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How to Deal With Shame and Heal

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Shame and guilt are often considered related, and I assume it's because they are both widespread emotions. In reality, shame can be felt in connection with many other emotions, not only with guilt.

Shame is a deeply rooted emotion that can come up in connection with other feelings. Shame arises when a person feels a sense of embarrassment, guilt, or humiliation about their actions, behaviors, and possibly just for having certain thoughts.
How to Deal With Shame and Heal

Before describing how do deal with shame and heal, I want to highlight the importance of reading the introductory blog The Methodology of Healing from Negative Emotions. If this is the first post you see, please hit that link before continuing here. It gives essential information for the reader to make sense of the theory of healing from feelings described in this series. If you read it before and remember the methodology, please skip it.

Shame goes deep and joins other emotions.

Shame is a deeply rooted emotion that can come up in connection with other feelings. Shame arises when a person feels a sense of embarrassment, guilt, or humiliation about their actions, behaviors, and possibly just for having certain thoughts. It is often accompanied by a sense of unworthiness or a belief that one has violated moral norms. Shame can be triggered by external factors such as criticism, rejection, or negative judgment from others, as well as by our internal beliefs.

You may recognize feelings you have felt together with shame on this list of negative emotions. Please note that this post doesn't discuss emotions oringinating from traumatic events.

Childhood is a crucial period for emotional development, as it is a time when children begin to understand and experience a wide range of emotions.

We observe and imitate the emotional expressions of our caregivers and other influential figures in our lives, or we learn to feel certain emotions by experience. In both scenarios and the context of shame, it's a painful feeling regardless of how it's developed. Painful emotions require healing.

How to stop feeling shame:

The first step towards healing shame is learning and practicing to separate our actions from the person we are. If we don't make this distinction, we are, in fact, shaming ourselves.

The examples below show what the difference looks like.

Example 1 is judging the action, and 2 is judging the person / the Self.

1) I think I was very naive at that time.

2) Back then, I trusted people very easily.

1) I was wrong not to tell you the whole truth.

2) I didn't dare to tell you the whole truth.

1) I should have been more competent in that meeting.

2) I should have shown more of my competence in that meeting.

1) I think that sometimes I'm a bad father.

2) I'm not always happy with my parenting skills.

1) I can be so stupid sometimes.

2) Sometimes, I talk before I think.

To heal our own shame, we need to stop shaming others too.

Our inner critic is a reflection of how we judge others. Luckily, to hear ourselves talk out loud is easier than noticing our inner dialogue.

To change how you speak will change how you think.

1) She is a very egotistical person.

2) Her behavior looks very egotistical.

1) Are you crazy?

2) Your ideas are out there!

1) You are being so complicated about this issue.

2) You seem to make this issue more complicated than it is.

1) You are being defensive!

2) You are acting defensively.

Non-violent communication

As a side note, maybe you heard about the "I statement" as a form of non-violent communication. But in my opinion, "I statements" remain violent if the person is not separated from the actions, and if you make the separation, the "I statements" aren't necessary. With making the distincion you see individuals in a more holistic and compassionate light, supporting healthier relationships and interactions.

A path toward maturity.

Separating the person from the actions is essential because it allows for a more mature understanding of individuals and their behaviors. Here are a few reasons why this separation is important:

1) Encourages growth and change: When we separate the person from their actions, we acknowledge that people have the capacity to learn, grow, and change. Applied to ourselves, shaming blocks or slows down our process of maturity.

2) Preserves dignity and worth: Viewing a person as separate from their actions helps to uphold their inherent worth and dignity. It recognizes that a person is more than just the sum of their actions and that they deserve to be treated with respect and fairness. And, of course, this applies to us too.

3) Reduces judgment and stigmatization: When we separate the person from their actions, we can avoid making hasty judgments and stigmatizing individuals based on their behaviors. It promotes a more mature perspective, recognizing that everyone is capable of making mistakes or engaging in negative actions without condemning them as inherently bad or unworthy.

4) Supports accountability and responsibility: It allows us to address and hold individuals accountable for their actions while recognizing their potential for growth and change. This approach promotes a healthier and more constructive approach to addressing negative behaviors.

Shame serves as a social and moral regulator, helping individuals conform to societal norms and values. It can motivate individuals to reflect on their actions, seek forgiveness, and make amends. However, excessive or persistent shame can be detrimental to one's emotional well-being.

The second step in healing shame is understanding that it originates from emotional wounds. We choose to feel shame to violently degrade ourselves as a human being and to confirm ourselves that we are bad in moments we believe we deserve that judgement. But we don’t - ever.

Like physical wounds, emotional wounds deserve to be treated with patience and care. It's important not to ignore shame, acknowledge the moment we feel shameful, and be our best friend in that situation, an understanding and empathic friend.

However, we can't be that great friend as long as we continue judging the person instead of their actions.

I've seen the second step in healing shame happening without effort after people have been consequently training themselves in step one.

It can be seen as a wonderful reward for persistence and discipline in differentiating what is action and what is the person.

I hope this post was helpful.

The next post may help you understand the psychology behind worry.

Until then, I'm sending you from sunny Engadine: "ün raz da sulai per tai," which is Romansh and means "a ray of sunshine for you."



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