Shame Resilience: Speaking Shame Aloud
There is an important caveat of Step 4 (and I truthfully navigated this step in a fairly haphazard way): the container within which the shame story is shared must be a safe container capable of holding you on the other side of your share. If it is an unsafe container, we are at risk of rejection or confirmation of our trash human status. That internal feedback loop that we are at war with when we are deep in shame—the one that has decided that we are unworthy, then confirmed to itself that we are unworthy—is disrupted when someone contradicts it. But if that person confirms the feedback loop, we’re in trouble.
This means you probably don’t want to go spilling your secrets to the world wide web, at least not at first, because it’s an unpredictable container. A better choice would be a loved one—a spouse, a best friend, a trusted mentor—or a care professional—a therapist, counselor, spiritual advisor, doctor. Someone who can hold space for you and smash the internal feedback loop with a simple “I hear you and I still love you” or “that doesn’t make you a bad person.” Certain group settings are also helpful, like alcohol-free meetups, group therapy, or wellness groups. Folks who likely understand what you’re going through, even when it feels like no one could possibly know what it feels like.
Shame tells us that we’re the only one, that no one else has felt this horrible or alone before. It’s untrue—there’s nothing new under the sun. Someone else, potentially millions of other people, know what you’re going through and still see you as the whole, worthy person you are. Shame cannot survive being brought to light—it’s like mold, thriving in darkness and secrecy. Speaking shame aloud, and being seen as good regardless, shifts something very important within us.
When we complete Step 4 of the Shame Resilience Theory it’s unlikely that we’ll be magically healed, forever and ever, amen. Consider the SRT as an upward spiral: we keep repeating steps 1-4, each time gaining more and more resilience. When you think about your 4/10 shame experience, the one we’ve been working through this week, who might you be able to share this with? Who or what holds a safe container for you to be able to speak your shame aloud and still be seen as worthy? If it feels like there’s no one, I challenge you to reconsider. That’s the shame speaking, telling you that no one could possibly understand or hold you.
We are whole, worthy, and lovable. No matter what.
Brown, B. (2013, January.) Shame v. guilt. Brené Brown. https://brenebrown.com/blog/2013/01/14/shame-v-guilt/
Selva, J. (2020, September.) Shame Resilience Theory: How to Respond to Shame. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/shame-resilience-theory/