Simply put, shame stinks (and that’s putting mildly.) In fact, I’d venture to say that it’s the worst, most horrible consequence of suffering from childhood trauma and abuse. Even worse, ignoring shame only exacerbates its power over us causing us to struggle more and more with increased anxiety and fear. However, transforming shame is more than possible-in fact, it’s probable once we recognize it and learn to relate to ourselves with compassion.Heather Nelson, author of “Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame” says that, “Relational disconnection is often rooted in shame.”
Ohh kkk…What the heck does that mean? I can hear you asking 🙂
“Relational disconnection” is just a fancy statement meaning struggling with creating, connecting, and communicating in safe, loving, long term relationships. For example, we have or desire to have, relationships with a variety of others (i.e., God, self, spouse, child, co-workers, friends, etc.)
What is Shame?
Before we look at why that is and more importantly, how shame can be shifted, let’s clarify what shame actually means. (It’s super important to be on the same page about vague concepts like shame 🙂 Therefore, making concepts such as shame easily understandable greatly aids in conquering them.
Brene Brown defines shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.
Struggling with Shame From Abuse Does Not Mean You are Unworthy!
How gut wrenchingly painful?! Unworthy?!!!!
Ugg! How horrible does that feel to believe? Not sure? Similarly, how about feeling like a crazy person, a loser or just plain never good enough? Not smart enough, not loveable enough, not pretty enough, etc. etc. Perhaps you can relate more to those concepts? All of which are simply different ways of experiencing shame.
Whether or not we realize it, all these beliefs within shame prevent us from feeling free, hopeful, worthy, loveable and joyful. Additionally, shame hinders the relationships that we want that would allow us to feel all those beautiful emotions because deep down, like it or not, we feel unworthy.
Why is that?
Why Abuse Survivors Struggle with Shame
Let me outline it for you:
- If I believe I am an unworthy, unlovable loser (substitute any of the other phrases above here) then…
- I am unable to safely, lovingly relate to others because all of my energy (conscious or not) goes to protect myself because I feel unsafe therefore…
- I interact or react to others (notice I did not say relate) from my brain stem where all I can do is survive (fight, flight, freeze or fawn) because…
- I unconsciously believe that if I allow myself to be seen or known then no one would want to know or relate to me which…
- Breaks my heart and feels so unbearable that I hide and/or protect myself.
Simply Put, The Loss Of Self Is The Essence Of Shame
If I can somehow lose myself (who I believe to be worthless and unlovable) then maybe I can decrease the heartbreak and hate I feel in my body, mind, and spirit all day long every day. Right? Sound familiar? I know that I can say with certainty that this is how I felt for many years. In fact, I had no desire to even be a “self!” The self I thought I was felt too disgraceful.
As a result, relating to myself was not an option!
This is why self-help books just do not create the consistent long-term breakthroughs that abuse survivors long for. These books might light up some inspiration however, as I have mentioned before, you cannot self-heal from events that occurred in connection.
Ok Enough About All That…Let’s Get Into The Good News about How to Heal Shame!
While yes, relating to ourselves as unworthy and unlovable poses challenges that can seem near impossible, shifting from perceiving ourselves as such to recognizing that we are not what happened to us and seeing ourselves as wounded not unworthy actually creates the space for breaking through shame.
How to Heal Shame from Abuse:
Here are 3 Simple Steps to get started:
- Say-say (notice I did not say “believe”-just say for now) out loud as often as possible. “I am not what happened to me. I am a fearfully wonderfully made worthy, loved child of God created in His Image!”
- Sing– Sing (or listen to someone else singing 😉 a song that expresses this message clearly. Songs like, “You Say” by Lauren Diangle will actually help change your brain state and start creating new messages in your brain!
- Seek– Seek God above all else. After all, the more you get to know God and relate to Him the easier the shame will dissipate thus making space to safely learn to relate to yourself as you truly are-a daughter of the King more precious than rubies made in His perfect Image.
Some ideas for seeking God include:
- Going for a walk and seek God in nature.
- Turning on some soaking prayer music and imagining laying at Jesus’ feet and give Him your weariness.
- Searching online for passages about how much God loves you and ask to receive that love.
You Can Absolutely Transform & Heal Shame
No doubt healing from shame poses some discomfort, to say the least. However, I know you can do it because I have done it myself. For example, most of my life I tried to convince myself that I loved myself but deep down I felt so exposed, afraid, and ashamed. Doing these three simple steps helped me break through the shame without banging my head against a brick wall fighting with my thoughts. I know you can relate to that conundrum!
In fact, Dr, Timothy Jennings MD who wrote, “The God Shaped Brain” and “The God Shaped Heart” shares that getting to know God actually changes the brain for the better which paves the way for breaking through shame and suffering and experiencing joy in life in spite of abuse.
So let me just end with this. Make it fun! No doubt, the abuse was horrible enough; don’t let the healing be just as bad. If saying anything out loud is too tough, record yourself and listen instead. Above all, think about talking to yourself as the wounded child and say the affirmation to her.
Some Concrete Ideas for Overcoming and Transforming Shame
Find songs that lift you up and dance around. Play them getting dressed in the morning or sing out loud in your car like the rock star you truly are!
Find ways of spending time with God that are fun or at least soothing. Keep in mind there are no rules when it comes to seeking God. Just be sure you are safe and asking God for His guidance. Get curious about how you best seek Him and spend time with Him.
Alrighty then thrivers! There you have it! Shame, what it is, why it is crucial to transform for breakthrough and how to do that. I believe in you! You are not alone anymore!
Transforming Your Shame Is Possible
You are more than your abuse history. You are more than your healing!
Now before I sign off here, I want to encourage you to share below in the comments a song that touches your heart and reminds you of who you truly are. Let’s get some ideas and make a playlist! How does that sound?
Finally, let me just say, “Make space in your day for fun!” Don’t make your entire day about healing from abuse. It’s a part of you-not all of you. Have some fun! Turn on a funny (and clean :o) show and laugh. Look up corny jokes and share one or do something creative like crochet or paint.
You are a precious child of God who was severely wounded who is also amazingly talented, loved and beautiful! If you are ready to grab joy and dump the shame click below.I’m ready to discover joy
From my heart to yours!