Do you ever feel inadequate, unworthy, regretful, or a disconnected? If so, you've experienced a form of shame. You don't have to overcome shame alone.
Shame can be triggered by another person or a specific situation, but it can also occur when you fail to meet your own ideals or standards. Shame will often motivate you to hide or save face. In an attempt to avoid shame, it's common to withdraw from the world or even to turn to addictions that attempt to mask the impact of this feeling.
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Shame vs. Guilt
Shame is often confused with guilt, but it's much less likely that you will broadcast shame over guilt. That's because with shame, "bad" behaviour doesn't feel separate from a "bad" self like it is when you feel guilt.
Dr. Brené Brown believes there's a profound difference between shame and guilt. Brown states that guilt can be adaptive and helpful while shame is neither helpful nor productive. For Brown, shame is much more likely to be a source of destructive and hurtful behaviour because the fear of disconnection is very dangerous.
Shame is Contagious
Shame can be contagious because those who feel shame try to project it onto others. This can be seen in the form of abusive partners or bullies at school. Furthermore, when children are emotionally or physically abandoned, abused, or neglected, they often take on the shame that belongs to the adult who caused it by believing they themselves are the "bad" one.
On the other hand, parents can also experience shame due to the behaviour of their children. For example, a child who doesn't meet the desired goals, or who behaves embarrassingly can evoke a shame response in the parent.
Shame Can Manifest Physically and Emotionally
When shame is taken on by a person it can make them physically and emotionally sick.
Regardless of what causes shame, one can experience typical emotions that accompany shame including envy, anger, rage, and anxiety. But it can also result in sadness, depression, loneliness, and emptiness. This is what makes shame a traumatic emotion.
Fortunately, you can recover from experiencing shame and when you do, it can help you learn a great deal about yourself.
To overcome shame, it's essential to be honest with yourself about who you are and to acknowledge your past. Just because your past may have shaped who you are today doesn't mean it needs to control your future.
It's also important to start to notice what triggers your feelings of shame. Begin by noticing your behaviours, like the way you react to pain. Then ask yourself what happened to make you react that way?
Don't be afraid to seek help from a therapist, psychologist, or outpatient provider.
And remember: You don't have to overcome shame alone.
Trauma Practice for Healthy Communities (TPHC) is a trauma care initiative anchored in a community-based outlook. Through our group programs and public access to our clinician curated self-help resources, we are reaching out to create healing communities that build and establish support where it counts most. For more about what we do click here.
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