6. Understanding Shame
Shame is a physical state mediated more by nerves and hormones than by feelings, thoughts and beliefs and is very primal. It is based in relationships/ our bodies and evolution, so it resides in our survival-based back brain. Shame is a mechanism that ensures our survival and keeps us safe; the problem is that sometimes the brain is a bit shit at handling it, and things can get a little or a lot out of hand.
If we had no shame, we would be shameless and unable to connect with others to empathise and care. So, as much as it feels like a horrific state to be in when it hits, it's not always a bad thing. The problem is that we try to avoid it like the plague. Hence, as many of us are out there ridding ourselves of it, we're developing resilience to experiencing it entirely, whereas what we really need to do is understand it, notice it and learn how to manage our reactions and work with it.
The purpose of shame is to ensure our survival within a group or relationship by acting as a kind of break on any behaviours that would lead to harm or rejection from that group or relationship, putting us in danger of being alienated and having to survive alone which, in prehistoric times wouldn't have been advisable!
So, what can I do when it hits?
The fascinating thing is that shame cannot be shifted cognitively (in your mind); it can only shift within a physical state which promotes connection; shame cannot survive empathy and connection with others. So seeing that shame is held in the threat and fight or flight area of our brain, we need to get out of our minds and jump into the safe zone that is daily life where we can find that connection and empathy with others we so desperately need to feel safe. And it's there and only there that you can start working with it; you can't work with your shame if you're stuck in your back brain cause you're too focused on staying alive!
This means that we need to create a safe living space for ourselves where the threat response can switch off, and we can start to work on everything that triggered the shame in the first place. So, we're looking at walks in nature, meditation, reading; whatever soothes your soul, which is where living without the big A (alcohol) comes into its own as it makes such a difference to the quality of our everyday lives but also removes all the damaging chemicals in alcohol that screw with your brain and body and I mean that literally!
Basically, you're looking to create a haven for yourself somewhere where you nurture and prioritise your own well-being, then let the magic of connecting and sharing with your coach or a friend you trust do its bit. From here on, as you work through your shame triggers you will be able to watch your shame slowly melt away, allowing you to take back the reins of your life and thrive again.
This is obviously only a short blog about a vast subject, so please reach out to me with any questions or if you want to know more. I am passionate about SHAME!