Navigating the Pendulum of Shame, Blame, and Anger


At work and in life, we long to be heard, respected, considered, and seen.

It’s the dignity all women and men deserve.

I speak with so many female leaders that stay quiet. Through cultural conditioning, inherited family systems, and false beliefs they’ve taken on. We stay quiet.

What I hear…

  • “I’ll hurt someone.”
  • “I don’t know enough.”
  • “I’m not ____ enough.”
  • “I have nothing unique or of value to add.”
  • “They should ask me.”

In the quiet, they fall down a rabbit hole of shame.

Then there is the other side of the pendulum. One less acceptable for women and men- anger and rage. Where rage turns to blame.

If shame is anger and doubt turn inward at ourselves. Blame turns our rage at others.

  • “It’s your fault.”
  • “You should do better.”
  • “You should have listened.”
  • “You didn’t listen.”
  • “You don’t care.”

Rage burns hot and it feels good because it drives us out of the apathy of shame and into action.

Let’s talk about both sides- Shame and Blame.

In shame, something happens and we are triggered. Overwhelmed with stress hormones, our nervous system shuts down. We become the deer frozen in the headlights. Our breath shortens and our focus narrows.

In blame and rage, our nervous system is also flooded with stress hormones and sensing for our lives we fight, we defend. This is the yelling manager or the driver honking on their horn after being but off in traffic. Adrenaline rushes and they lose control.

In either place when overwhelmed, this first step is to calm down and come back to your body.

  • Attend to your breath- Where is it? What is the quality of it? Do your best to slow down your breath. Equalize your inhale and exhale for a count of 4.
  • Attend to your vision- Soften your gaze and take in more of the room to see the space you are in. Look at the different colors and different textures.
  • Attend to your body- Feel your feet on the ground, wiggle your toes. Touch your skin.

Once overwhelm passes then we can make sense of what's going on.

In the middle of shame and blame, is a feeling about a need not met or a value infringed upon. Instead of feeling the pain, we push it down into shame or we push it away into blame.

What's needed is to validate and acknowledge the feeling until the overwhelm subsides. To step out of the story, removing the labels and fault to acknowledge we are each human beings in pain. To find space for peace, dignity, and compassion.

Our role as a leader is to facilitate this process for ourselves and to do the same for others in our lives. To take extra time to listen, to validate and acknowledge without trying to fix. Then we bring dignity and grace to the anger behind shame and blame.


About the Author

Kim-Elisha Proctor is an Executive Coach, teacher, and writer. For over 15 years, she has worked with companies at all stages of growth and understands the complexity of organizations and leadership that is needed for success. Whether one-on-one coaching, with groups or delivering leadership development programs, her passion is the same: to support leaders to enhance their performance, impact, purpose & well-being to create communities they long to belong to.

Kim-ElishaCreate & Navigate Change, Emotional Health, Well-being