How to Work with Shame

Nathanson (1992) presents a fabulous tool to show us how shame shows up. When we look at the middle axis of withdrawal and avoidance, we see two different behaviours. With withdrawal, there is hiding and disconnection. We know from research that disconnection leads to depression and is less than optimal.

With avoidance, we deny the shame and try our very best to disconnect from the feeling. We use drugs, alcohol, food, TV, gambling, gaming or sex to numb the feeling and avoid the shame. What is not being tended to here is our deep need for connection.

On the horizontal axis we find anger. Anger towards the self and the other. Shame isolates and separates, it is connected to unworthiness, not feeling worthy of love, acceptance and connection. 

Brene Brown (2012), talks about EMPATHY as the antidote to shame. Empathy builds connection, compassion and courage. When empathy is present, and we share our shame, and it is received with compassion, this is a profoundly healing space.

Choosing the right person to share shame with is vital. Sometimes the best person is someone who has training in holding space and with compassionate practices, such as a therapist. 

I know for myself, having shared my own shame with my therapists over the years, the power of sharing with another compassionate person. It gave me tremendous relief and powerful reframes in many cases. I was able to see myself as they saw me, through the eyes of compassion.

If shame is a feeling you know well, I encourage you to find a therapist or counsellor who is a good fit for you and to start this work. The liberation that comes is priceless. If you feel called to work with me, I am currently taking on new clients and would love to hear from you. The link to book is here

How to Work with Shame

References: Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of Self (1992), Nathanson 

Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly. Penguin Books: UK.