My husband took a trip last week. Calling home he asked to switch over to the computer because we packed the wrong power chord for the phone. Between the two of us, I’m the more organized, neat and tidy which makes me the keeper of important little things like power chords. That means it wasn’t “we” who packed the wrong one, but me.
This small, seemingly insignificant event revealed an ugly truth. If the situation were reversed, I wouldn’t have used the burden-sharing plural pronoun “we.” I would have used the subtly-blaming singular “you.”
In my field this is referred to as top-dog or one-up behavior. Whatever you call it, it’s a subtle shaming device that works below the surface eroding good-will while chipping away at connection. It quietly whispers to the other, “Guess what? I’m better than you.” Granted there are times we need to distinguish who did what for clarity and accountability, but I suspect there are many more times it matters less than we think.
Now that I’m more conscious of this subtle form of shaming, my hope is to recognize it early and see my partner in a more generous light. This is one of the most beautiful aspects of building shame resilience. It forces us to dig deep for resources we didn’t know we had. I know for a fact I am most powerful when my heart is open but I’m also more vulnerable – which makes it as risky as it is liberating.