Loneliness is partly because we are ashamed of admitting that we’re all flawed, imperfect, wounded creatures.
I bet you’ve clicked on this blog because you want to banish shame forever.
Perhaps you’re struggling with the fallout from an affair or you’re single and feel ashamed about it. Perhaps you worry if someone really knew you – perhaps even your partner – they wouldn’t love you. We really need a cure for shame because it is the most toxic feeling of all. It stops us connecting with other people and, in my opinion, we were put on this planet to connect.
To be honest, I’m a little ashamed myself because this blog title is a bit of a come-on. You think I’m going to tell you how to stop shame feelings and I’m not. In fact, I’m going to ask you to accept shame, witness it and not run away. Before you click away in disgust, horror or anger. Let me explain, accepting shame is the best way to deal with it, to connect with other people and to finally feel whole.
I’d like to thank Catherine who saw a link between my work and that of Brene Brown – a US researcher and academic – on the subject of vulnerability:
Five ways to stop shame
1. Accept the shame
Everybody feels shame and sometimes it’s for a good reason. However, because you’re terrified of shame you justify to yourself (you’re not ‘THAT bad’, ‘there’s somebody down the hall who is far worse’ or you did it for a ‘good reason’) or you switch off (by working too hard, watching TV or playing computer games) or block out the feelings (by having a drink, flirting with strangers on line or contacting your mistress / lover who’ll say you’re wonderful).
Unfortunately, you just set up another heap of shame poured over your head. When you justify yourself to your partner, he or she gets angry and tells us you’re worthless, less than human or even unlovable (and reminds you of how much you hurt him or her). Burying yourself will get the accusation – ‘you don’t understand’,’ you’re minimising’ and ‘you don’t care’. Meanwhile getting drunk or re-establishing contact with your ex will make you feel worse the next morning, not better.
2. Witness the shame
Take a deep breath and another and another. You will feel a little calmer. Tell yourself: ‘I feel ashamed and that’s OK. In fact, it’s a good sign that I can witness it.’ The alternative is to push it away but everything that’s cast into the shadows become more frightening and grows more power.
It is also much better to witness rather than trying to shame your partner for making you ashamed – ‘why can’t you get over it’ or ‘how can we move on if you keep harping on all the time.’
3. Report the shame
Tell your partner: ‘I feel ashamed about my behaviour’. It is also powerful to explain why (for example ‘I shouldn’t have name called’) and to acknowledge the impact (‘I must have made you feel terrible’). You could also apologise too.
4. Learn from the shame
One of my new messages is that our feelings are trying to tell us something. So what is your shame telling you? What would you like to do differently? Why did you slip into shameful behaviour? How could you avoid it next time round?
5. Make amends for shame
Think about how you could make up for the hurt. Time and again, after an affair, I find the discoverer is stuck because he or she is so full of shame that they are unable to act or keep saying ‘I can’t turn back the clock’. However, they could be more loving today, they could do those jobs around the house that they’ve never got round to doing, they could try and become a better version of themselves.
At this point, you will be able to forgive yourself and feel whole again. Maybe, your partner will also forgive especially if he or she can see that you’ve understood the full impact of your shameful behaviour.
There is more about the toxic impact of shame in my book My Husband Doesn’t Love Me and He’s Texting Someone Else.
- What have been your experiences of shame?
- What’s your take on how to stop shame feelings?
- Does trying to be perfect makes things better or worse?
Please post your comments below.