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ep 45: Shame with Karen C.L. Anderson

i know what to do so why can't i do it

Are you grappling with shame, guilt, and complex mother-daughter relationships? In this eye-opening episode, Karen C.L. Anderson, a master-certified life coach and author, shares her profound insights on healing from difficult maternal bonds and breaking free from generational trauma. Discover powerful strategies for understanding and overcoming shame, and learn how to build more authentic connections with loved ones.

What you'll learn:

  • The critical distinction between guilt and shame

  • How to recognize, name, and neutralize shame in your life

  • The "6 N's" approach to processing emotions effectively

  • Understanding the role of shame in narcissistic behaviors

  • Techniques for vulnerable communication in relationships

  • Strategies for healing from complex mother-daughter dynamics

"Shame doesn't knock." - Stephen King (as quoted by Karen C. Anderson)

Throughout this episode, Karen offers practical advice and hard-won wisdom to help you transform your relationship with shame and heal from difficult family dynamics. By implementing the strategies discussed, you'll gain the tools and insights needed to build more authentic relationships and live a more fulfilling life.

Useful Links Mentioned:

Karen's website:

Karen's podcast: "Dear Adult Daughter"

Karen's upcoming program: "Shame School"

Learn more about private coaching with Mande:

No matter how deeply ingrained your shame or how complex your family relationships may be, this episode is a powerful reminder that healing and growth are possible. Start taking small steps today, and watch as they compound into significant results over time. Your journey to authenticity and emotional freedom awaits!

Share your biggest takeaways and "aha" moments from this episode with us in the comments or on our social media channels or sending a text message. We're here to support and celebrate your progress!

Remember: By embracing vulnerability, implementing practical strategies, and cultivating self-awareness, you can transform your relationship with shame and build deeper connections with others. Your past doesn't have to define your future. With the right tools and mindset, you have the power to break free from generational patterns and create the life and relationships you desire.

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Click here to read the transcript:

Okay. Welcome back, guys. Today we have Karen C l Anderson with us. And, Karen, will you introduce yourself?

Sure. I am happy to be here, Mande. Thank you. You know my name. I work with adult daughters who want to navigate and heal from complex relationships that they have with their mothers, where whether they are narcissistic or not, the mothers are narcissistic or not.

And as a result of that work that I have been doing for about ten years, I have a particular interest in shame.

Okay, Very good. And I love to talk about shame. You guys know this. I, I describe shame as that thing that like a sheet that if you air it out on the laundry and you let the sun touch it and you let the air blow through it, it's no longer a problem.

And that's that's an analogy I like to use with shame. But the reason I like to talk about shame so much is I felt like it was a big part of my childhood that that, you know, was what was used to kind of keep me on line in many ways, not just with parents, but also with teachers and other areas of my life.

And so especially those of us with ADHD, I love talking about shame. So when that was what Karen wanted to talk about, I was like, yes, absolutely. And she has her own kind of unique spin on that. So kind of touching on it from a different way. But also a lot of really interesting tools and ideas about it.

So one thing that I would like to talk about first is, Karen, can you explain to us the difference between guilt and shame?

Sure. And I will preface this by saying that, you know, I've leaned a lot on the work of Brené Brown in this, and so it's not like I made this up. To me, shame is a physiological, social, cultural experience that we have that as I as I said in when we were talking earlier, that I think was at one time something that humans needed evolutionarily to propagate the species and stay safe.

And same as Brené Brown just defines it, is something is wrong with me.

At my core, there's something inherently bad wrong and there's no coming back from it.

Guilt. On the other hand, the way I define guilt is when I act or someone acts out of alignment with their values. And as Brené Brown has said, guilt is I've done something wrong.


right. Versus I am wrong.

I love that distinction. I was telling Karen before we we started recording that there was this instance where I was complaining about somebody that I thought was being annoying, and then that person walked into the room, right? And I didn't know what they had heard or what they didn't hear. And I remember going away from that situation and getting coaching on the shame that I felt around it.

But as you describe this, I'm like, Well, it wasn't necessarily shame, it was actually guilt that I felt because it was out of line with my values to be talking about somebody else in a negative way. And what did it mean that I couldn't come back from that? No, absolutely. I just made a mistake. Yeah. And so that distinction between guilt and shame, I think is is very good.

I, I remember getting coaching about how I felt ashamed about it. And now I realize that was the wrong word.

Yeah. And you could have felt both

right. I mean, I've had experiences where I felt shame because of something that I did, but then thought I did it because there's something wrong with me. Like, because, like, you know, I mean, I wrote a book that came out last year and there are the whole sort of first section of that book is stories from my childhood, not just my childhood, but up through pretty much recently of times when I noticed shame and the stories from my childhood.

I was able to sort of weave through and identify what I call my shame based stories about myself. And I have three shame based stories that still live within me. One of them is simply that I'm bad.

One of them is I'm a selfish, spoiled brat, and the other one is I'm a pathetic loser.

And like, even just saying them, it's like, you know,

it's leg.

It's heavy, right?

It is. But that's like, you know, and as you said so beautifully about, like, putting the laundry out, right? It's like I have to be able to see them in the sunlight and and, you know, see, those are the stories that that doesn't necessarily mean it's true, but that's that is what has lived within me for my whole life.

And now I can see them.

Yeah. And I really feel like shame gets almost fed when we try to hide it from other people, when we don't express it. Like, even if you're just expressing it to. You mentioned having a wonderful husband. I do too. And interestingly enough, Karen and I have been married just about the same amount of years and two wonderful people.

But even if it's just that closest person that you're you're sharing those things with, and I think it deepens the relationship so much more when you can share everything. And if you're not letting shame hold you back, you really can be so much more vulnerable.

Yeah, 100%. It's and it's sort of stunning to me that the older I get, I mean, when I was younger, you know, you see older people and you kind of think, they're just old and stuck and like, you know, they're just the way they are.

Right. And I've just I've been blown away by the amount of growth and like excitement and life and change that can still happen in my sixties. So, yeah,

absolutely. I don't think that ever ends it only if you let it. Right? Right. Yeah. So

Karen, you had a couple stories that you mentioned before the call that I would love to hear. Now, I really first want to hear the rice cooker story.

Okay, So given that I mentioned my shame based stories, there's more than that. But those are sort of the three main stories. So a few years ago I bought a rice cooker and it's a simple little gadget and, you know, I would put the rice in and put the water in and close it up and turn it on and, you know, it would cook and then it like clicks from cooked to warm when it's done, supposedly.

And that would happen and I'd open it up and it would be all sort of dried out and like not really burning, but like sticking and overcooked. Right. And or, you know, I was just like, okay, well, it's not it's not really working very well. And so I the next time I made rice, I put more water in it because I didn't want it to stick and burn.

And it clicked off and I opened it up and it was still full of water. And I'm like, man, like, what's going on? Right? So I closed it back up, turned it back on, and, you know, let it go somewhere. And I was getting dinner ready and I said to my husband, the rice might be a little overcooked.

And I told him all about what was happening with the rice cooker.

And he said, you know, after I told him that there was still water in it, he said, well, you could have just drained the water. Right. And it wouldn't be overcooked. And that triggered in me. I'm stupid. Now. He I know he doesn't think I'm stupid.

He is not the kind of person who makes me ever feel stupid. But that's what and it's like, as you probably know, it was like in an instant. One of my favorite quotes from Stephen King is that shame doesn't knock.

that is so good.

It was in a minor and I read it. I was like, Yes, but like, it doesn't knock.

It's like, boom, there it is. Right?


I started like literally I felt like I was going to, like, wanted to bite his head off, like leap at him and like, how, you know, and I caught myself right in the middle of it. Like, I don't even know what word started to come out of my mouth, but, like, they stopped and I was like, this is shame.

This is shame of the I'm stupid variety, right? And I said to him, I'm like, I know you don't think I'm stupid, but that's what that's the filter that your words came through.

Yes. And to be able to share that so vulnerably, like to be able to say like, this is what I'm thinking. And I mean, essentially and I was mad for a second, but I know that's not what you mean.

He knows exactly where he stands and he knows that you went quick to that. You know, shame didn't knock. You went quick to that. And the anger bubbled up, but you didn't act it out. And he's in a safe place. And so I love that so much. There was a thought that I had there as well that I lost it.

So we'll just move on. Maybe it'll come back. But another story there was with your stepdaughter, there was like this this reaction that you had that I think was so beautiful. Can you tell us about that?

So, yes, I'm married to my husband. He has three kids from a previous marriage. They are now almost all in their forties, which blows my mind.

But I've known them since they were like nine, 13 and 16 or something like that. Yeah. So yeah, I've known them a long time, but was like, you know, I've been working through and really as I said, I've been a student of shame for a long time and given the work that I do and watching my own mother and her mother who's actually no longer here, but seeing the way that same sort of came through to me, and how as a step mother, I have seen that pivotal times in my life where I sometimes did go down the shaming route to them.

Right. But I didn't want to be that, you know, that talk about a cycle to break right. And anyway, so my stepdaughter at the time, this was, I don't know, maybe five years ago and she wasn't living near us. And she called because of something that I had done that had upset her. And she was quite brave. I'll share that.

I had written an article that actually appeared in a magazine, and it was about her, my relationship to her mother, who had died, and she was upset that I hadn't shared with her that that was happening. And some of the things that were written in the article. Right. And so immediately I'm bad, I'm selfish. Write all of that sort of

can you mean this is what you were feeling yourself?

That's not what she was feeling. You

correct. And I could I mean, I it I can feel the emotion just telling the story because she was being so brave in calling me out or calling me in or however you want to put it. And it was such a pivotal moment where I could have let my shame turn into anger or, you know, running away from it or, you know, I mean, shutting down is kind of how I was kind of feeling in that moment.

Like I was just about to shut down and disassociate, but I stayed with it. And it was funny because watching my husband trying to be like, well, she didn't mean it. I'm like, No, honey, I'm like, you know, don't try to soften this because it's important to my stepdaughter. It's important to her. And I apologize. And I said, You're right.

I didn't handle it very well and I'm sorry. And she asked me, she's like, In the future, if you ever write about, you know, me or my mother again, would you at least just tell me ahead of time? Yeah, I said absolutely. And so, yeah, it was it was such it's so hard in that moment of being so vulnerable, right?

Of being like, yeah, I did something that somebody that I love and I hurt them. And to be able to make that repair because that was not at all ever modeled for me.

Yeah. Are you familiar with Byron Katie's work at all? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I love her kind of shift that she made with her children, where she went from being, like, really punishing and angry and defensive to when she kind of moved over to this new way of life.

She accepted everything that they gave her. Basically, you weren't a good mom because of this or you did this to me or and she just accepted it all. And I really like to, like, bring that in when I think of my children, because I can see, you know, they're not really expressing things. Now when, you know, 14, 16 and 22.

But I could see how that would be in the future where they're going to feel that some of their issues or things like that were because of me and like kind of with Byron Katie's work, I can look at that and go, I can see how that would be true for you. Yeah. And that that's all we need to do, like to see how that would be true for someone else.

And, and they wouldn't be feeling it if they didn't think it was true. So I very much love that.

And one of the things that this this expression really stands out for me, and I don't remember where I first heard it, but, you know, talking about narcissism in mothers and probably everybody. But, you know, in my experience, in my work, I love that.

And Brené Brown actually also speaks to this, that narcissism when seen through the lens of vulnerability. Right. It's a shield. It's how someone protects themselves from something that is so painful that they can't even go there.


right. So the narcissistic shield goes up and. Right. And that and that and, you know, when we were talking before about how shining a light on our shame can help us have more vulnerable, more authentic relationships, Right?

Is because we're not putting up that shield. And it's scary. I mean, I, I have had those moments where it feels like, you know, I'm going to be shunned and I'm going to be I'm going to end up like living in a van down by the river where I'm going to die alone. Right. Because that's how scary it can feel.


To to confront shame.


But then on the other side of it, it's so like,

it's so interesting. You're bringing up narcissism because today I noticed if you're if you're on social media or anything like that, very much everyone is talking about it and they're labeling everyone as a narcissist. But when you I have one in my life that I see and I do very much see what you're describing, where it is protection.

Yeah, they are putting up a shield. And yes, it comes out in a lot of horrible ways, a lot of like controlling situations. But why are they controlling those situations? Because they're scared and that's not to make an excuse for them at all. But I've also seen narcissists that are trying to come out of this. They're trying to make it better.

They are acknowledging I will always be a narcissist, but here's what I'm doing about it. I've seen several men, for example, talk about this. And what they are doing is they're sharing their experience. Right. And they're like you said, they're not out there. They're being vulnerable. And they're saying, this is how I felt and this is the way I reacted or the way I wanted to react.

Or maybe here's what I did instead, even though I wanted to react this way. But there they're talking about it.

So it's just I mean, also narcissism, right? It's like, let's hang it out on the next to the shame and the laundry line.

Yeah, very much. Very much.

All right. One thing that we talked about, Karen, I have heard of the friends I have talked to friends and. But you have six ends and you've just kind of dug a little bit deeper with the four ends, but I love your perspective. Could you share those with us?

Yeah. And these are for any, anything that we're sort of grappling with emotions, thoughts, you know, whatever.

And it's funny because I didn't I think, well, maybe I did know that there were ends and that and I'm trying to remember where I even first heard them, but so I don't know which ends or the the ends and which ends are mine.

But here's here are mine. The first one is to notice. So and then let's, let's go through them first.

Notice name Normally eyes neutralize need and next.

Okay And just to share with you the four and start with your first fourth and you've gone deeper. I love it. Okay. So explain how we go through this process. So as we were saying before, when it comes to shame and, you know, there are I think people are talking about it more and, you know, you might be in a conversation with a friend or something or wherever, and you experience shame and somebody says to you, you shouldn't feel ashamed.

You're amazing, or that doesn't make any sense that you would have feel that you're a pathetic loser. Come on, Carin, think. Think differently.

Which sounds really lovely. And really supportive. But in a previous one of the near episodes to this one, I talked about how that's actually really invalidating, even though the person loves you and they just want you to feel better.

Yeah, it's actually really invalidating. So where would you go next with that if somebody was like, No, why would you think that?

Well, so I guess I'm I'm not actually

entering this in. I'm not. But wait a minute. Now it's my turn to take a break. Let me go through the six ends and then I will. Yeah.

So notice, right?

We notice maybe if you're aware, right? gosh. I'm realizing that I'm thinking I'm bad or I'm noticing that I'm thinking I'm stupid. Or maybe it's not a thought that you notice, but you notice a sensation that, you know, to be shame or a posture or an energy. Even so you notice, right? And it takes practice to get to be able to notice.

And it takes willingness to notice, right? So we notice whatever it is that we notice that says, ah, this is shame, We name it.

Yeah. So just a step in right there for those of you that like, aren't really like into thought work very much. What she's talking about there is like you just might feel bad and you just might not know why you feel bad.

But once you start getting into this work more and start noticing more and more exactly what you're feeling and you'll be able to name it a little bit better. I know when I first got into being coached were like, And how does that make you feel? I'm like, bad, good. Like I didn't have much of a vocabulary, but go ahead and what's the next one?

So then we name it. this is shame, right? This is, you know, it's the shame of the I'm stupid variety or this is shame of the I'm a pathetic loser variety. Right. So we name it sometimes. Maybe it's not that we're naming shame specifically, but we're naming like we were talking before about a symptom of ADHD. Procrastination, right?

this is my procrastination shame cycle.

Or, you know,

whatever, how you know, however it works for you. So we name it and then we normal is it. And I don't again like I don't know what the other normalize out there the official one is but for me it is that validation piece and it is saying, yes, of course I'm procrastinating.

And I'm saying feel stupid. Yeah, it makes complete sense. I don't know if this is going to be on video or not, but I'm putting my

heart right.

Yeah, I would add anyone thinking what I'm thinking would feel this way anyway, you know that

kind of. Yeah. Yeah. And so it makes sense, of course, how human of me right to have this is like I have a human body with a human nervous system and human thoughts.

And so it makes sense. And when it comes to shame, I think another piece that helps normalize it is the acknowledgment that, yes, we were born with the physiological capacity to experience shame, but that culturally, socially, we have been taught and to to feel it, to experience it. We've been taught very specifically to experience shame as a way to keep us in line.

Basically kind of what I described in the beginning. Right. Being kept in line as a child with shame. Yeah. So that normalization piece is, you know, some people might say, you're just blaming patriarchy or something, right? Well, well, let's put it where it belongs because it's not a me problem, right? The fact that I have or the fact that anybody who's listening to this experiences shame isn't proof that you deserve to feel it.


right. It's just that's how our bodies work. And so that then goes right into the neutralization or neutralize that end, right. Which is okay, what are the sensations? What does my body want to do? What? You know, another question I love for our way into that is what is the threat my body perceives here, right? Because shame can feel like a threat, feels like a


to our well-being or everything.

You know. So that kind of narrative or that kind of questioning helps us neutralize the experience of it doesn't always make it beautiful and lovely and but it's like, okay, yeah, these are the sensations of shame and that's all it is. This sensations that I don't like having.

Yeah. And it's uncomfortable. Like you were saying, it's not, it doesn't make it all roses, right.

But love and light or anything. But exactly, exactly. But you can deal with that discomfort so much better if you realize it's just sensations in your body.

Yeah. And you know the language that I'm using, obviously you can change it. You know, it's not like the way that I say it for me doesn't necessarily mean it works for everybody, but I mean, I think it's a good jumping off place to explore that.

So then then, you know, now that I've named it and noticed it and done all the things I want to ask myself, what do I need next now that you know, maybe and maybe there's nothing, maybe it's just a matter of like, okay, well, I got to this place. And, and now that the act evasion of the shame, the triggering feelings of the shame are have been calmed a bit.

I can now, you know, think more clearly about what it is I need to do or want to do next. And that's next is the last. Right? So now do am I going to take action for my, you know, towards my needs? And that it's funny, I hadn't actually thought a bit of it before until just now that it does sort of follow in line with the model.

The thought work model that you and I both.

You're taking action. Yeah. Yeah,


Yeah. So in my story that I told earlier with like that person walking in, I had to make the decision whether to take action to apologize with somebody that I don't really have that much of a relationship with. And so I might be stirring a pot that doesn't need to be stirred.

And so I actually chose not to take any action at all because I don't know that he actually heard anything I said. So why upset him? And so that was the decision I made. That was the action that I took. So what's what's after that action?

That's it.

That's it. Okay. Did we get to already?

Well, you know, I mean, what's next though, right?

Is all of the ends don't aren't necessary. I don't think. You know, I find the normalize neutralize to be sort of the most powerful for myself. And to be honest, it's funny because those ends aren't in my book.

there's and what's kind of funny is that it wasn't funny at the time. Is that actually around the time that that book came out, it was literally almost a year ago, it was June 16th or June 13th, a year ago, is that I kind of had a massive shame storm after the book came out.

And it wasn't just because of the book. There was a number of number of things going on in my life, and it was one of the hardest years of my life. And when we were talking before about So I was going through the ends, but not knowing that that's what I was doing right. And that was very much not a love and like process.

It was it was quite awful, to be honest. Yeah, but I am really glad that I had that had the wherewithal to stay with myself. Right. I mean, I guess, you know, I've done enough work to. To know, right? That, I mean, like, there were times where I felt like, you know, I'm done. I'm just going to just like I'm done.

Don't ever, you know. But. But, yeah, it was it was a tough time.


So that's one of the messages, you know, is I think I know I spent a lot of time thinking that I had to be able to get rid of it completely. The shame. And now it's right. It's disarming it somewhat. It's changing my relationship to it.

I think that's I mean, until. Until such time that we are born without it, right? We don't have that physiological capacity. Right. We can only work with it instead of, you know, shaming ourselves for having it in the first place.

Yeah. And it's something that we had talked about previously that I run into with clients is when I basically offer that shame may not be useful.

They get very concerned that if shame is not a part of their life, they won't do what's right. And this usually comes from like kind of a religious standpoint. But I guess that goes back to the conversation of shame and guilt. Right There is there is a difference.

And you know, the question that came to me as you were saying that I would want to ask the person, you know, do you want to build trust in yourself so that you don't need to have that shame anymore?

I think it is.

Is there a possibility is it possible that maybe you don't need it

in order

to be the person that you want to be?

That's very interesting.


Yeah. And they just I'm sure they're just looking through a lens where they may not see a world of possibility there, but they could, you know, they could if they started asking that question.

All right. So this conversation with Karen has been so important. I think shame is something that we all deal with and that we're all learning to have a new relationship with. And I see your little fur baby right there. How cute. And so I just think this was a very important conversation today.

And I want to thank you, Karen, for having this with us. And where can people find you? Where would you like to lead them to to work? Let's see your work.

So first of all, thank you for having me. I love talking about shame. My website is, and I've written several books about the mother daughter thing and you can find my books on Amazon.

I have a mailing list. I have a podcast called Dear Adult Daughter, and I'm I'm going to be doing a three month group group thing and I'm calling it still in development, right? Well, yeah, I mean, but it's called Shame School. I don't know whether to call it a coaching program. I guess it is a coaching. It's, you know, it's it's hanging out with me for three months, learning about shame and how we can, you know, disarm it and have different relationship to it.


very good. You'll be able

to find me anywhere kcl Anderson That's like that's my my handle.

And whether you're on the podcast or on YouTube, we will have that in the description or in the show notes for you will have all that information. But thank you again, Karen.

Thanks all




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