How to Overcome Shame?
In our last two articles we have discussed the cycle of domestic abuse and the difficulties in leaving abusive relationships. We briefly mentioned shame as a factor keeping people from leaving these relationships. Shame for staying in the relationship in the first place, for wanting a divorce, or from how someone has been treated by that abusive partner.
But this doesn’t end once you leave.
Shame is a negative judgement, a reflection of not living up to your own or others standards. Whilst it can come from outside sources, such as victim blaming, it is often internal and acts as a haunting reminder of what has happened. It is not to be confused with guilt which is the feeling of making a mistake and feeling bad about it. Shame is feeling that you are intrinsically bad.
It can be paralyzing and it can stop you from living boldly, from being confident and from moving on. It can make people self punish through negative thoughts and talk, and make them lonely or depressed. Paralyzing shame can stop a person from believing they are good, make them feel undeserving of love.
But it can be overcome with time.
How to overcome Shame?
Remember you are not responsible for what happened
Your partner was. Do not take responsibility for their actions. You didn’t deserve this for ‘being bad’ as a person. You are not a bad person and their actions were not justified, no matter how much an abuser said they were.
Find inner compassion
Treat yourself like your own best friend. It is cliche but you wouldn’t let a best friend put you down that way we are often willing to do to ourselves.
Mistakes happen. It makes you no more or less worthy than others in regards to being able to receive or have love. Feeling guilty, feeling bad after a mistake is normal but a mistake doesn’t make you a bad person.
Forgive yourself and your actions
Feeling shame over your actions will continue until you accept them and forgive your actions. For example there can be guilt and shame over feeling as though you stayed in the relationship too long, or for allowing abuse to occur. But your actions are in the past and you did the best you could at the time, and that is enough.
Identify what makes you feel shame
Then avoid those triggers and be aware that those experiences may make you feel shame and be ready to treat yourself compassionately.
Shame is often silent. It grows and festers until it takes over. Taking it through with someone trusted can reduce these feelings as people compassionately and empathetically listen.
There is no easy route for disabling shame. It can take a long time, and the process may not always be straightforward. But you can do it.