By Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC
The shame storm can creep up and grab you from behind. You can be minding your own business and just run right smack into it. It’ll knock you off course, sending you reeling and turning back into your most difficult thoughts, your old fears spinning their webs, heart racing, busily planning to protect and defend at all costs. Sometimes you can even see it coming and it still envelops you. So frustrating.
You know what I mean, right? The internal whirlwind of feeling that you have really messed up, coupled with a sense that you are all wrong. It is motivated by a fear that you might be seen for who you really are – a mess, not so worthy, a screw-up; simply not good enough for anyone or anything. Does this sound familiar?
I know it all feels so personal. Does it help to know that it happens to all of us?
Shame is a universal feeling. We live in a largely shame informed and motivated society. It is everywhere. It is insidious.
Here’s the thing. It might not be completely avoidable but there are some things that really do help. You can quiet the storm, alleviate some suffering, and connect with the bottom-line: this-is-me, here I am truth. And this is some sweet relief.
Remember that above all else, you are worthy because you breathe.
So here you go…
1. Shame triggers are everywhere. It can be helpful to know what your triggers commonly are. Is it money stuff? Are you bound to be triggered by a certain person in your life, at a specific place? Is it usually about your appearance or your productivity? Does perfectionism love to spin a tale that sends you reeling? Can your partner really push your buttons? Notice what gets you most frequently. And then notice the timing. Are you more likely to get triggered when you are riding high or really exhausted? Does it happen more if you are alone or with others? Do the triggers tend to pile up and then topple you over? Knowing your patterns can help normalize the storm when it comes in.
2. Stop what you are doing. If we are in the hotbed of shame, we are usually running a story over and over in our heads or we are working desperately to fix something about ourselves. Stop and do neither. You do not have to explain it nor you do have to make a plan to fix it. Instead, notice exactly what is happening such as:
-My heart is beating fast.
-I need to cry but I can’t.
-I feel scared.
-I’m so angry.
-I can’t sit still.
-I want to hide.
Something is hurt inside that is asking for your kind and compassionate attention. Notice this need. See if you can soften towards it. Fear will be there too, but it’s not a barrier. Move it to the side to bring in kindness.
3. Speak it or write it. All of it – as much as you can. Tell it to someone who has earned your trust. Write it down in your journal (or plan to burn it). Shame is painful because it is rooted in fear that you will be rejected or you are inherently worthless. The thing is, you are not meant to house these fears and thoughts inside of you – locked away and private. This pain deserves to be witnessed and heard (and then released). We all have it; it is rarely logical. Brené Brown has taught us that shame grows when unspoken. Get it up and out. This takes gumption and practice because everything in you may be thinking “don’t go there”. Do the opposite of your inclination.
4. Resolve to treat yourself kindly while you wait out the storm. No fixing. No planning other than for compassionate self-care. This is an opportunity to practice facing shame while staying in connection with your self. Remember that above all else, you are worthy because you breathe. Your life matters AND it will be a bumpy ride. Shame is a side effect of living in this culture and being human. Keep going anyway.
“What You Can Do In A Shame Storm http://ctt.ec/gno77+ #BodyTrust @BeNourished”
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Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC is a therapist and co-founder of Be Nourished. She encourages conscious and authentic living, with the courage to love yourself anyway.