Shame is the inner experience of being “not wanted.” It is feeling worthless, rejected, cast-out. Guilt is believing that one has done
something bad; shame is believing that one is bad. Shame is an emotion, like fear or grief. It is painful–perhaps the most painful feeling there is, given that it is registered in the brain like strong physical pain.
Shame-based thinking says:
- I am defective (damaged, broken, a mistake, flawed).
- I am dirty (soiled, ugly, unclean, impure, filthy, disgusting).
- I am incompetent (not good enough, inept, ineffectual, useless).
- I am unwanted (unloved, unappreciated, uncherished).
- I am weak (small, impotent, puny, feeble).
- I am bad (awful, dreadful, evil, despicable).
- I am pitiful (contemptible, miserable, insignificant).
- I am nothing (worthless, invisible, unnoticed, empty).
There’s a saying: “Don’t believe everything you think.” This is a core principle of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Instead of viewing our thoughts as absolute truths, see them as mental events to observe and evaluate. Be willing to challenge shame-based thoughts and replace them with more accurate thoughts.
…Choose a specific negative shame-based thought and challenge it by asking any of the following questions:
- Is this thought really true?
- How do I know it’s true?
- What is the evidence for this thought?
- What is the evidence against this thought?
- Can I think of any times when this thought has not been true?
- Is this thought helping me or hurting me?
- Who would I be if I let go of this thought?
- What could I do if I let go of this thought?
- Am I willing to release this thought?
- What’s the worst that could happen if I let go of this thought? Can I live with that?
Shame can be destructive. It can steal the very life that awaits from its victim. Changing our way of thinking can be hard. Help is available. Psychologytoday.com is a link that provides details on professionals such as: Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Therapists, Counselors, Group Therapy and Treatment Centers that are listed in your area within the United States and Canada. Healing from shame is unique to each one of us. Find yours today.