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.
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
- 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!