensive. Dogs shed their dead hairs which have been replaced by new ones. Shedding implies dropping something no longer useful and needed. If you are one of the more than 345,000 people who lost their jobs in the better month of May, you may not appreciate the idea that the economy of the land has shed you like a dead dog hair.

Here are my questions. Why does losing one’s job feel so shameful when it’s not the person’s fault in any way but just a result of the economic recession? Why do we feel ashamed when we have done nothing to be ashamed of? 

Why do we feel ashamed when we have done nothing to be ashamed of?

We need to answer those questions so we can move on from “why?” to the practical question of “how?”: How do we deal with undeserved shame, avoiding depression, cynicism, and sustained rage? Let’s start with “why?”

Job loss triggers a certain affect in our bodies.

Continue reading →