Thursday, April 30, 2009

169 - handout on Reducing Shame

Please find below this email a handout titled Reducing Shame which is given to people who complete the Breakthrough Program at the Caron
Foundation in Wernersville, PA. It was written by Ann Smith who runs that
program for adults raised in disfunctional families. There is quite alot of
useful info in the handout that could be used by anyone interested in shame
healing and repair. You may want to make a hard copy of it.

I. Shame the ACT, Shame the FEELING, shame the STATE OF BEING
The ACT of shaming
We have all shamed another person at one time or another. We have all experienced being shamed by someone. Usually it is an unconscious behavior, used as a defense, a protective devise to make the “shamer” feel superior to the victim. It is done through words and body language which convey disapproval, intolerance, disgust, rejection, or even loathing or hatred. It uses words such as “you should”, “you will never amount to anything”, “I’m ashamed of you”, “Get away from me”, “How could you be so stupid”, etc. It can be conveyed with simple facial expressions, or even silence. It is most damaging when the roles are unequal between parties, for example, when a parent or person in authority attacks a child or subordinate. It leaves the victim feeling powerless, “less than”, feeling like nothing, feeling bad abouthimself.
The FEELING of Shame
Shame is a normal feeling that will happen occasionally to all of us. It is similar to guilt but much deeper, and less easily identified because it’s source is unclear and abstract. Most of us are not even aware of it and do not have the language to describe it. People use words like “sick”, “devastated”, “bad”, “crushed”, “nothing” to describe the feeling. They oftenget depressed, withdrawn and silent in response, not knowing why, and not ableto identify what happened. The feeling of shame makes the victim want to hide, “go inside” and retreat from the world. They feel extremely vulnerable and unable to cope with further wounding. They often feel exposed, caught with their flaws showing and feel that the world now knows how truly “bad” they are. It is not necessarily because they actually did anything wrong (that would create guilt), rather it is because they have been disapproved of by someone who matters to them. Their withdrawal from the world actually makes the shame increase. The antidote is “coming out” with someone who is safe and working it through. The longer we are silent, the more it is internalized and we eventually forget the source entirely but keep the pain.
The STATE of Shame
When an individual has been shamed chronically, over long periods of time, they eventually believe what their shame has told them, “I AM BAD”. Self esteem is deeply damaged. A belief system is built around the core of their being that supports the fact of their being “damaged goods”. Their survival mechanism kicks in and builds defenses to protect the core from further trauma. Their mission is to not be caught with their flaws exposed ever again. The earlier in life the abuse begins, the more serious and lasting thedamage to the person’s identity. A “pseudo-self” is formed gradually to coverweaknesses and protect against further abuse. Some individuals will be very “good”, some will opt to attack first to feel safe. Underneath the facade, the feelings are the same whether defenses are pretty and pleasing , or ugly and repulsive. Addictions may be another way to self-medicate, reducing pain temporarily but eventually causing more shame and creating a cycle of dependency. People who live unconsciously in a “state of shame” become abusive to others through their projection of self-hate and their defenses. It appears in direct or subtle ways, at times simply through neglect, withdrawal or rejection of others. In this way, shame is passed from one generation to another.
II. Healing Unresolved Shame
A. Abstain from Compulsive behaviors which medicate pain and create shameB. Identify feelings as they surface. Your body reacts strongly to shame. Notice your language and your behavior when shame hits. Begin to identify it as soon as it begins. C. Confront issues causing the shame in healthy ways. Set boundaries, create distance if needed,express needs etc. D. Gradually change the environments which feed your shame. Develop strong healthy support systems, friends who care and respect you, a work place that is friendly and encouraging, nottoxic to self esteem. E. Work diligently on eliminating negative self-talk. It is toxic and damaging and must change for shame to heal. Use thought stopping, distraction, affirmation and your support system to do it. Shaming oneself is a difficult habit to break but essential to recovery. F. Learn not to shame others. Listen to and honor the limits of others. Find tactful, safe ways to communicate your needs. DO NO HARM to others.
III. Antidotes for a “Shame Attack” It takes many years to heal the deep shame that we hold. Shame attacks will happen without our having control. When they do, these tips may help to shorten the episode and to lessen it’s negative impact. A. Learn the art of “externalizing”. Shame is like a virus that attacks me.I can fight back. I am not my shame. B. Identify the “shame attack” quickly and name it. The longer it has a chance to take hold, the harder it is to fight back. Once it has taken hold, it is very difficult to reverse and may turn into days of isolation and depression. As soon as you know it. SAY IT! C. COME OUT! Don’t hide out away from people. Tell someone how you feel. Be with safe people who understand. Talk and you will probably begin to find the source. Don’t worry if you don’t. As you talk, the pain will shrink. D. Read helpful writings. Find things that have helped you before, such as affirmations, permission to let go, spiritual or inspiring things. Have on hand, books, prayer, quotes or passages that are soothing. Read them over andover instead of obsessing or analyzing what you did wrong or what you are upset about. E. Temporarily stay away from “trigger” people until your pain has passed. Any risky person is going to increase the pain. Don’t confront anyone, just express your feelings and save the serious discussions for later on. F. While in a “shame attack”, don’t trust your own thoughts. Your thoughts are probably all negative and very distorted by the pain. Try not to take yourself too seriously until the pain goes away. G. Postpone major decisions or responsibilities if possible until you are inbetter shape, usually just a day or two. Don’t act on the pain no matter how strongly you want to lash out. Healthy people don’t play “pay back” in their relationships. If you act out, you may create another problem you will have to undo later. H. Visualize yourself giving back any of the shame that does not belong to you. For example, in your mind return negative messages to those who gave them to you (parents, partners, boss etc.) Ask yourself honestly, “which partof the criticism do I need to own?” Shrink it down into a manageable size and give the rest back. The worst criticism is usually partly true. I. Put all of your energy into self-caring until you feel able to get back to life. Take walks, pray, breathe, exercise, buy yourself flowers, get a massage etc. J. Once the shame has lifted, notice your patterns and your progress. Ask yourself, “How did I get into this?, What was helpful or not?, Who or what made it worse?, Did I get over it faster than the last time?”With consistent practice, the episodes will be less and less frequent and you will be able to stop them within hours or even minutes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

168 - Good and bad news

In many ways our world is a shame-driven world. To heal this internalized shame we have carried all our lives takes alot of time and alot of work. That's the bad news. The good news is there are ways for this healing to happen.

Monday, April 27, 2009

167 - healing shame blog

A couple months ago I started a blog and have slowly begun to use it in a limited way. Part of the reason for the blog is to make this shame info more publicly accessible. If you want to check it out to see if it might be useful to you or someone you know the address is .

Sunday, April 26, 2009

166 - Variants of shame

Gershen Kaufmann writes "Whenever we feel any of the following variants of shame it means we are feeling shame. Shyness, embarassment,chagrin, humiliation, guilt, low self-esteem, feeling ridiculous, sheepishness, discomfort, disconcertedness, abasement, disgrace, ignominy,dishonor, mortification, degradation, self-consciousness, disappointment, discouragement, feeling "lousy" or "funny"."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

165 - Taking action to get support

It isn't only that we need to learn how to get support for ourselves. It is also that we need to act on what we learned. That is to actually get support.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

164 - Failure of support

Shame occurs where there is a failure of support in a persons environment.
Learning how to get more of the right kind of support is an important part of
healing shame.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

163 - Shame exchange

It is important in our healing to be less alone with our shame and other
difficult emotions. These feelings need to be shared in a way that is beyond
reporting and listening. There needs to be an active exchange of shame material or
shame feelings that each of us carries.

Monday, April 20, 2009

162 - Value of reading

Five minutes of shame reading per day from the recommended book list on shame
which can be found on my website is a great help in understanding and
accepting shame and speeds up the healing process immeasurably.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

161 - Critical, shaming self-talk.

I suggest putting some time and energy into stopping the self-talk that is
critical, judgmental and self-shaming. This can begin with just becoming more
aware of this kind of self-talk. With more awareness you will begin to have
more choice over stopping it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

160 - The word shame

Shame is a natural, normal human emotion and serves us as a socialization
tool. Our discomfort with the word shame comes from at least two places. The
first is that the experience of shame can be very painful. The
second reason for our discomfort with the word is that we have all been taught
to feel ashamed of our shame and we've concluded that if we feel shame there
is something wrong with us. This isn't true but it does take time and work to
change our brains and our minds about this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

159 - Role of anger

Anger is a secondary emotion. It is energy we sometimes need in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones. More often however, we unconsciously use our anger to "protect" us from feeling shame, fear or sadness. Therefore, it is useful when feeling anger to look at what emotion may be driving the anger and address it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

158 - Everything matters after all

Recent brain research tells us that everything we experience daily impacts our brain development, our brain structure or architecture and how our brains affect our shame healing process. It makes me want to be more choiceful regarding what I want to expose to my brain.

Monday, April 13, 2009

157 - Neuroplasticity

Brain research in the past fifteen years shows definitively that our brains
continue to grow new neurons and can repair old neurons throughout our
lifetimes. This is called neuroplasticity and with the right kind of support
healing shame will occur.

156 - Help in healing

Do you have someone in your life with whom you feel safe to be yourself?
Friend, spiritual mentor, sponsor might be a person such as this. A counselor
can become this for you tho I recommend you have at least one other safe
person in your life as well. Spend regular time with this person, once a week
if possible. A small therapy group can also provide this kind of
understanding, acceptance and compassion.

Friday, April 10, 2009

155 - Heads you lose, tails you lose

One way our shame/self-hate gets projected outward is by judging others, shame then uses that against us by beating us up for judging.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

154 - Meditation

I recommend ten to twenty minutes of meditation daily. There are many useful ways to meditate. One of the more common ways is to count exhalations one to ten and then start over. When thoughts come and you lose count, as they surely will, gently go back to the counting. Sometimes people get very frustrated when they have obsessive thinking going on and believe they are not meditating correctly. That is not the case. Time spent brings increasing satisfaction. Persevere. On the other hand there is no value in judging oneself for not persevering.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

153 - Another resource.

Brene' Brown wrote a book called (I Thought It Was Just Me) about shame. I
recently read some of her blog addressed
and was heartened by it. I hope you will get a chance to take a look at her blog. She talks about shame both personally and professionally as a researcher.
Good stuff.

Monday, April 6, 2009

152 - Needs/Shame

We have been taught to feel shame regarding many of our basic human needs.
These include the need for attention, the need for approval, for acceptance,
admiration and affirmation. Even an unconscious need for these can elicit
some feelings of shame. This shame makes it difficult for us to even know
what our needs are let alone asking for these needs to be met.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

151 - A ground of shame

Gordon Wheeler writes about the individualist paradigm that we have been
taught to believe in was created 3000 years ago in what is now Greece. Central to
this paradigm is the belief that we are separate beings and we should be able
to handle things ourselves and if we can't, it means there is something wrong
with us. The truth is we need each other in many ways and this becomes a
widespread source of shame for us by our having a sense of failure for not
living up to these unrealistic expectations. In the individualist paradigm to
need help is to feel ashamed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

150 - Passing on shame.

When parents use the mostly unconscious defense of shamelessness, children
take on and internalize the shame that the parents are avoiding. No blame just a
description of what can happen. This occurs between adults as well of course.
Deep attention helps. Acknowledgement of the shame can lead to understanding,
acceptance and compassion.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

149 - Unacknowledged shame/shame spiral

When we are in shame filled environments we will empathically feel shame. Without awareness of the shame we are feeling we will tend to believe there is "something wrong" with us or others. This unacknowledged shame can sometimes lead to a shame spiral.