Recovery From Shame
Guilt and Shame are powerful emotions but have some very distinct characteristics. Guilt can be derived from feelings of remorse of some sort of wrong doing and surrounds a person behaviour. When someone feels guilt, they can also feel sad, angry and defensive. Guilt can be helpful at times to help us reflect on what we have done and we can ask for forgiveness, change behaviour and make amends. The feeling of guilt can be contained and after taking certain steps, we can move past it. Our inner voice can tell us that we have done something wrong and encourages us acknowledge it and do something about it.
Shame, on the other hand, is related to feeling unworthy, defective, unloved and can make someone feel hopeless and withdrawn. Shame can also perpetuate feelings of self-loathing and viewing oneself as not good enough. This can be dangerous because individuals that feel shame, feel that there is something wrong with them, that there is something innately bad about them – it no longer is about a specific undesired behaviour but they feel that they are not enough or not okay. Feelings of shame do not allow for an outcome and can often lead to a person feeling helpless, worthless and stuck.
Recovery from shame is a difficult task but one that is necessary to begin healing. Without this recovery, individuals operating from a shame perspective are more prone to depression, addiction, suicide, perfectionism and rage. Recovery from shame is a process that requires time and reflection. The process can allow individuals to confront their feelings and challenge them to move towards a place of healing. There are certain ways to begin to challenge yourself. The first is to reflect on your past hurt and losses and recognize where some of your internal beliefs came from. Allow yourself to identify what needs were not met and what hurts you experienced. Secondly, it is important create a link to the present. How have your past experiences affected the way you feel about yourself today? Next, try to recognize some of the distortions that exist in your brain as a result of your past experiences. As a child, what messages did you receive about who you were and did these impact how you viewed yourself as you grew up and became an adult? Try Lastly, it is important to think of new ways to define yourself that aren’t influenced by your past. Decide what you want for your life and set realistic goals. Practice self-care and self-compassion. Reach out to others for support and objectively acknowledge what your strengths are and what things about yourself you really love. A therapist can also be really helpful in this process to provide a pathway to healing and recovery.
Aziza Giga-Hirji MSW, RSW specializes in the areas of stress management and communication, as well as many others. For more information on Aziza, her work, or other articles she’s written for Living Well click here to link to her full bio page.