You may wonder how Shame shows up in your own life, or you may already have a good sense of that. Usually shame is so deeply rooted that only what is noticed on the surface is your first clue. (The first 2 parts of the series will help you understand how it developed in the first place)
How do I see the Shame showing up?
Most of my clients usually come to therapy because of an identifiable symptom or situation that has finally gotten in the way of how they'd like to live. They are either losing control over their food and weight issues (over or under), their relationship has finally broken into fighting or infidelity, or their anxiety has gotten the better of them and they cannot function as they would like. Sometimes, even though they are anxious, they are also very sad and often depressed beneath the intensity of the anxiety.
They may be in pain, struggling, and ashamed of how their lives have been impacted by what’s going on “beneath the surface.” They are often seen as so “together” by others in their lives that they feel ashamed to have their lives even reach this point.
How to heal your Shame
If you’ve been reading through this series and found that it is likely Shame that is deeply rooted for you, let’s talk about how to find your way out.
First, we need to remember Shame is a powerful and deep emotion which has often translated into one’s sense of self. Because of this, the process to find your way out is just that – a process. You won’t find a quick fix or simple formula. Rather, the road involves knowing yourself, valuing yourself, showing up in your relationships, and healing old hurts.
Self-awareness is the best beginning you can have in your process of healing from Shame.
Think through your life story and see if you recognize any early experiences that could have contributed to developing shame. Reflect upon your early family relationships, any stressors or traumas that may have been present during that time. Think about, write about & talk about what you remember. Therapy can be helpful in sorting through some of this (see below).
Develop a practice of self-awareness so that you can note how your current life is impacted by your history. Check in with yourself periodically through the day by:
- scanning your body for points of tension
- tuning in to what you may be feeling emotionally
- paying attention to your reveries (when your mind wanders and where it wandered to)
- noticing and remembering your dreams (dream analysis can be a gold mine of information for developing your self-awareness)
Once you become more self-aware, you can make some choices about how you take care of yourself. If you’ve come from a place of Shame you likely take better care of others than of yourself. You may not even notice you need care or struggle with the idea of even deserving care.
But why is this important? You are giving yourself a message that you are valuable and worth being cared for. You likely missed this message growing up and need to develop that sense in yourself now.
Be mindful of your reactions to valuing yourself. You may find you feel guilty about or resist accepting caring behavior. Your inner dialogue may be carrying on about not deserving it or taking up time, money, space, etc.
Showing up in your relationships
Because shame can cause us to hide, quiet ourselves, and doubt ourselves (see Part 1), you are left feeling quite unseen and unknown in relationships.
Healing shame involves breaking through these patterns so that you can show up to be seen and known. This may bring up all sorts of alarm bells of danger for you that if you let someone really get to know you, they will notice you are flawed and turn away from you. This is exactly why you need to grow some trust in this area.
To begin to develop trust, you need to take small risks with people you’ve identified to be “safe” and let yourself be seen just a little bit to start.
- take a deep breath and relax your body
- ground yourself in the present by feeling your feet on the ground and your body in the seat. Perhaps even put your hands on your lap so you can feel your own body boundaries and not “float away” into your anxiety
- calm your inner censor that may be causing you to doubt your own thoughts or second guess yourself
- and now speak from your heart
- let the person you are with know you feel a little vulnerable but you want to express what’s on your mind.
Healing old hurts
Allowing the pain of your early experiences to become known, and then to move through your feelings about those experiences is crucial. Healing from shame also requires healing your soul.
- Is there something you need to grieve?
- Some tears you need to shed?
- Some anger you need to release in a healthy way?
- Do you need to find self-compassion?
- Do you need to listen to your gut more and find out what you truly need?
This part of your process is so important and can take many forms. You may write about it, draw about it, talk to a trusted other about it.
Sometimes, if you find nothing else is bringing relief, you may consider talking with a therapist. Beginning the therapy process to help you heal from shame can be one of your most important steps.
Going through the process I’ve laid out above can be a rich experience when done while in therapy. A therapist can stay present and deeply attuned to you, they can help you access previously unknown aspects of yourself, they can help you reach your vulnerability and true emotions, and they can help you have compassion for your pain and shame.
I have walked this journey through healing shame with many of my clients and I would be honored to be able to help you through this process as well. If you’d like to talk about how therapy could be helpful to your own unique life journey, please give me a call at (626) 836-2023.