Shame is a powerful and overwhelming emotion that can cause people to withdraw from their relationships. Shame can also make it challenging to communicate openly and honestly with others. Feeling ashamed can affect one’s ability to express their authentic wants, needs and desires and hinder intimacy and connection.
Once you become aware of someone’s shame, sit with them in it and do not attempt to change or move past it. However, there are ways that you can overcome shame; here are 5 ways to start healing the feeling:
The 5 S’s of Healing Shame
SEE – Identify shame triggers and learn about how these affect you in your relationships.
SELF-TALK – You can change how you talk to yourself by changing what you say. For example, if your inner critic tells you that “you are not enough,” try replacing this with a statement like “I am enough” or something else in line with the truth of who and what is really important for you.
SAFETY – Recognize the urge to isolate in order to feel safe as you move through the feelings of shame. When another person creates a safe environment, you are able to be vulnerable.
SHARE – By sharing your story, the other person can regulate your emotions and respond with empathy and understanding.
SHAKE– Set boundaries and let go of the relationships perpetuating the shame cycle where you are not seen, heard and understood.
Therapy can also be an antidote to shame as it provides a framework to learn and act on the 5 S’s of healing shame. In addition, therapy offers a safe environment to be vulnerable, share your story, understand your shame triggers, and develop distress tolerance skills.
Vulnerability and empathy are the antidotes to shame. Although sharing how you feel may seem counterintuitive, it is essential in mitigating the painful effects of shame.
Laura Moore, MPsy., is a psychodynamic therapist at the Centre For Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR) in Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C. Psych. Laura provides psychological services to adults and couples experiencing a wide range of concerns. Laura has a particular interest and expertise in relationship distress, with an emphasis on interpersonal and couple relationship functioning. Laura has helped countless individuals navigate issues related to intimacy, fertility, sex, infidelity, separation and divorce. Additionally, her past research focuses on cultivating spousal attunement following traumatic experiences.