Everyone with an ounce of self-awareness, a psych course, or at least access to a dictionary will tell you that they think they know what shame is. Shame, they will tell you, is a painful feeling of believing that we are flawed, imperfect, broken – in short, that there is something wrong with us at a fundamental level. It is a psychologically devastating emotion, one that contributes to depression and addictions and all manner of pathologies; furthermore, it is a spiritual malady, a feeling of disconnection from the goodness of the universe, the love of God, or the simple feeling of suchness.
But what if we don’t know what we think we know? What if we met shame as a stranger and learned to regard it in a different way than we ever have before? Shame is not just a feeling, but it is a word; and we can change our relationship to words, and thereby change our relationship to the feelings to which they are connected. Specifically, what if we listened to the wisdom of Lingua-U, the new unitive metalanguage, and allowed ourselves to form new stories about shame that helped us to break through the babel of human speech about it?
Let’s give it a whirl. Let me tell you a new story about shame, one that you’ve never heard before.
My story is one of many relative truths about the word that we could discuss, not the only valid perspective. Psychologists (e.g., see this article by David Sack M.D.) can give you valuable insight into “silencing shame” by cultivating awareness about it and naming it, untangling our feelings from like emotions, unhitching from limited identities, recognizing triggers, and avoiding isolation. Spiritual writers and researchers (e.g., Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW) will tell you that shame is a soul malady, a lack of courage and vulnerability often stemming from wrong beliefs that we are unlovable.
Bear in mind now that the story you are about to hear is not, strictly speaking, either psychological or spiritual, as those terms are usually defined. It’s a story with an undefined point-of-view at this point in human history. The closest thing that I can offer as a label is the term “Logo-Therapy”, from the term “Cosmic Logo-Therapy” invented by W. John Weilgart, Ph.D., the psychologist and linguist who invented a new language called aUI and used it in unique psychotherapeutic interventions with drug addicts, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, and other sick people.
Let’s talk a bit more about the subject because we’re going to be revisiting the topic regularly on this blog.
Weilgart’s patients had to learn a new language (albeit a simple one that some people grasped in an afternoon). Often, they thought their problem was a troubling belief or emotion, but Weilgart showed them that these problems always came down to their relationship with a particular word or set of words. By learning a new way of making meaning for the same thought or feeling, they could re-wire their cognitive processes in order to unmask illusions created by existing languages and replace them with insights based on a new language supposedly derived from mystical consciousness.
Logo-Therapy is therefore an interesting way of looking at the possibility for shifts in language to produce psychological healing and spiritual growth. Although Weilgart believed that it was necessary for people to learn a new language – the aUI – to gain the benefits of Logo-Therapy, I think there may be an easier route to a similar outcome. Instead of learning a new language, perhaps all that is really necessary is for people to better understand the subtle energies of the language constituting their “inner life”, the patterns these energies reveal, and then engage in context-specific endeavors to shift these energies through mantra or word selection. In short, one can learn Lingua-U and use it to investigate for one’s own self new possibilities for meaning-making (with or without the help of someone trained in its intricacies and applications).
Now, since Lingua-U is so new (its Codex has only been published for less than 2 years and is virtually uninvestigated by anyone other than this author), there is no Logo-Therapy yet associated with it. Therefore, I will not use the term Logo-Therapy to describe potential psychological healing applications for Lingua-U at this point in time. Instead, I will speak of cultivating a practice of Logo-Awareness.
So the story you are about to hear employs no existing psychological models or spiritual belief systems. It is simply a story based on what I have learned through my own practice of Logo-Awareness. Like the stories I tell about psyche, spirituality, culture, or politics, it is an expression of an underlying pose of worldview artistry. I believe we have more power to consciously generate shifts in our own and our world’s worldviews by lifting the veils placed on us through lack of consciousness regarding language and symbol.
Now we’re almost ready to talk about shame – i.e., the English word. But let us first take a cross-linguistic look at the word’s synonyms in other languages, and sort them according to whether the sound symbolism of each word begins with yang, yin, or yung (as these terms are described in the Codex):
- YANG: Albanian (turp), Basque (Pena), Catalan (vergonya), Galician (vergoña), Italian (vergogna), Latin (verecundiam), Portuguese (vergonha), and Spanish (vergüenza).
- YIN: Arabic (ear), Azerbaijani (ayıb), Bosnian (sramota), Bulgarian (срам), Cebuano (kaulaw), Chinese Simplified (耻辱 chǐrǔ), Chinese Traditional (恥辱 chǐrǔ), Croatian (sram), Czech (ostuda), Danish (skam), Dutch (schande), English (shame), Filipino (kahihiyan), French (la honte), German (Schande), Hungarian (szégyen), Icelandic (Skömm), Javanese (kawirangan), Latvian (kauns), Lithuanian (gėda), Macedonian (срам), Norwegian (skam), Russian (стыд [styd]), Serbian (срамота sramota), Slovenian (sramota), Swedish (skam), Vietnamese (xấu hổ), Welsh (cywilydd), Yiddish (שאַנד).
- YUNG: Belarusian (ганьба), Estonian (häbi), Finnish (häpeä), Greek (ντροπή ntropí), Haitian Creole (wont), Indonesian (malu), Irish (náire), Malagasy (mahamenatra), Maltese (mistħija), Maori (whakama), Polish (wstyd), Romanian (rușine), and Slovak (hanba).
(I’ve selected 50 languages because it’s an even number and this amount of information is readily available on the Internet without doing a lot of difficult research.)
As you can see, 16% of the languages surveyed associate shame with an initial yang sound signature, 58% with a yin sound signature, and 26% with a yung sound signature. A yang signature suggests that a language perceives shame as an active force or masculine in gender; a yin signature indicates a view of shame as a passive quality or feminine in gender; a yung signature indicates an active and/or passive nature and neutral in gender.
When we look a little further, we see interesting subtleties emerge. Languages that associate shame with initial yang qualities almost invariably see the yang initial consonant followed by a yin vowel. (The exception is Basque, which sees the yang consonant intensified by a yang vowel and then retiring into a neutral or negative yung consonant followed by a yin vowel (forming a sound-homonym for “pain”.) In other words, shame is perceived as a masculine sound becoming weaker by proceeding in a feminine direction. For example, the Albanian word “turp” is similar to the Sanskrit for “tamas”, the guna representing inertia or dormancy.
And languages that see shame as beginning with initial yin energy tell a variety of stories – e.g., feminine energy becoming suddenly more powerful and emotional “sramota / sram” or feminine energy causing dissolution “xấu hổ” or darkness “Schande”. Many of these words cluster around the “sr…” or “shei…” sounds, which are neighbors in Lingua-U and may symbolize softness and shapelessness.
Finally, languages that depict shame as starting with yung energy see it as malevolent or negative (“mal…” or “mis…” or “nai…” sounds) energy or one that starts with wholeness which becomes abased or primitive (“hab…” or “hap..”).
So you see, as seems to always be the case with phonosemantic analysis, the superficial differences of sound symbolism disappear into some underlying common patterns when you investigate with enough subtlety. Language seems intent, in these 50 tongues at least, to tell similar stories about shame over and over again: the masculine becoming weakened and inert, the feminine becoming powerful and erratic, or the androgynous becoming bad or pained. In more subtle terms, they see yang energy as losing its creative potency, yin energy as growing misshapen or raw, or yung energy as getting stuck or maladapted.
How does your culture, with your mother tongue, view shame — according to the energy of the sound symbolism of related words? Do these stories resonate with relevant cultural attitudes about masculinity, femininity, and androgyny?
The word “shame” in English is the special focus of our discussion today. Along with about 58 of every 100 languages, it tells a “yin debased” story about this emotion. But there’s much more we can say about it, so let me make three observations.
First, let’s look at where Shame appears in context of the unfolding drama of human evolution. The word Shame in The Kalendar is known as The Majestic at the Seat of Basis at the Throne of Shining at the Letter of Shunting. It shares the Seat of Basis there with the words Shaping and Eser (To Be). At this Seat, the Letter of Self-Sensing has gone, having seen a reconciliation of its objective and subjective perceptions of individuality; now, for the first time in the Season of Yin, the collective objective perceptions come to the forefront. The individual is confronted with society’s judgments of their self-sense in its hardest and most objectifying aspects.
Truly, at this Seat, the individual has seemingly lost all that made it special and soulful, its dignified solitude. Instead, it is met with a sand storm in the form of objective social relationships. There is bound to be a painful disconnect. As so often happens with new beginnings at every Seat of Basis, there is a difficult step down before relationships can become righted.
Second, let’s look at the internal story of the word Shame itself. In Lingua-U, it is spelled ??, or ?? for short (this energy is associated with Golden Egg 16 in The Kalendar). In its fully spelled out version, Shame is depicted as the union of the Throne of Shining with the Throne of Diversity. What’s happening at this coordinate, I imagine, is that the brightness of spiritual Light, universally manifest in all beings, is struggling to penetrate to the individual self-sense owing to obstacles given by the collective objective sphere. The individual self-sense manifests diversity or difference – an aspect of its inner divinity – which is stymied or sullied by the society.
At the Archetype of The Polisher, one of the three minor Archetypes of The Evolutionary, this diversity is difficult to manifest at this station. Look at the short version of the word in Lingua-U: elementally (in the Nine Elements), it is spelled Earth over Earth over Wood. Like the deepest root of an ancient tree, buried under many meters of soil and rock, the Wood is suffocated under Solid (indeed, Solid appeared as the Majestic at the previous Seat of The Kalendar). What an inauspicious location! The Wood must get nourishment though it is hidden deep within… or The Polisher will get off to a poor start.
Third, let’s look at a successful outcome for the story of Shame as it may be interpolated into the leaves of The Kalendar. As I would tell the story, Shame does not have to be a word associated only with dysfunction and pathology and spiritual malady. It can also be an empowering word which connotes one surface of human possibility, like the trident of Shiva. If it depicts shapelessness, it is the material of clay which we can sculpt into an artwork of beauty. If it depicts essence-in-flux, then we can make that flux an act of Polishing/Shining rather than Shackles/Shambles.
The Letter of Shunting is off to a fresh start in The Kalendar, and when we arrive at the day of Shame, Golden Egg 16, we can dispel the notion that Shame is a boogeyman. Instead, let us see Shame as what it truly is and could be: It is the Transition that the Essence-Shape of Yin-Being must pass through naturally as it Shunts (Transitions/Shuns) debris from social projections onto us which obscure our divinity. The station immediately following Shame in The Kalendar, Golden Egg 17, is one of Chicanery (Shifting). Without Shame, we cannot experience the alchemical possibilities for positive change available us at the Throne of Shining.
Such is the story of Shame (The Transition of Yin-Being into the Aim of Shifting), the English word, as I would tell it today. Every language has its own baggage replete with karmic shadow and projections and unwarranted accretions that may need to be sluffed off. It’s time for looking at language with “beginner’s mind”, as the Buddhists say, and discovering in every boogeyman word a misunderstood and disowned potential friend.