Shame: it is one of the most painful human emotions but we have an antidote:
Introducing Self-Compassion to Shame
Self-compassion neutralizes the idea that you are a “bad person” and normalizes the experience of setbacks and disappointments encountered in life. It allows you to balance out the lights and shadows in your life and restores you to a more peaceful and compassionate understanding of yourself.
Self-compassion is a more generous, empathic, and respectful way to dialogue with yourself. “Beating yourself up” and keeping secrets is a common way to respond to shame but is typically counterproductive and it tends to burden and isolate us further.
To dislodge shame, a concerted effort is needed, one that moves us forward into healthier and more helpful ways of thinking about ourselves. Consider trying a few of the practices below to quiet the inner critic and access your innate value, potential, and goodness—the beauty of every human being. If it is possible, engage with trusted friends or a counsellor to obtain support for this new way of dialoguing about yourself.
- Learn to Process as You Go. Notice and process distress (not engaging in denial or dissociation practices).
- Mindfully Accept All Emotions. Be aware of and accept painful thoughts and feelings; allow them to ebb and flow (not minimizing or maximizing difficulties).
- Engage in Learning, Not Judgment. Learn from your experience (not overly critical of your situation or behaviour).
- Be Empathic To Distress. Understand the source of your distress and do what is necessary or helpful to alleviate it (not remaining in the painful story).
- Offer Kindness to Harshness. Offer understanding, generosity, and kindness in the face of failure or setbacks (not harsh judgment or undue criticism).
- See Yourself in Your Shared Humanity. View your experiences as part of being human (not believing that it is unique or worthy of isolation practices).
- Stay Deeply Connected. Offer warmth and emotional connection to others (not punishing or freezing yourself out of relationships).
- Convey Security. Express your capability for weathering strong emotions (not devaluing your own efforts and abilities).
- Understand your body’s threat system and brain functions under stress.
- Plan strategies to cope with and avoid external triggers or threats.
- Mindfully and compassionately accept emotions and the sensory information associated with memories.
- Reframe the story with self-compassion and empathy and include other parts of the overall narrative. Your friends and family can help with this.
- Increase your sense of safety or comfort by making changes to your physical or psychological environment.
- Practice meditations and visualizations to decrease stress and threat system activation.
- Increase social support and self-esteem by joining others in talking and working through shame narratives.
- Increase genuine concern for your own well-being and let others care for you when they offer.
I sincerely hope these practices of self-compassion will assist you in deconstructing shame in your life and constructing a more hopeful and happier future.
Peace to you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC