Shame gets a bad rap. Is it really that bad?
Over the last few years, shame has gotten a bad rap in how it can be corrosive and damaging to the self. Shame plays a central role with sex addiction as the driver for much of the addiction and reducing the shame becomes one of the primary focuses of treatment.
Yet, shame is not really reduced by telling someone that they aren’t as bad as they think they are or giving them positive feedback. It doesn’t go away from achieving success or being loved. If anything, this can create a sense of being “underserving” and feelings of being an “imposter.”
How then does one work with shame in order to stop its corrosive power?
HOW TO WORK WITH SHAME
One way that we work with shame at The Center for Intimacy Recovery is to understand its purpose, befriend it, and then develop self compassion for having it.
THE ROLE OF SHAME
Shame and blaming oneself plays an important role by inhibiting behavior that will be criticized or punished in some form by others. By blaming ourselves, we are yelling at ourselves and silencing ourselves to not do it again. It causes us to withdraw. This is often the most useful with children who don’t have the resources or agency to adequately protect themselves from harm.
Children are known to blame themselves for things which happen in their sphere, especially regarding their parents. This self blame can become shame, which is still a better option for them to experience than the terrifying feeling that their parents are not in their idealized state.
Shame helps children to not act out or speak up and avoid being “bad” and then getting punished and in trouble.
WHAT OUR BODIES TELL US ABOUT SHAME
Think about the form our bodies take when we are feeling intense shame.
Lack of eye contact
Theses are all forms of submission which is a way to avoid or bring an end to conflict. We see the same poses with animals when they submit.
Shame is a price to pay for more safety.
With this understanding of shame, that it is actually a way to create more safety and protection when other, we can approach shame as a protector and survival technique. At the Center for Intimacy Recovery we take this approach and help our clients to be curious about when they developed their shame and how it helped them. We help our client get in touch with their child part and to help that part connect to how shame helped them.
If you or someone you know could benefit from working with reducing their sense of shame, please reach out to us.