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Shame Recovery

Shame lies secretly at the heart of your suffering.

Secretly because it is not something that most people talk about. By its very nature, shame is in the shadows and does not want to be revealed. Its very power comes from its hidden nature.

Shame is what lurks behind anxiety, depression, the effects of trauma, and even the out of control anger.

Shame directly attacks the very essence of who you are. This is why shame is dangerous and damaging.

Let’s take a closer look at what actually happens when shame has taken up residence in you. The upper half of shame constitutes a particular voice while the lower half of shame carries a felt sense in your body. You can usually decipher the voice of shame through its legendary first two words: “You should …”  Whatever comes next will usually render you inadequate and impotent.

Listen to your own voice of shame in the following examples: “You should be more skinny” or “You should be able to handle this” or “You shouldn’t be such a pushover” or “You should be able to make more money.”

The voice of shame also gets its power through comparing you to others. Notice in the above examples how natural it is to add a “like” and then fill in the blank with someone you know that shame believes has the very quality that it says you lack.

Try this one:

“You should be able to make more money like                          .”

Or how about this one:

“You should be more skinny like                                  .”

In this way, shame slowly leaks your potential and your power away by projecting it onto others.

Now let’s turn to how shame is experienced in your body. In your core, there’s often a shrinking, tightening, immobilizing, and even paralyzing quality to shame. Your breath may become shallow or “caught” somewhere in your belly. These sensations cause a closing of your heart, blocking you from the giving or receiving of love.

And when love is unable to be exchanged, then it becomes nearly impossible to have a satisfying and healthy relationship with another.

Watch TED talk, 'Listening to Shame' by Brené Brown

How to become an expert on your shame and start having healthy relationships


How to become an expert on your shame and start having healthy relationships


  • Educate yourself

You can read books on shame, researching it online, or watch movies with shame as a theme.  This is a good place to start.  It can give you more of a framework on it.  Brené Brown’s books, “The Gifts of Imperfection” and “Daring Greatly” are excellent.  The most valuable way to educate yourself about shame, however, is to talk with others about it. Again, shame detests being brought into the light. It’s like that dark corner in your basement that you avoid.

  • Name the shame

When you name something, you then have power over it.  Naming shame causes you to separate from it and not identify with it as much. This has a crippling effect on shame.  You’ll need to have a good grasp on mindfulness to do this.  After naming it, find out what your unique brand of shame is. You can do this through keeping a running list of all the “shoulds” that you discover. Soon you’ll be able to make a top 10 list of the most common “shoulds” that have been directing you.

  • Track your shame

Track your shame constantly until you become an expert on it. Track it until you know when it’ll show before it actually does.  Become familiar with the exact triggers that bring on a shame attack. Is it after you talk with your mom? Or after you spend money? Or after you eat a particular food? Sense the overall patterns. Which people induce a shame response in you? What situations bring up shame? What conversation topics elicit shame?

  • Map out shame in your body

Take out that top-ten list of “shoulds.”  Take a moment to get comfortable and become mindful of your inner experience.  Say each one aloud, taking a few seconds to notice the sensations that happen in your body after each one is spoken.  You’ll be able to form a map of how your feel the shame from the inside out.  This can be helpful in tracking shame because sometimes shame shows up more as a felt sense rather than a voice with a should.  The next time you find yourself feeling small and diminished, you can name that as shame.

  • Create a new voice of acceptance

Again, take that top-ten list of “shoulds” along with a pen and fresh sheet of paper. Then get a cup of tea, sit down and make yourself cozy.  Find a matching statement of acceptance for each “should.” For example, you could turn, “you should be able to handle your emotions better than you do,” into “I accept my emotions for what they are.” Or you could turn, “you should be more skinny,” into “I accept my body just as it is.” By the end you should have a new top-ten list of accepting statements. Repeat these throughout the day to yourself.  Notice how your body feels as you say each one.

  • Start where you are to change

Even if you would like to loose weight or better manage your emotions, the only way for you to make those changes in a healthy way is for you to accept yourself  just as you are.  Shame does not help you change.  It has just the opposite effect.  Carol Rogers, the famous humanistic psychologist once said, “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”  Another way to call this voice of acceptance is self-love and compassion.

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