Asian shame

Asian shame

As a therapists, here are the must-knows about Asian-American shame. Learn where shames come from, and how to address Asian American shame.

5 Facts about Asian-American Shame, by Martin Walls

As a therapist specializing in shame and addictions within the Asian-American culture, here are 5 areas of shame that I see plaguing the Asian-American community.

1- Conditional Love: Many Asian-Americans, including Christians, develop a distorted image of self and God due to the cultural emphasis on higher education, career, relationships, etc. Their ability to love themselves unconditionally is compromised. They suffer from low self-esteem and struggle with the “good enough” complex (i.e. “Am I good enough?”)

2-Shame of Dishonoring the Family: Simply sharing the realities of one’s upbringing can feel dishonoring and shaming to the family. So, many Asian-American clients early in therapy will simply state, “My parents did the best they could,” without honestly confronting the grief of neglect. This is a significant hindrance in therapy; the inability to be “real” with one’s emotions leave many without the skills of emotional intimacy.

3-Security Based on Idols: Asian-Americans find their security in a number of cultural idols: prestige, affluence, academic success, financial success, professional success, marital success, etc. Due to the immigrant experience, success and financial security are often intertwined. Asian-Americans often are driven to find their security in these idols instead of relying on the Lord.

4-Repentance Requires Acknowledgment: Repentance in the Christian community requires acknowledgment of one’s sins. But in an Asian church where culture may supercede Christ, the acknowledgment of one’s depravity and fallenness may not get addressed. For example, the need for financial security may make it difficult for Asian-Americans to tithe. A client may tithe and feel he/she’s trusting God only to realize later this is an area that conflicts with the family message to save money.

5-Shame Isn’t Guilt: When clients experience shame they may think they’re experiencing healthy guilt or repentance. This illegitimate shame breeds shame, and does nothing to draw one closer to God. It is about self-punishment and looking inward. A healthier approach focuses on remorse and reconciliation—looking outward to restore relationships vs. feeling like one is undeserving of relationships. But shame-based Asians struggle to accept forgiveness and get stuck in a cycle of judgment.

The 6 Types of Shame

Asian-American clients often believe they are flawed, defective, and inadequate, either in their own eyes or the eyes of those around them. These negative thoughts emanate from these 6 distinct areas. The following quotes are examples from Asia-American clients I have counseled.

What we can do as individuals, communities, or churches is to exemplify the decision to put Christ above culture. In therapy, I tend to share more about my own life (therapeutic disclosure) then I would with a traditional client. If you are in a position of power (clergy, teacher, etc.), you are considered an authority figure and may garner more respect if you are willing to help shame-based people experience your ability to be emotionally vulnerable. In church settings, there may even be small group opportunities to talk about the process of shame and how it inhibits people from sharing.


Asian shame


Asian shame

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Written by American News

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