Stop Shame-attacks

Shame is brutal  – it robs us of life and happiness. It undermines our health, self esteem and overall well-being.

While we are feeling shameful, it’s impossible to enjoy life. We bombard ourselves with hurtful self-defeating messages. Messages like; I am not good enough, I am hopeless, I can’t believe I am so stupid, I am a total failure………………..

It’ s like drinking poison for the soul.

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When we are feeling shame, we feel awful. We feel there is no hope for us. It’s like a never ending spiral of self-loathing and self-reprisal.

In psychodynamic therapy, shame is considered as a defense mechanism. A defense against emotions. Whenever we feel shame, there are emotions of anger, guilt and grief underneath.

“Before you diagnose yourself with depression and low self-esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes” William Gibson.

I use shame as an indicator, when I feel shame coming on, when I start to blame myself or be hard on myself. I know something is going on underneath and I remind myself to look deeper and ask questions like:

  • Was there something someone said or did that hurt me?
  • Was there something someone did or said that reminded me of something painful?
  • Is there a need I have not acknowledged and or expressed?
  • Are there feelings I have not acknowledged and or expressed?

 Shame is like turning anger inwards and we end up blaming ourselves with no mercy.

This causes tremendous stress and pain in the body. When we feel shame, we are much more likely to make unhealthy choices that undermine our health and even feeds the shame.

We don’t talk about it, we keep it to ourselves and bottle it up.

We may drink, take drugs, binge, over -work, or sit in front of the computer to numb out the painful feelings of shame. We are caught in a spiral of shame.

What we really need most of all when we are caught in shame is:

  • First of all notice what is going on and that shame is at play.

Then we need:

  • Empathy and compassion
  • Self-compassion
  • To share it with someone we trust. Someone who will listen with compassion and without judgement.

Dr Brene Brown is a researcher of vulnerability and shame. She is an author of 3 wonderful books. I recommend them all!

1. The Gifts of Imperfection

2. I thought it was just me

3. Daring Greatly

Her messages about shame and vulnerability are profoundly important.

The last 2 Sundays she has been interviewed by Oprah on Super Soul Sunday.

Watch the first episode here

and the second episode here

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Self-Compassion

We are so hard on ourselves – we are raised to be kind, polite and respectful to others – but not to ourselves. Somehow, it is okay to treat ourselves disrespectful and talk to ourselves in the cruelest of  ways!

We have about 25.000 – 65.000 thoughts a day – 90 % are critical and a big part of those are turned towards ourselves!  I  am too fat! Gosh, I look dreadful! I suck at math! I totally tone-deaf so I don’t sing along! I will never be able to do that! I am a terrible cook,!I don’t deserve that job/position/credit! I will never make that kind of  money! She is much more beautiful than me! He is much better than me! He (she) doesn’t love me! I am unlovable……………etc. etc. Would we talk to others like that? No-way! But nevertheless we bombard ourselves with it every day. Then we smile and pretend everything is okay and wonder why we feel so miserable!

These kind of thoughts are stressful on our body. They effect our health. They create imbalance in the body and they make us feel miserable and depressed!

If these negative thoughts were even a bit positive or helpful, if they could motivate us and get us on the right track – then we could use them – but unfortunately – they are not!

Dr. Kristin Neff Ph.D, associate professor, Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin is the author of the book Self-Compassion. Kristin Neff is also featured in the best-selling book and award winning documentary “The Horse Boy” – that tells the story of her family’s personal journey with autism.

I love her approach – not the usual “think positive”  approach, but rather, having compassion for who we are with everything, the good, the bad and the ugly, shortcomings and all – accepting that we are humans, that we are not perfect and that we do make mistakes. She talks about self-compassion being healthier than self esteem in this great article in Psychology today.

She uses her own story, she has humor and insight – and she is hugely inspiring!

This is a great interview with Kristin Neff in the program The High Bar with Warren Etheredge

The High Bar

Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion is a wonderful book that I highly recommend. Her website is full of useful information, videos, self-compassion meditations, interviews exercises and more. Kristin Neff is also the writer in Psychology Today’s blog  with articles such as “Why self compassion is healthier than self esteem” and “Self-compassion for caregivers” and “let go of self-criticism and discover self-compassion” ! She also writes for  Huffington Post’s blog with articles like “Does self-compassion mean letting yourself off the hook”? and “Treating yourself as you’d treat a good friend”

http://www.self-compassion.org/

The Horse Boy Movie

You may also want to read my post about compassion