Building Resilience to Shame
Every person arrives at the decision to remove alcohol from their lives through a different path; whether you’ve found yourself here as a result of serious negative consequences from drinking, or you’ve made this decision independent of repercussions for your alcohol use, it may feel difficult to move past some of the things we did or experienced while drinking. If we have shameful past experiences that continue to weigh on us, it can greatly impact our self-esteem and ability to move forward in a meaningful way. If we find ourselves there, we can practice shame resilience building exercises to work through those past experiences and find our way to the other side.
Shame Resilience Theory was introduced by Dr. Brené Brown, who has built her life’s work around the study of shame. She 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.”
Shame is destructive; it serves no helpful purpose and only hurts and harms us. It’s different from guilt, which involves having done (or not done) something wrong but does not impact our sense of self-worth. Guilt can be instructive for future behavior, whereas shame often yields continued destructive behavior out of poor self-esteem.
Perhaps reading this is bringing up strong emotions or memories of the past. We can use shame resilience techniques to work through this shame, so that we can release the emotional distress linked to our past drinking life. Each time we work through a shameful experience, we build resilience for future shame and it damages us less and less.