Brené Brown On Shame: 'It Cannot Survive Empathy'

08/26/2013 10:37 am ET | Updated Aug 27, 2013

Shame and vulnerability researcher Dr. Brené Brown has studied the power of these intensely painful feelings as a professor at the University of Houston's Graduate College of Social Work. Brown says shame is the most primitive human emotion we all feel -- and the one no one wants to talk about.

In this video from "Super Soul Sunday" on OWN, Brown describes how shame, if left to its own devices, can destroy lives.

"I think shame is lethal," she says. "I think shame is deadly. And I think we are swimming in it deep."

Brown explains that feelings of shame can quietly marinate over a lifetime. "Here's the bottom line with shame," she says. "The less you talk about it, the more you got it. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment."

By keeping quiet, Brown says your shame will grow exponentially. "It will creep into every corner and crevice of your life," she says.

The antidote, Brown says, is empathy. She explains that by talking about your shame with a friend who expresses empathy, the painful feeling cannot survive. "Shame depends on me buying into the belief that I'm alone," she says.

Here's the bottom line: "Shame cannot survive being spoken," Brown says. "It cannot survive empathy."

"Oprah's Lifeclass" with Dr. Brené Brown will air Sunday, Sept. 22 and Sunday, Sept. 29.

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