How do you overcome shame?

How do you overcome shame?

We all experience some kind of difficulty in understanding yourself, because it is impossible to get a sincere and adequate response from loved ones to absolutely all aspects of personality. In the process of working on yourself you will gradually learn to fill the “gaps” in the unconscious. Never too late to seek the attention and reaction of the environment, which was so lacking in childhood.

The worse you know the opinion of others about you, the more fertile ground for the most sophisticated fantasies and fears. The better you know – the opposite, the more developed your social skills and the more confident you are in communication.

If you are afraid to look stupid or ashamed of something, then all your attention will be focused on others and their thoughts about your appearance and behavior. You can get rid of such anguish with a question to the forehead. Some people find the following approach helpful: “I have an assignment, will you help me with it? What do you think of me?”

You’ll probably hear only nice things about yourself at first, since the person will think you’re looking for praise. Then ask him to be sincere and honest. If possible, ask a leading question, “What do you think my problems are?” If the person has trouble answering right off the bat, give him or her time to think about it.

To save yourself, you can ask this question to someone close and friendly. However, you will not know the whole truth, so it’s better to be courageous and talk to someone who, unlike friends, will not sing you serenades. Only then will form a more or less complete picture.

Once on a course I gave students a task: “Ask three people what they think of you, and share what you hear with those present. I remember how one woman during her speech blushed slightly and even shed a few tears of happiness as she shared observations that made her learn something new and pleasant about herself. This assignment opened the eyes of most of the listeners, as they became more aware of how they are seen by those around them.

Take the feedback the right way

Don’t take the answer to the question posed literally. Everyone looks at the world through their own unique filter, so two people will never interpret what happened the same way, even if they are thinking in the same direction. The same goes for people’s reactions, which says more about them and their perception of the world around them than it does about you. However, even in such an interpretation, you can learn something useful. For example, some things are sure to surprise you, and others will only confirm your assumptions. The more people you interview in this way, the more accurate the picture you get.

If you feel ashamed when you receive feedback, it means that you have approached another gap in your understanding of yourself.

I’ve been in this situation myself. When someone used the word “little” in relation to me, I would get anxious and my head would start pounding, “Too little to go with us,” or my mother’s words would come to mind, “At least learn to walk in high heels.”

I really had to work hard to accept my short stature and fragile psyche. But the first open conversation about my shortcomings brought relief. I caught sympathetic glances and thus gradually learned to look at my problem from a positive perspective. And it also became clear that this revelation had no effect on the people who still loved me.

You probably also want to hear something that has been tormenting you for a long time. It may well be related to a lack of attention and inner support.

The very fact of awareness of their shortcomings already gives a great opportunity to correct them, because it is at this point you begin to understand exactly where you need help.

The person who expressed an opinion about you, is likely to want to discuss your weaknesses, rewarding you with a sympathetic look. And it also happens that you seek help from loved ones with whom you have a closer relationship. The most important thing – do not keep it all inside. Simply put, shame comes down to this: hide and don’t talk to anyone.

Listen to your hidden desires and needs

Listening and understanding yourself comes with practice. Direct your attentive and sensitive gaze inside yourself. What does your body feel? What about your heart? What do you want most right now? As you ask these questions, sit down in front of the mirror. Chances are, your first desire will be superficial. Diving to deeper levels will help with this question, “What’s good about it?”

Suppose a cupcake is the first thing that comes to your mind. What are the benefits of eating the baked goods? You will probably be satisfied with yourself and find inner harmony. I wonder if there are other ways to achieve the same effect?

If your wish is devoid of thoughtlessness and it can be executed without much effort and unpleasant consequences, be sure to do it. The main thing is not to overdo it. Feel lonely and dreams of returning ex-lover? Fight for her or register on a dating site and find a new partner.

If you dream of something unreal, such as pining for the deceased or want to grow up for ten years, you can grieve. Sometimes it takes a good cry to be happy again.

Go to deeper levels.

You can confront shame with more confidence if you connect with the most remote corners of your inner world, where neither social roles nor even opinions about yourself matter. We’re talking about a kind of void, a vacuum where you’re not stupid or smart or beautiful or ugly – where you’re just a living being.

Try to calm down. Concentrate on who is behind all your thoughts swirling around in your head in the here and now. Who is behind your responsibilities, your positions, and all the other tinsel. Who has been looking at the world through your eyes all these years. Who is constant and unfazed. Who you have always been.

Imagine a sea, the surface of which is covered by rippling waves, but on the bottom there is absolute silence. Even during a storm. The external ripples are your thoughts. If you identify with it for the most part, your personality is hardly sustainable, because your thoughts are usually fleeting.

In those moments when life gets stormy and what is happening, whether good or bad, overwhelms me, I like to imagine looking at it all from somewhere below, sitting in the depths in silence and calm, where the wind and other weather conditions do not interfere. I also sometimes distance myself in a different way: I think about how I will feel about what is happening now in three years.

The more closely you connect with the part of your personality that looks at things from a broader perspective, the better you will be able to cope with the curve of ups and downs that life has laid out. By retreating to the farthest corners of your soul, you begin to worry less about the opinions of others regarding your appearance or an accidentally thrown phrase.

In different cultures, this depth has different names: the watching self, the observing self, or the inner self.

No need to be shy: how to overcome shame and find harmony with yourself

Alpina Publisher publishes a book by psychotherapist Ilse Sand, “Shame: How to stop being afraid of being misunderstood.” Sand explains what causes shame and how to get rid of this suffocating feeling. We publish an excerpt from the chapter on how to identify the causes of your shame and gain courage.

By identifying character traits or finding situations in which shame arises, you begin to notice difficulties in understanding yourself.

This causes unpleasant feelings: you are likely to experience helplessness, you want to hide or run away from prying eyes. Thus you distance yourself from the shame, and it is at this point in front of you several scenarios.

At first there is a desire to change the situation, drove you into the paint. For example, suffering from unemployment, you will begin to search harder for a new source of income. If during the recruitment of the soccer team you are often chosen last, you will train even harder to outdo your rivals. And at the sight of a dirty car, you’ll wash it to a shine. The decision to fix the embarrassment is relieving and sometimes even has positive consequences. The only problem is that if your shame is hypertrophied, there is a risk of its occurrence already in other life situations. For example, you were able to lose five pounds, which you have long dreamed of, but it is likely that your attention will soon be occupied by a too obvious wrinkle on the face or dirt under the fingernails.

There are also cases when a person, faced with serious consequences, decides to avoid embarrassing situations for himself. For example, out of fear of losing, you do not participate in sports competitions. Experiencing internal anxiety, you are likely to choose to remain silent in the company of strangers, although in fact you want to share something important. You may even enter into a relationship with a person you do not like, just so you are not ashamed of his own loneliness. But working on self-awareness, you are more effectively fight this disease. Do not forget that you can work on several fronts simultaneously, but then the process is somewhat slow.

Working on shame helps to understand yourself.

If your baggage of knowledge and experience includes shameful or unpleasant stories that you don’t want to remember, you are especially vulnerable to similar situations in the future. For example, having felt to this day the unpleasant aftermath of a general boycott in the schoolyard, you double the risk of losing your temper in a similar situation when you are not understood or not heard.

“One day I signed up for a programming course. The ad said that the program was designed for beginners, but in fact it was designed for advanced people. The instructor used a lot of obscure words, so I had to ask a lot of questions. After a while, he simply started ignoring most of my requests. There was irritation in his heavy sighs and words, and a look of despair on his face. When I came home, I felt so awful that I lay awake all night. Emma, 33 years old

If our protagonist had not been bullied earlier in another life situation, she would have immediately understood that there was a misunderstanding and the teacher’s manner of communication cannot be called normal. However, her unworked emotions caused her to look for the problem in herself.

If Emma had known her worth, she would have thought that the instructor had snapped at her and would have fought him back, insisting that, at the elementary level, she had a right to ask questions and get adequate answers. Or she could have left the classroom altogether, since such a course would hardly have done her any good. However, past episodes of the same kind surfaced from beneath her consciousness, causing her to temporarily fall into a stupor and only a day later realize her own “innocence” in what had happened.

The presence of unprocessed emotions indicates the instability of your mental state, which can worsen with the occurrence of situations similar to those for which you have suffered in the past. At such times, there is a great risk of feeling misunderstood again, because you will not be able to offer the necessary resistance and to protect yourself from the shame that comes with it.

If you have dealt with past experiences, however, your understanding of yourself improves, and confidence grows that the problem is not with you. The closer the connection with yourself, the easier it is to identify the source of all inconsistencies and the more effective will be your reaction to what has happened, including a defensive one.

Shame as a relational feeling

As mentioned earlier, shame arises from misunderstandings. Mistakes in a relationship need to be corrected in the relationship itself, even new ones. They form a fertile ground for making adjustments. Surely you have in mind a person who can help in times of need. You can easily tell him about your difficulties and feel relieved, bathed in his healing glance and kind words of support. In this way, the accumulated negativity is neutralized in just one meeting, filled with understanding and empathy, thanks to which you find inner harmony.

“I used to be afraid to take off my shirt, because I weighed a kilogram more than my “psychological norm” and was embarrassed about my stomach. I had to sweat silently, feeling uncomfortable. Once at a party by the sea the temperature rose to +25°C. After two beers, I got braver and still took off my shirt. Suddenly a sense of shame overwhelmed me, and I started looking under my feet. But people were still talking about their own things, and I calmed down a bit, looked up, and looked around. No one had even noticed the change. So I slowly began to enjoy the sun and the warm wind blowing around my belly.” Casper, 48

For years, overweight, Kasper sweated for fear of disgusting others. He plucked up the courage to test his assumption and discovered that, in reality, no one was even going to tease or exorcise him. Thus he gained a new freedom.

“I used to avoid people when I was tired, as if it was the only right and natural thing to do. This went on for several years. With few exceptions, when I couldn’t be alone with myself, I had to spend time with people, even though I was mentally and physically exhausted. It was precisely at these moments that a sense of shame was awakened. I had the impression that I had nothing to give, which made me feel misunderstood and “naked. I longed to get away so that I could be alone for a long time, to gain strength, and to wipe away the traces of fatigue from my face.

When I met my current lover, he kept marveling at my liveliness and cheerfulness. “Don’t worry if you didn’t hear something or said nonsense,” he encouraged me. One evening we were resting together for the first time, and I suddenly burst into tears of exhaustion. But that didn’t push him away. On the contrary, we got closer, and I relaxed a little. Since then I’ve learned that it’s actually even fun and helpful to be around the person you love at times when you lose your temper, such as when it happens to me. And my man loves me tired as much as awake and full of energy. Doreta, 52

Sometimes we avoid a certain situation so often that we do it mechanically and probably don’t even understand the reason we’re pulling away from people ourselves.

For example, Sarah is frightened by the mere thought that her gift might not be accepted.

My son grew out of his bicycle, but the wheels are still in good condition. I remember when we were kids, we used to build a go-kart track out of these wheels. On the playground outside my house, I noticed the kids. They were at that age where any discarded item triggers a lot of emotions and awakens the imagination. I was about to go downstairs and give them the bike, but suddenly I froze in place. In an instant I could picture them staring at me with indifference, and then laughing. The warmth was gone from my body, and the ground was gone from under my feet. I instantly lost my composure and my inner harmony. It was so unpleasant at heart that I immediately changed my mind about giving away the old bike. Sarah, 38 years old

Wanting to please a person with some thing, Sarah often pulls herself back. There are several reasons for this. For example, she fears that one will misunderstand her, and the other will not pay attention to her care at all.

If she could get over her fear, Sarah would stop hiding in the shadows and share things as she would want to. Then she would notice how much others appreciate her generosity, and she would learn to resist shame when someone is not happy with her gift.

Beyond that, she should tell the potential recipient about her desire to give something.

“Once, while sitting with my lover in a restaurant, I wanted to pay the bill in full, but I was afraid of getting rejected, which might have exacerbated my feelings of shame. I decided not to insist, but simply to share my thoughts out loud: “Let me pay it all. I know how you’re having to save money right now, so I wanted to make you happy.” At that moment I felt like a fool, and I knew that the slightest resistance would only make my mood worse. He was well aware of this, and fortunately, he found the right words: “Whatever you say,” my partner replied with a smile and looked at me with a kind, warm look. Now it didn’t matter what he really wanted anymore.” Sarah, 38

Here the shame is caused by the desire itself. But it gets a positive response, and that makes Sara feel good. At the same time, there is a growing resistance to feeling alienated if suddenly her gift is not accepted. If it happens, she will not lose her temper and will continue to act as she pleases.

As a child, Gerda did not receive proper support when she was sad. On the contrary, her parents scolded her and asked her to end her despondency. Already in adulthood, experiencing sadness made her lose her inner harmony. And when a person has difficulty sorting out his or her own feelings, things won’t be smooth in a relationship either.

“Before my first psychotherapy session, I had difficulty maintaining a close relationship with anyone for a long time. I was almost instantly tired and wanted to be alone. If I failed to set boundaries, my strength immediately left me, and at the slightest resistance I began to cry. I tried in every way to hide my condition from the eyes of others, because I was afraid of being an outcast. I wanted to go away unnoticed and be alone with myself.

Depression forced me to see a specialist, in front of whom I slowly began to show the real me, even with tears in my eyes. On the one hand, the therapist’s reaction was reassuring, but on the other, it had painful consequences. Unhappy episodes from my childhood flashed through my mind. I was overwhelmed with different feelings: both anger at my parents, whose actions had traumatized my psyche, inspired a sense of alienation, and sadness at the realization of the lack of love and affection which I so lacked at home.

After a couple of years, I changed my mindset completely, and I noticed that in the most desperate situations, a much more natural need – human support – was hidden deep inside, underneath the desire to be alone with myself.” Gerda, 57

You may agree that Gerda did the right thing by going to therapy. However, it is very difficult to admit the mistakes of parents you thought were perfect when you were a child. It will take a long time before you find the strength to recognize the mistakes of a past life.At the same time, you will awaken in you a lot of feelings that do not immediately get along with the newly formed self-awareness.

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For a while, because of my bad mood, I could not rejoice in the success of my fellow students on the personal front, because it only caused me pain. My dream of mutual love was reverberating in my head with such force that I had already lost faith in my own happiness. I dared to tell my priest, psychotherapist and our group leader, Bent Falk, about my problem. He suggested the following reaction to such news: “Very happy for you, although somewhere deep down I feel a little uncomfortable. I would like to be in your shoes. “I’ll try to put it that way,” I replied. My heart almost jumped out of my chest, and my gaze lowered in embarrassment. – But that would be a lie on my part. For I feel only pain.” “Poor child,” he said, and looked at me sympathetically. – Is it really that bad for you?” As I listened to the advice, I felt the approval in his gaze. And from that moment on, I began to accept feelings for which just a few minutes ago I hated myself.

Be careful in your choice of listener

Shame is cured by a conversation on a relevant topic with an understanding person who can support you. However, it is important to make sure that the interlocutor is able to listen to your experiences, and do not go away and not criticize you. Otherwise, you run the risk of even more alienated from people than before.

That is why it is necessary to choose an interlocutor responsibly. I told Bent Falk about my feelings of envy because I knew I could trust him. But sometimes it really is better to ask a specialist. For example, if I talked to my mother, she would probably feel ashamed, too, including for her own daughter who cannot be happy for others. I would hear her say: “This needs to get over” or “Why don’t you work on it?” And the sense of aloofness would have escalated even more.

Sometimes it’s best not to share problems with people close to you, because your shame can be contagious. As a result, they, like you, can not do anything to help or even say something stupid. For example, your sister will be ashamed to have such a sister who…

And it also happens that the interlocutor will not be able to listen to you, because he himself is ashamed of something like this, and because of your shame wakes up his own.

It is also important to choose the right time. If the person is in a bad mood or busy, there is a great risk to get an indifferent answer, just because the person did not get in touch with you.

If you are not sure that among friends and family will be found understanding person who can listen to you at the most critical moment, it is better to contact a therapist who at least give you professional advice and give you confidence that can, like a shield, close you from shame.

If you discuss the problem with several people, you can noticeably speed up the process of getting rid of shame. However, one person is usually enough.

Take your time if fear looms on the horizon.

Sometimes shame is so painful that you can’t say it out loud. Here are tips that can gradually gain the courage and strength.

  1. Write a letter to your deceased grandmother or any other deceased person you trusted.
  2. Tell about your problem with the person you are not afraid to lose. This can be a therapist, doctor, acquaintance or a specialist from the Internet, with whom you communicate anonymously.
  3. Write a letter to someone important to you, but do not send it.
  4. Tell only part of the problem to someone important to you (e.g., your partner). Pretend that the situation happened to you in the distant past: “This and that happened to me once. So you distance yourself from shame, thanks to which the grip will be loosened, including the fear.
  5. If during the conversation the interlocutor looks at you with a sympathetic look, try to find the strength to adjust the time to a more real: “It actually happened not so long ago.

Gradually you can move from the easiest point to the more difficult one. However, there are times when you have shared your secret and on a wave of relief you want to continue the struggle. Then it is not necessary to follow absolutely all the recommendations and go in order. It is better to start with the task that is realistic to do. Sometimes this is enough to move on to action. The rest will add up by itself.

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