Have You No Shame?

Recently blogger friends Cats & Co. and Here There Be Spiders posted about why they love cats.  Check out what they say, and be moved.  House of Carnivores says she trusts her animals.  “They have my back.  And they are the caretakers of my heart.”

Those words have inspired this post.

Researcher / story-teller Brené Brown has also greatly energized me lately.  Enjoy her highly entertaining and ironic self here and here.

Brené has helped me see this:

I love cats because they have no shame.

Just look at a representative sampling of life around here, one busy day last week.

Where is the shame?  In lying draped around the premises all day, like an off-shoulder feather boa in a Masterpiece Theater costume drama?

Working just that minuscule bit to keep things tidy on the person?  Otherwise shedding all over and creating other even-less-palatable busywork for the human Bean permitted to share the premises?

Where is the sense of responsibility?  Do you not have to work for love?  Become worthy of it?  Certainly not be born into it, deserving of it because one simply is?  No?

No.  I’m not seeing this in my cats.  You may see shame in a dog, poor darling tail between legs.  A cat?  I don’t think so.

Maybe our own species, present company excepted, does its mighty best to instill in cats a sense of shame, treating them unfeelingly because the autonomy of cats is resented, maybe it’d be thought good to inflict one’s frustration on these born-beautiful beings –

– but I don’t recall seeing a cat willing to take delivery on the special kind of torment that is shame.  Cats may respond to criticism with resentment back atcha, or aggression, or they become just plain people-averse – a strategy with which I myself, frankly, sympathize in large part.  But have you seen a cat beaten-down and humiliated and miserable and crawling and submissive?  Not so much.  Cats are proud beings.  They fight, or they do become distressed rightly so more’s the pity, or they become terrified of this all-too-human mess and they simply slither away.

I admire that in them.  I myself have stood still for, and suffered from, the poisonous lash that is shame, the boiling battery-acid toxicity of it all – but up until recently, I do believe I thought, mistakenly, that the way out of that nightmare was to craft myself into a being that would do just about anything to deny it.

The trouble with that is, you pretty much have to beat down all feeling, all sign of sensible life except rage or despair maybe.  And people who are really successful at beating down sensible feeling are, apparently, psychopaths.  They have lost their humanity.  They have been shocked and shamed right out of their minds and hearts, and so they become capable of anything.

So this, after all, may be the key to what ails those people as extreme examples, and our society as a whole and in general.  We lack insight into shame’s corrosiveness.  We do not know how to practice, with ourselves and each other, shame’s antidote, which is empathy, which is the healing anti-venom of understanding.  Empathy designed to restore, within the shamed, a sense of healthy and realistic self-worth.

And I’m not talking about the mean, greedy, self-fascinated narcissism that is the order of the day on the other side of this coin.  I mean a healthy and realistic self-worth, one that’s grounded in an understanding of solidarity, connection, and a sense of one’s own, and of contributing to each others’, well-being.

Just look around.  How much of that do you see out there in the public “discourse”?  What I see out there is overwhelming disapproval and blame and judgment and criticism –

finger

– and more of us in lockdown to deny shame, or locked-in to inflicting shame and cruelty and punishment on other beings of any given species.  Or running like hell while praying like mad.  Good luck with that last one.  Don’t look back.  They’re gaining.

Bah.

Here’s what I love:

crop images

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About nadbugs

Anita loves cats. This must be because she, too, has had nine lives. She’s been dancing since she could walk, she was a commercial artist and advertising producer, she earned a third-degree black belt in Aikido, she is a drummer with the Afrique Aya Dance Company, she is an attorney, and she’s a meditator and a devoted student of Nonviolent Communication. She also spent one lifetime sidelined with a devastating back injury in 1992. Since then – FELDENKRAIS METHOD® to the rescue. The FELDENKRAIS METHOD is all about dreaming concretely – thinking intelligently and independently by way of a gracious and kind physicality. The work affords all who study it a process by which to reach, with movement, into the mind and the heart, to make nine lives into one whole being.
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26 Responses to Have You No Shame?

  1. Pingback: Have You No Shame? | catself | Pet Lover News

  2. I have never thought about it, but I do believe you are right. Cats simply do not have the shame emotion!
    And I have to say, that is one thing I like about the cat blogosphere, for the most part, it’s all encouragement, very little finger pointing blaming picking on posts or comments. You don’t see that in very many forums.

    • nadbugs says:

      So true, Andrea. Case in point I saw this morning was the stream of invective following the announcement that Cesar Millan’s show has been cancelled. Yowzers. We are lucky here. May our luck hold!

  3. As I read this, my Bengal performed some necessary and intimate ablutions about a foot away from my face. Yep, no shame! Then he head-butted me in the boob, so I don’t have any shame either.
    However – it is something I’ve struggled with myself. These days I’m more in the ‘don’t give a hoot’ camp and it makes life easier. It’s a hard balance to try and do no harm, make mistakes, and not beat yourself up about it for the rest of your life…

  4. Nice post! I read both Cats & Co. and Here There Be Spiders, and should I say that every cat lover loves their cat in so many different ways and so many different reasons. Its nice to read all of them. I love cats because of all the reasons given above and, basically my cat loves me and never fails to make me smile and even laugh in many many occasions.
    Cats have No shame and if they have they mask it really good. This is what our cat can teach us if we pay attention to them and try to inculcate their characteristics. They love you and they still are little selfish,They care for you but they care for themselves first, there is something to learn here. They take care of themselves and us. I particularly enjoyed this post, because so truly it is explained that a cat can never be humiliated and they are proud beings and do not require validation from anybody. This also doesn’t make them incapable of love, many who resent cats believe it so, that’s complete hogwash, is what I believe. :)

    • nadbugs says:

      Thank you so much for this full and thoughtful comment! Welcome to the blog! It is so extraordinary, isn’t it, that people assume cats are incapable of love. I can relate to that kind of mistake. I, too, have found it difficult to sort out my own disappointment from “reality” out there. And I really like this point you make: “They care for you but they care for themselves first, there is something to learn here.” Amen to that!

    • Thanks for reading, too! It’s easy for us all to get philosophical about cats, isn’t it? Another reason to love them. :)

  5. Dianda says:

    You’re absolutely right! Cats have no shame!
    Sometimes I wish I had no shame. That would make a lot of things easier!

    • nadbugs says:

      Wouldn’t it just. I’m on a campaign, on my own behalf, to recognize shame in myself and others, to allow for it being there hidden somewhere, and to persuade it to come out and show its face — amen to wanting an easier time with this.

  6. Ivy says:

    Nope! They have no shame at all. I learn from them on a daily basis. Great post!

    • nadbugs says:

      Thank you so much, Ivy. I get so enthused about what I write that I really doubt anybody else could possibly enjoy it as much as I do. (Is that wrong? I think so!) Your encouragement is wonderful!

      • Ivy says:

        Agreed: It is wrong! It is possible that your enthusiasm just contagiates like-minded people to enjoy it as much as you do. I know I fully enjoy whatever you decided to post. Maybe even more than you do at times? Who knows… That’s the whole thing with the internet: we can meet people who enjoy the same ideas and even the same pets!

  7. No shame is right! That’s one word which is certainly not in any cat’s vocabulary or mindset, MOL. Love the photos.

  8. CATachresis says:

    Darn it! You’re making me think here lol. Just looked up the definition of shame “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior …. humiliation, mortification, chagrin, ignominy, embarrassment, indignity….” opposite is pride!

    I truly (now you’ve made me think!) feel there is a spectrum of shame, ranging from a slight feeling of guilt at a minor misdemeanour (subjective) to utter and total humiliation where your humanity is destroyed (objective).

    It’s much too late here for philosophising, but I see a thesis in this lol

    Whatever it is, cats don’t have it :) Terrific post x

  9. nadbugs says:

    I love your contribution! Thank you!

  10. Wazeau says:

    Thank you again for the wonderful post. While I agree that cats don’t have shame brought on by “consciousness of wrong” as CATachresis says, I think that cats can feel humiliated or embarrassed – not from someone else making them feel that way, but from their own actions. Just watch a cat’s face and behavior after they attempt to jump up on the windowsill and miss.

  11. nadbugs says:

    You make a very interesting point, Wazeau. I’m thinking about the difference from feeling embarrassed in one’s self as a result of a missed goal of one’s own, as you point out, and the erasure of identity I got so indignant about in the post. It’s a moment of awkwardness for the cats, no question about it — but don’t you agree, they get past it without too much difficulty? The shaming I had in mind seems immovable, in contrast, without some serious succor from the outside. Maybe the difference has something to do with our human need, as social beings, for connection with each other? When that’s been so grievously wounded by the infliction, from the outside, of a sense of unworthiness and “unentilement,” if that’s a word — then trust and confidence seem entirely out of reach, and all the ingenious defensive mechanisms our big brains are capable of rush in to fill the breach. With such maladaptive consequences.

  12. MelanieJ says:

    Thank you for making my comment seem more profound than I thought it was. :) I was thinking, “Did I say THAT? That’s deep!”

    And how in the world did I miss getting mentioned on your blog?

    It’s the kittens, I tell you. In addition to keeping me busy, they’re just so adorable that they turn my brain to mush.

  13. nadbugs says:

    You are totally entitled, Melanie. You can use those kittens for any excuse. For anything.

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