I’ve heard it said that us PDAers don’t feel shame, that we are unmoved by the shameful behaviours we display, behaviours that would cause others to stop and think before they act.
This isn’t especially true. Maybe it’s accurate for some, but for the majority of us, we definitely do feel shame, in fact, we may feel more shame than non-PDA people.
So where does this discrepancy between what PDAers feel and how they act come from?
For me, the way I act does being about a feeling of shame, but that feeling is often masked by whatever is causing me to act that way. When I’m in the mist of a meltdown I can say nasty things that I would usually be embarrassed to say, I throw things and hit things and make noises which are embarrassing to me and are not how I wish to be acting, nor how I want others to see me acting. In that moment the shame is like a drop of water in an ocean of hurt. I will display my most shameful behaviour when I’m most swamped by other emotions, so much so that even though I can feel shame, I can’t use it to change my behaviour.
Another reason I don’t seem to respond to shame is that I’ve learnt to ignore feeling that way. I know the way I experience emotion isn’t the same as everyone else’s, they don’t like the way I respond to emotions and so, in order to fit in, I push any feelings of shame away and act like everything is fine. This has allowed me to do things which I normally wouldn’t do for fear of shame.
As for feeling shame, I believe I feel it far more strongly than non-PDA people (probably the same as Autistic people). I feel deep shame or embarrassment whenever I see another person doing something shameful or embarrassing, especially things that people do on TV. I’ve sat watching actors doing some truly embarrassing things and yet I seemed to be the only one squirming. I feel embarrassed for people, so much so that sometimes I can’t watch what they are doing, and yet it doesn’t seem to stop them. Often I’m made fun of for not wanting to be part of something shameful.
So, just because a PDAer is doing something embarrassing doesn’t mean they aren’t embarrassed, they might be unable to stop themselves or they are masking their feelings. We do feel shame, we just don’t often have the ability to express it in a way others find acceptable.