SHAME AND GUILT
Shame can be the hardest to disclose but the light of day can help us reclaim who we really are (and actually always were)
At first glance, these two may seem interchangeable. Sometimes we just feel bad in ourselves and it can be hard to put our finger on exactly why. But shame and guilt are very different. Guilt makes us feel bad about something we did or did not do. Often we can put that right, our guilt feelings can be eased and we can learn from the experience.
Unlike Guilt, Shame goes to the core of who we are. It can be the deepest, most painful and hardest to come to terms with, because it means we feel bad about the totality of ourselves. At some point, we got the idea that we are bad, or not good enough: not acceptable as we are. Over the years, this idea can solidify into a belief and then harden into a perceived truth about ourselves. We increasingly feel we need to conceal who we really are, because if we were truly seen, we would be found wanting and rejected. See the work of Brené Brown on Shame and Vulnerability (TED talks and books) for more on this area.
There will be a good reason why we came to believe that we are bad/ not good enough, whether we were told it or deduced it from what did and did not happen in our early lives. This negative view of the self then gets wired into our nervous system, setting up anxiety and adrenal stress. At the same time it acts like a filter on our perceptions of the world: confirming our bad feelings about ourselves, predicting negative outcomes and causing us to shut down and cut off from human connection. We may even stop striving and taking risks for what our rational minds tell us we deserve (because deep down we don’t feel we deserve anything). Instead of enjoying the love, happiness and fulfilment which we all have a right to, we can end up isolated, immobilised and miserable.
A sense of deep shame and self-blame can be burned into us via experiences in early life. This is not natural, we are not born self-critical. Whether circumstances led us to unrealistic expectations of ourselves (which we failed to meet because they were unrealistic and inappropriate), or through neglect or one of the many forms of abuse, the result can be early rejection of ourselves.
Gentle therapy can help to unpick the self-blame and build a more positive sense of self. Hypnotherapy may also play a role, connecting with the unconscious mind and body memory to allow painful feelings to be released at the heart and gut level while the mind is calm. Spiritual healing can help us reclaim a positive sense of self at all levels: mind, body and soul. When the reasons for taking on such a negative, self-punishing view of the self are understood, anxiety and adrenal stress may then be lessened, allowing the mind to open to the possibility that we too deserve happiness. At that point, we can start to discover we have the tools to seek and find it.
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Dissolving the blocks to self-healing
Kathryn Scorza is a skilled Hypnotherapist and Spiritual Healer based in North London.