How to Get a Piece of Peace in Your Life

Friday, June 24, 2005

On Shame

We frequently speak of our sadness, anger, joy, guilt, anxiety, and even fear. But we rarely speak of our shame.

Shame is one of the first emotions we experience as infants. It is a healthy shame when we first realize that we are human, that we are not perfect, and that we depend on others for our survival. It is an unhealthy shame when it permeates through to how we view ourselves.

When you look in the mirror, and you look past appearances, do you like the person you see? Do you love the person you see?

Do you allow yourself to make mistakes? Do you give yourself a break?

Do you omit blame and criticism from your personal interactions?

Do you have healthy relationships with strong boundaries?

If the answer is not yes, there is a chance that you have an unhealthy level of shame, embedded in your psyche from your childhood years.

Shame is one of the emotions we felt as children, as we became more aware of who we were. The amount of shame depends on the appropriateness of the parenting and the level of love we felt. Shame is also one of the emotions that is rarely modeled for us. People are often even ashamed of having shame. We hide it, ignore it, and in doing so, we embody it, make it a part of us, and let it manifest in a variety of ways that are quite difficult to detect as shame-based.

Psychotherapist John Bradshaw wrote Healing the Shame That Binds You. One of the exercises in this book concentrates on healing the inner child. See if this shortened version does anything for you.

Take a moment to close your eyes and go back in time to your childhood when you may have felt shame, abandonement, or suffering. As the adult, take the child that is you by the hand, let your child know that he/she is loved, that you know him/her better than anyone else, and that you will never ever leave. Then, allow your child to shrink into the size of your hand and place your child in your heart. Keep your child safe there as you go to a peaceful place in nature and awaken your whole mind and heart to your world.

If this has any affect, you may want to check out the book for other exercises and insight into the many effects that shame can have on you.

If nothing else, write down some of the things you are most ashamed of. Writing it down separates this emotion from who you are. Throw away the paper when you are done if you wish. You can also visit Speaking Your Peace or PostSecret if you wish to release any shame anonymously yet publicly.

Then, tell yourself, "I love you and accept you unconditionally exactly as you are." Do this as often as you can.

Do not let shame hide within your beautiful self.