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