Shame is one of the trickier emotions to understand. Often times, it gets villainized. Most people want to hide their shame or get rid of it as soon as possible. However, if you want to help yourself or your partner heal shame, it’s important to first understand it.
Stop Trying to Fix It!
Most commonly, when we see our loved ones suffering from shame we want to rush in and fix it. However, trying to eliminate or change the feeling can actually do the opposite and amplify it.
Now not only does the person feel bad, but thanks to you, they feel bad about feeling bad—a double dose of shame.
Shame is a normal emotion. Stunting its expression or cutting it off and burying it can sometimes be more damaging than the shame itself. What we do with shame is more important than eliminating the presence of it.
The Shame Stop, Drop and Roll
Of course, it can be heartbreaking to witness someone you care about in the grips of gut wrenching shame. It’s important if you want to heal the shame, you first must understand how to help.
First thing is to recognize when shame is happening.
Can you observe what happens to inside you or to your partner?
If you stop and listen you might recognize words like, embarrassed, humiliated, guilty, stupid, or not enough. Those who are experiencing shame tend to be “navel gazers” looking down or away to avoid eye contact. Posture may be hunched. You may see or experience a tightness or queasy feeling. This can look tearful or even completely numbed out and detached.
Next, it’s crucial to drop into the emotion. Join that feeling. We know it sounds counterintuitive, but we promise it won’t make it worse. It will help you heal the shame.
Can you explore what happens in your body or the body of your partner?
Where do the emotions live? Stomach? Chest? Throat? Cheeks?
What do the feelings say? What are they trying to tell you?
It’s essential to understand where shame lives and how it feels inside. Typically, being able to join with, validate and search through shame can actually free a person up. When you understand the depth of your pain, you are free to feel your sensations and own them. With that, comes choice and control.
Finally, it’s important to roll with that feeling. It’s powerful for a reason. Emotions are employees of relationships. When we think we have to hide the feeling or eliminate it, we fail to honor its purpose in the relationship.
Can you make sense of what shame is trying to accomplish?
What is shame trying to protect or preserve?
Is there a functional way to get this goal met?
By understanding the problem and the resulting feeling, we are free to choose how we can influence our environment around us to reach the desired outcome.
Feelings are our friends.
Yes, this is a cheesy therapist saying, but if you understand anything from this post, it’s to listen to your emotions. Befriending your feelings and their resulting behavior can help you to control the impact of your own thoughts and the world around you. You can heal from this shame and reconnect with others.
The more we feel and depend on secure others, the more we are free to go about the world around us. If you are struggling to form secure attachments with others, or find you have a negative relationship with yourself, schedule a session at Cycles Couples Counseling and let us help you understand these powerful emotions like shame.