Unlearning Shame

How We Can Reject Self-Blame Culture and Reclaim Our Power

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Pub Date Feb 06 2024 | Archive Date May 31 2024

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Learn to identify—and combat—Systemic Shame, the feeling of self-hatred and disempowerment that comes from living in a society that blames individuals for systemic problems, with this invaluable resource from the social psychologist and author of Unmasking Autism.

“Stop doomscrolling and read this book. You’ll feel better, I promise.”—Celeste Headlee, journalist and bestselling author

Systemic Shame is the socially engineered self-loathing that says we are solely to blame for our circumstances. It tells us that poverty is remedied by hard-working people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, that marginalized people are personally responsible for solving the problem of their own oppression, and that massive global crises like climate change can be solved with individual action. Feeling overwhelmed? That’s your problem, too. The more we try and ultimately fail to live up to impossible societal standards of moral goodness, the more shame we feel—and the more we retreat into isolation and despair.

Social psychologist Dr. Devon Price knows firsthand the destructive effects of Systemic Shame; he experienced shame and self-hatred as he grappled with his transgender identity, feeling as if his suffering was caused by his own actions rather than systems like cissexism. And it doesn’t just end with internal feelings of anguish. It causes us to judge other people the same way we fear being judged, which blocks us from seeking out the acceptance and support we need and discourages us from trying to improve our communities and our relationships.

In Unlearning Shame, Dr. Price explores how we can deal with those hard emotions more effectively, tackling the societal shame we’ve absorbed and directed at ourselves. He introduces the antidote to Systemic Shame: expansive recognition, an awareness of one’s position in the larger social world and the knowledge that our battles are only won when they are shared. He provides a suite of exercises and resources designed to combat Systemic Shame on a personal, interpersonal, and global level through rebuilding trust in yourself, in others, and in our shared future.

By offering a roadmap to healing and a toolkit of actionable items, Unlearning Shame helps us reject hopelessness and achieve sustainable change and personal growth.
Learn to identify—and combat—Systemic Shame, the feeling of self-hatred and disempowerment that comes from living in a society that blames individuals for systemic problems, with this invaluable...

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Featured Reviews

Sometimes you read a book and it helps you better understand the world around you and sometimes you read a book and it helps you better understand the world inside of you and this book does both in ways that are validating but also very confronting and that is very good.

Some parts of this book are difficult to read because they force you to reflect on your own shame and how it affects your life and so I had to take breaks to really think about it. I am glad though, this is important work and being conscious of how you are a victim of shame, your own and others', is necessary to dismantle the negative ideas that have seeped into your mind.

This is an in-depth analysis (the word feels too stiff for this book and yet, look didn't feel serious enough) at how systemic shame affects all of us, in our relationships to others and to the world and to ourselves, in which Dr. Devon Price explains brilliantly and (one of Price's strengths) in such easily comprehensible and relatable ways elements of history, psychology, sociology, etc. Then, in the second half of the book, he offers concrete examples and paths to unlearning this shame and what life without letting it govern our values, worldviews and decisions, can look like.

This book is not about judging yourself for having done things wrong, or how to become a better person. It's not even about becoming "happier" or "your more authentic self". It's about reframing things so that shame isn't the main hidden motivator or controller of morality. As simple and as complicated as that is.

I am leaving this reading experience with a list of newly formulated understandings and thoughts about my own life that I will undoubtedly forget to implement at first - which is why I took so many notes and cannot wait to get a physical copy I can transfer all my annotations and highlighting to - thanks to the many actually applicable and useful series of questions and "exercises"(? I hesitate to call them such as this book does not fall into the usual platitudes of self-help books).

Thank you Rodale Inc., Harmony and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ARC. Thank you to Dr. Devon Price for writing this book.

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This was an excellent read. As a trans person I particularly appreciated its vulnerability, and approach to otherwise delicate issues. Price took up the shame that trans people feel (while also talking about them being gay), in a way that held systemic shame to account for the ways that we've learned to internalize a great deal of self-hatred. While reading I found myself highlighting passages to return to, feeling like this could easily become the "Velvet Rage" equivalent for a generation of trans folks. I also appreciate the way the author talked openly about their time of de-transition, to de-stigmatize this but also to demonstrate that despite many transphobic folks arguing that it's more common than it statistically is, even when it's undertaken it often comes at a personal cost to emotional wellbeing and takes place because of the privileges that being cisgender confers.

I also greatly appreciated that Price didn't just explore the shame that we're taught through a lifetime to inherit from a cis (or other norm) society, but it's opposites and alternatives. By calling these inheritances systemic shame, the author frees up so much space for trans people. Rather than trying to untangle the causes of shame or get lost in the intellectual exercise of naming so that others might understand us, we can focus instead on doing the work of healing and integration. Equity seeking groups are often called to bring their "whole selves" to spaces but seldom are our whole experiences welcome, where they call spaces and organizations to task to do more than a basic training for people to know what to call us. I highly recommend this book not just for trans people, but for any number of folks who manage organizations where the number of cisgender people outnumber trans folks (as is often the case).

With practical exercises, insightful storytelling, and truly vulnerable writing, I highly recommend reading this book. I'm looking forward to returning to it and absolutely plan on recommending this book for purchase for the public library where I work. Can't speak highly enough of this book, and I'm grateful as a trans person where this book met me at the perfect time on my journey. Thank you for this gift!

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