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A Roadmap to Healing Shame

Shame has a job description: hide all that I am and need because ‘I am wrong’. It often begins in childhood. The child experiences a message, whether covert or overt; real or imagined, that they are defective. Their acceptance into the family circle seems jeopardized and the kid runs for cover by hiding who they really are and what they really need. The child’s reasoning to hide their true authentic self is their solution to survival. The child instinctively knows that being rejected and left to fend for himself in this big scary world is not a viable option. It would have been insane for him/her to foster the possibility of their needs being met on their own. They figured out its best to turn on themselves, halting the possibility of saying or doing things that the caretaker disapproves of. An inner critic emerges to save the day. He will keep the child in line. If any sign of disapproval is sensed, the inner critic will lash out in criticism against his own self for causing any possibility of being rejected. It’s the only way to keep him safe. 

Shame is so good at hiding. This poison in a person's soul is difficult to recognize but needs to be exposed in order to heal. There are some very subtle tell-tale signs to look out for: 

  1. A person that does not hold respect and honor for themselves. 

  2. They feel inadequate in many ways.

  3. They are disgraced for just being human. 

  4. They often exhibit perfectionism, depression, hypervigilance, performance anxiety, or hypercritical of self. 

The caveat here is that healing of shame can not take place until we recognize the inner critic. We have lived with him for so long; he is just so familiar. But one needs to capture him, accept him and invite him into a relationship that fosters love in a non-judgemental environment. Once the critic feels safe, he may be open to explore hidden emotions and false conclusions about themselves and others that were formed as a child. 

If you recognize this inner critic it's helpful to engage in the following:

  1. Accept yourself as you are.

  2. Challenge the critical statements with positive truths about who you are. 

  3. Find the root system that is keeping this shame alive. (This often requires a counselor).

  4. Find relationships where you can be free to be yourself.

  5. Join a community that understands you.

In this process we are viewing shame as a valuable emotion rather than an embarrassment. It can point to the hidden parts that could not bear to be recognized by others. Finding shame and ways to heal is a gateway to be made whole once again.

Dr. Anita J Arrunategui/NICABM: ‘How to Deal with Shame”/Peter Walker: “CPTSD”/Images: Canva Pro

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