Shame can be one of the most powerful emotions human beings experience in life. The prolific Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “Shame is a soul-eating emotion.” He did not say this lightly. So what exactly is shame?
Shame is a self-conscious emotion characterized by the feeling that our conduct or circumstances are immodest, dishonorable, or improper. This emotion can be highly unpleasant and damaging to our mental health. Shame is linked with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and more. With substance use disorder (SUD) being so tightly linked with mental health, it may be valuable to ask if shame is playing a negative role in your life.
Shame, Depression, and Anxiety
Studies have shown that people with depression were approximately twice as likely to have a SUD. Therefore, if depression is a factor in causing substance use disorder, and shame can cause depression, treating shame may be important for recovery. Research is being done to understand the shame/SUD relationship, which has been identified in adolescents. One important thing to know about shame is that it is often connected to the past.
You may feel shame because of mistakes you made, the way you were treated, or the way you used to live. These negative emotions can last long after the events that caused them. In this same way, depression is often connected to memories or past traumas. Although not all people who experience depression feel shame, many people who feel shame experience depression.
Another mood disorder that can be brought on by shame is anxiety. Unfortunately, anxiety has also been connected with substance use disorder. Research shows that those with an anxiety disorder are two to three times more likely to have a SUD at some point in their lives.
Since shame is often linked to traumatic experiences, many people avoid things that cause it. This avoidance can be anxiety-inducing, especially if the trigger being avoided is common. Substances such as alcohol can suppress anxiety in the short term. Although, in the end, they make anxiety disorders worse over time.
Another way in which shame causes anxiety involves self-image. If you experience shame, it can often damage how you see yourself and make you feel insecure. Insecurity can then lead to anxiety through the feelings of fear and uncertainty that it brings. When treating any mood disorder, it is important to find the root causes of the problem. In many cases, shame is that cause.
Fighting and Healing Shame
There are certainly a variety of tools to combat shame and repair the damage that it causes. The most effective option by far is therapy. Shame is often a very personal emotion that we keep inside and try to cope with in various ways. Unfortunately, many coping methods such as avoidance, substances, or codependence, can do more harm than good. Therapy allows a judgment-free medium to vent your shame and speak about it.
Speaking about your troubles can do a surprising amount of good for your mind as keeping your emotions locked away does far more harm than good. Therapists also have various tools to help. One of these tools is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps us replace negative thought patterns such as shame with positive ones that help to uplift us.
Group therapy is also an option that may be beneficial. Speaking with others about your shared struggles may help you realize that shame is not a part of you, but merely a negative emotion that can be overcome.
One of the most important factors when overcoming shame is forgiving yourself. Self-forgiveness means accepting yourself as imperfect while realizing that you can build a bright future. You must not let who you once were and how you once felt stop you from becoming who you can be.
Therapy can certainly be a way of achieving self-forgiveness, but it is not the only way. Opening up to those we love and trust can also be a road to self-forgiveness since shame often tries to hide. People will frequently close themselves off from social situations because of shame. Therefore, reversing this has the potential to help.
Even if the one you open up to is instead an animal companion, this can still be beneficial. Dogs and cats do not judge you for your past; they see you for who you are and accept you regardless.
Looking back upon your life with a therapist or during meditation can also help you realize that you are not the person your shame makes you believe you are.
Shame can often act like dirt on the windshield of a car, stopping you from seeing the reality of who you are. This reality is often far more positive and your self-judgment is usually overly harsh. Whichever way you attain self-forgiveness, it is important to recognize how shame may play a role in your life and try to practice self-compassion. Your future self will thank you for it.
Shame is an emotion that can be detrimental to your health and lower your quality of life. With the difficult times we live in, it is more important than ever to get help when facing struggles in mental health. Seeking treatment will allow you to free yourself from the burdensome emotions such as shame can cause and face life’s challenges with more confidence. This is even more important for people going through the trials of substance use disorder. If you or a loved one are in need of treatment, Everlast Recovery Centers is here to help. At our facilities located in sunny southern California, we tackle the challenges posed by both SUD and mental health. Our caring staff offers a variety of treatments and therapies tailored to your needs to give you the best chance of success. To learn more about our programs and what we offer, call (866) 338-6925 today.