How to Heal Shame

Shame is a powerful emotion. When you think back to the shaming experiences of your childhood it is likely that you are catapulted right back to those painful moments—almost as if you were experiencing them today. Shame is a feeling deep within us of being exposed and unworthy. When we feel shamed we want to hide. We hang our heads, stoop our shoulders and curve inward as if trying to make ourselves invisible.

Shame is the most destructive of human emotions. It can damage a person’s image of themselves in ways that no other emotion can, causing a person to feel deeply flawed, inferior, worthless and unlovable. If someone experiences enough shame he or she can become self-loathing to the point that he or she becomes self-destructive or even suicidal.

Fortunately, there may be a way of healing even our most painful shaming experiences. The answer—compassion. Compassion is the antidote to shame.

Compassion comes from the Latin roots com (with) and pati (suffer), or to “suffer with.” When we offer genuine compassion, we join a person in his or her suffering. Self-compassion then, begins with connecting with one’s own suffering. Unfortunately, most of us don’t want to do this. We want to forget about our past suffering and put it behind us. By doing so, however, we don’t heal the emotions that accompany the suffering—the pain, fear, anger, and especially, the shame. The same holds true for painful and shaming experiences in the present. Instead of stopping to acknowledge our suffering in the moment, we try to move past it as soon as possible.

Self-compassion encourages us to begin to treat ourselves and talk to ourselves with the same kindness, caring and compassion we would show a good friend or a beloved child. In addition, it helps us to feel less isolated and alienated from others. The more shame we feel, the more deficient we feel and in turn, the more separate we feel from others. But self-compassion helps us to recognize our common humanity—the fact that we have all done things that we feel ashamed about and that we all experience the same pain in difficult times.

I know… easier said than done.  But try these some of these things and notice the unbearable burden of shame slowly begin to lift:
– surround yourself with people who are willing to “suffer  
  with” you as you face your shame
– replace self-criticism with self-kindness
– speak aloud words that affirm your qualities and strengths.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

Set Yourself Free From Needless Stress

SDo you find yourself arguing with your family about so many things; your partner is unorganized, your teen procrastinates, your extended family is all about drama? Why do we continually engage in these conflicts over and over when nothing changes?

I think that we assume that if we continue to engage in the interaction and we try to correct their behavior that they will eventually see the wisdom of our ideas and they will change. But this takes a lot of energy and is it really the best use of our time? We think that life would be easier if we could just change these people and they would do things our way. I think we need to re-evaluate, decide where we can best use our energy. 

Let me give you an example. If you are dealing with someone who is a procrastinator, this could be your child, your spouse or a friend. They do everything at the last minute, you can see the disaster approaching, and when it does they might turn to you for help or they complain to you about their situation. So in the past you try to avoid this by warning them continually along the way and then when they don’t listen we step in at the last minute and help them. This takes a lot of our energy and it is frustrating. Why don’t they just listen in the first place?

This is not your problem to solve, so don’t make it your problem. That is the key, we take on problems that we don’t need to. The better strategy is to give your advice once and then let the scenario unfold. Let them experience the consequences and you step away. Focus your energy on something else. 

This applies to many things. Why do we let ourselves get sucked into other peoples drama? Why do we try to change someones way of doing things? There are many ways to do something so unless it effects you then don’t get involved. I understand that some people want to suck you into the interaction because they benefit from your involvement but this is where you have to set a boundary and let them know that you are no longer going to play that role. It causes you stress and is not a good use of your energy. 

When we step away and we set a boundary we get freedom from that stress. We can now focus our energy on something that will bring us joy. Instead of focusing on the thing that your partner or child does that stresses you, focus on something that is positive. Plan something fun you can do together. The other person will eventually benefit too because they no longer have to deal with your stress inducing involvement in their behavior. 

So as we move into a new year, let’s re-evaluate what we want to put our energy into. Minimize the stress that you take on and you will be a more pleasant person for your family and friends. They will have to adjust to the change but in the long run you each will be happier. 

It is not easy to change patterns of behavior. If you need help and support, give us a call at 562-537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong