To be able to understand exactly what shame is and the effects of shame one does need to understand that it is an emotion just like grief and fear and it can create strong physical pain. When you experience shame you will feel it in your body and actions as all you want to do is hide, disappear or even possibly say that you want to die, as you are feeling within yourself that you are a bad person. You find that you will also either hang your head, hunch down, and your shoulders will sag and you will not be able to look anyone in the eye. The reason for this is that you do believe that you are rotten to the core and why would anybody want to be around you.
Shame is seen as a social emotion just like guilt, pride and shyness, what shame does it helps us to stay good within a group, and it will punish you for the slightest imagined wrong doing. What you will find is that shame is experienced in our childhood where you were shamed for anything that you did not do right, or that you did not exel in rather, than experiencing encouragement for all your efforts, you were shamed instead that you did not try hard enough. Shame also can be experienced throughout childhood with bad parenting, being neglected or being left alone for long periods of time, or not being loved, so as I child you would strive harder to get the love and care that you needed.
How we avoid shame
To true shame is a painful emotion to experience so we avoid feeling it at all costs, sometimes we will blame others just to escape the feeling such as saying “I did not do anything wrong he/she was wrong or “I wasn’t really trying” or “I do not care what people think”. So in essence we do our best to be perfect, make no errors, and are always generous, we tend to overachieve so no one can point a finger and say that we never tried or succeeded. So while we are busy trying to smother shame we are missing out on life as we are not allowing ourselves to be spontaneous, feel genuine warmth and loving or much of anything else, we do not reach out for what does make us happy, or even remember what really does make us happy.
Experiencing shame in the young years
We can all remember at one time or another when we were young where we experienced shame, whether it was from family, friends, classmates or teachers. For many children it was about discovering that they were different and being teased about it as they were not accepted as the majority, such as having dark skin, or being too tall or too short, being poor, or had too many freckles, or they could not speak the language well the list can go on and on. So more than likely they would have experienced shame from these things.
Looking at shame
The best thing that you can do for yourself when you are dealing with shame and all that comes with it is to have some understanding by looking into your childhood and understanding your parents, no doubt they repeated cycles of their family life and there can be times where they themselves had a terrible shameful experience in their childhood which made them the person they were, making you feel constantly ashamed as they were trying to cover their own shame.
Do also try and work out what emotions do seem most shameful to you, such as crying, being sad, being afraid or anxious, anger, enthusiasm, pride, curiosity, or being depressed that you do bring other people down, etc.
Now stop to consider how you have set your life up to avoid doing these specific things. What parts of yourself have you turned off, such as your funny self, the part of you that knows what makes you happy? Or the part of you that is able to set boundaries and you are able to say “I have had enough of this”. Do you find that when you are alone that you are free from that emotion, or does it still linger and bother you. Shame can tear your soul apart.
It is important that adults that have been victims of verbal, physical and sexual abuse were the victims of adults. It is not their fault that all it happened to them, so do have compassion for self and stop blaming yourself and feeling shame that initially was perpetrated on you by an adult when you were a child.
There are many ways in which you can start the journey to heal the shame inside you and set yourself free once and for all. Listed below are ways in which you can get help to help heal
- EMDR – Eye movement desensitization reprogramming
- EFT – Emotionally focused therapy
- Accupressure point therapy
So do consider outside help if your shame is too great do not suffer any longer in silence and let your life slip you by. Do understand that it is important that you find courage within to let go of your painful shame. Do also realize that there are many people out there in this big wide world who also have experienced shame in varying degrees through out life. So be strong and get all the help you need to set your free and then you can shine and live a fulfilling life.