Portland Therapy Blog

Portland Therapy Blog

Local experts share the latest information and resources on all things mental health.

Thoughts on Shame

Posted: January 16, 2014 by [email protected]

I’ve been thinking a lot about shame lately. One difficult thing about shame is that it compounds on itself, similar to having to pay interest on a loan. And the interest rate is high. If you only make the minimum payment, it will take a long time to pay off and you will end up paying much more than the original cost. Shame says, “You’re not worthy of living a full life,” and it uses an array of scare tactics to keep you prisoner. Shame is like an infection of the psyche that perpetuates itself whenever it gets the chance.

Let’s say someone comes up to you and makes a sarcastic comment about how you look. If your ability to deflect the insult is compromised, shame can exert itself, manipulating your emotions and getting some part of you to agree with that insult. The more you agree with the insult, the more shame thrives. This process is almost always unconscious. No one is asking if you agree with the insult or not; no one is asking if fear is playing a role in this process. It hurts deeply and we are vulnerable to the pain. We want to escape and end the pain as quickly as possible, but doing so often means ignoring deeper issues and pretending to be strong.

Unfortunately, we live in a time where many people have trouble being truly honest about their fears and shame, making it very difficult to work through them. There seems to be a cultural agreement that shame is permanent and there is nothing you can do about it. The fear of believing shame’s insults prevents us from actually dealing with and healing the wound. But what are we afraid of? What will actually happen if we address the insults that have so deeply affected us? Usually, we have no idea. Fear rouses our emotions and predicts disaster and catastrophe without any actual evidence, keeping us in a fog of avoidance and confusion. Shame keeps us living in the past and fearing the future. It takes us out of being present in the present.

When working through shame, there will be many frustrating moments. There will be times when you want quick answers and immediate fixes. You’ll want to stop the painful feelings that come up, to close yourself off and escape. But when you truly long to be free, you will find the motivation to do the hard work needed to overcome shame. To accept the painful feelings and allow them to run through you. To grieve. To deeply trust that this too shall pass. To cry healing tears. The journey will be tough, but the destination will be more than worth it.

Come and see what’s on the other side.

Tags: mood and feelings