There are two parts of working with shame. One is relational, the other is internal.
The relational aspect is bringing shame to the light, and sharing the vulnerability in a safe space where you can be seen and heard. Where you can experience authentic connection. Shame can’t exist in the light, where it is seen, accepted, understood, and loved.
The first time you let yourself be seen in vulnerability in a situation that caused disconnect or loss in the past is rightfully scary. You don’t know what will happen. Endless worst-case scenarios may loop in your mind. After all, you don’t know how others will respond; you have no control over their reactions.
Imagine seeing over and over again that the shameful part of yourself CAN be okay and safe. You CAN have deeper connection by being who you are. This experience helps create new positive neuropathways. Consistently and repetitively creating these new neuropathways cements a new experience.
Yes, it is possible for your shame to be seen and loved.
The relational aspect of working with shame involves taking risks of vulnerability to let shame peek out from where it has been shoved in that dark box. Choosing a supportive sandbox to play with visibility for your shame can help. You can make choices for when, where, and with whom to be vulnerable.
Over time, like any new skill, it becomes easier to practice resilience in vulnerability. Experiencing new forms of attuned secure connection helps that process along. Speaking about shame can create space for a new way of being to sprout.
Of course, no environment, situation, or person is perfect. There are times when reaching out or opening up may fall short. While this is deeply painful, congratulate and celebrate yourself for trying. This effort is what is in your control, not others’ reactions to you.
This brings us to the internal aspect.
The internal aspect of working with shame involves shifting your relationship with yourself. It’s naming shame. Having compassion and kindness when you go into a shame spiral. Navigating that spiral so you don’t harm yourself from your own thoughts and reactions.
Self-soothing. Finding resilience. Uncovering intrinsic motivation to keep going when things are hard. Self-awareness to rest when needed.
Shame doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. It’s actually normal. It serves a purpose.
Combining the relational and internal aspects sets the stage for a supportive partnership through shame.
In this article, I speak first about the relational aspect because shame inherently is about other people. It’s how you’re perceived by others, lack of attunement with others, fear of disconnect from others.
When you have a safe base to “hold the rope” of connection and encourage the sprout of authentic vulnerability to grow, your shame demons are no longer in the spotlight. You are connecting. You can use this mirror to reflect to you the parts of yourself you can’t see when the shame demons are taking over. There is a clearer path forward.
Remember, you don’t have to go through it alone. When you start opening up and letting your tender heart be seen, a natural effect is deeper connections, greater resiliency, and a stronger sense of self-worth.