Shame and guilt are common feelings that we all experience. But there comes a point when, for many, they can become debilitating and lead into issues like addiction, violence, depression or self-harm. There are ways to overcome them, however, with professional support and some day-to-day exercises to remove the negativity.
Psychology Today writer Dr. David Sack emphasized three points, in particular, to help those dealing with consistent shameful emotions…
Point #1: Don’t Hide Your Feelings
The sad truth is, many people suffer in silence when it comes to shame. As Dr. Sack’s article illustrates, there is a constant feeling of unworthiness and a fear that discussing these emotions will expose the “bad person” you are. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, talking openly about can be a major release, as Dr. Brene Brown explained in the article. “The less we talk about shame, the more power it has over our lives,” she explained. “If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees.”
Point #2: Separate Actions From Emotions
Dr. Sack goes on to explain how these shameful feelings are often tied to actions in our lives. If someone makes a mistake, it can lead to an overwhelming feeling of guilt and self-criticism. For people suffering, the common go-to thought is “I’m an idiot” or “this is the last time I’ll try something like that.” It is important to separate your sense of self-worth from any action you take. And that goes for victories too. Treat both praise and condemnation with a sense of perspective and you won’t have to deal with a rollercoaster of emotions.
Point #3: Recognize Your Triggers
We all have certain sensitivities and if something we feel vulnerable about is triggered, it can quickly spiral into guilt and shame. Sometimes it could be about the way you parent, other times it may have to do with your career earnings. If there’s a particularly touchy subject in your life, it is important that you work on it. And it is also important that you recognize it and (if possible) avoid situations where it may come into question. As Dr. Sack writes, “Rather than give in to these triggers, seek to ban them from your life. Embrace who you are rather than struggling to fulfill an outside notion of who you should be.“
Above all, know that there is always support out there for these types of emotions. If it is something consistent that you are struggling with, please reach out and get help.