How to deal with shame

Shame is a debilitating feeling that takes over the mind and body. It can make you feel small and incomplete as you build walls around you to avoid compassion. Despite wanting to be seen and known, shame causes people to hide behind masks.

Healthy shame vs. toxic shame

Shame is universally felt between different countries and cultures. Homes and schools use social shame to ensure expected behaviors. While healthy shame is necessary to keep society intact and ethical, this is not what causes distress and pain to so many people. Healthy shame leads to self-correction, repair, and growth.

Toxic shame, on the other hand, can be very psychologically damaging. It is absorbed deep into the nervous system (i.e. you feel it in the gut). Toxic shame self-punishes and endures. He often uses negative self-talk such as, “I’m such a bad person, I give up” (instead of “I’ve done something wrong. How can I fix it?”), “I’m not good enough” (instead of ‘that of “I’m worthy as I am And I can work to improve”) and “I’m a failure” (instead of “It’s okay to fail. I’m learning. I can try again”). You learn these negative beliefs through caregivers, teachers, bullies, couples, friends, and more. According to Brene Brown’s research, shame is related to violence, aggression, depression, addiction, eating disorders, and bullying.

How to get out of shame

This is the truth about shame: the less you talk about it with someone safe, the more control you have over your life and your psychological well-being. The fear behind shame is usually the belief that sharing your story and being who you are will make people think less of you. Fight against the human need for acceptance.

Inner sense of security

One aspect of healing is creating an inner sense of security so that you can share your shame in the first place. If you don’t feel safe, you can’t share. You need to tell your story to confident people who listen and don’t judge. This security is necessary to feel vulnerable.

Talking to a therapist you connect with can start this process of feeling internal security. If done successfully, all of this will lead to the externalization of shame. Instead of “being ashamed,” shame becomes something external that you grabbed and now decide to let go of. Outsourcing shame is very empowering. Through it, you can develop more compassion for yourself and others in this process.

The embarrassment goes away when you tell vulnerable stories in safe environments.

According to Dr. Stephen Porges ’versatile theory, security is critical for humans to function well, be creative, and connect with others. When people are kind, this creates a space for co-regulation. For the connection between two people to be supportive and promote the co-regulation of the physiological state, the signs expressed must communicate safety and trust. These safety signals help calm the autonomic nervous system. The calmness of the physiological state helps to create secure and trusting relationships.

When your nervous system detects danger, switch from the connection to protection states. Shame tries to protect you from others because it falsely believes they won’t like it any other way. Your job is to show your nervous system that it is safe and right to share your story and that you are still friendly and dignified. However, when you try to get out of embarrassment, you may experience internal resistance in the form of negative thoughts and bodily reactions that tell you that it is not safe to do so, even when you are around safe and supportive people. This is a response to trauma and you need skills to calm it down and manage it.

Anxiety tolerance skills

Another part of healing is developing anxiety-tolerant skills: managing the uncomfortable emotions that arise when you choose to express your shame. To get rid of shame, you need to share it and process it. Sometimes it’s hard to do that, even with safe, supportive people. The mind and body try to keep you safe by reminding you of all the things that could go wrong.

When you’re deregulated, it’s hard to be rational. Many of the coping strategies you use when you experience overwhelming emotions only make your problems worse. Some of these useless coping methods may include thinking about past problems and mistakes, worrying about the future, isolating yourself, falling asleep with substances, or taking your feelings out of other people by getting angry and blaming them. . As you can see, none of these are useful.

Final thought

What healthy coping skills do you have that calm you down when you’re upset? Therapy can help develop these skills to make your journey out of embarrassment more tolerable. There are many anxiety tolerance skills that you can learn from a licensed mental health professional, as well as process the origins of your shame.

The only truth to remember is that everyone can feel ashamed. You are not alone. Healing is possible.


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