Understanding Shame

For an individual with healthy coping skills, a small amount of shame (often referred to as guilt) can be an effective motivator for adjusting attitudes and behaviors to better align with one’s vision for themselves. 

But for many who have experienced trauma, or have been subjected to shaming belief systems at a young age, the shame factor is over-active and doesn’t serve growth and evolution anymore, especially when contributing to patterns of addiction and alcoholism. 

So how do we, as addicts and those in helping roles, address shame in a healthy way, heal from it, and maintain a healthy relationship with it? How can we build positive habits of thought, and a growth mindset around our mistakes, so that we can evolve from a negative past? 

The Shame Breakdown 

An often-overlooked sign of shame is anger. Many people reacting out of shame get angry, either outwardly or inwardly, and this is a big part of the detriment of shameful beliefs. 

Shame involves negatively judging ourselves when we believe we have failed. It consists of believing: not that you have DONE something wrong or bad but that you ARE wrong or bad, a belief that can perpetuate a lot of destructive behavior, insecurities, lack of empathy for self and others, and general feelings of low self- worth. 

Shame can sit at the root of substance abuse, hiding within a host of other manifested behaviors and attitudes, because to bring it into light would essentially slow a perpetual negative motion towards self-destruction. 

An act so disruptive to a momentum of addictive patterns, often requires an outside professional or a community of compassionate individuals to see beyond someone’s anger, rage, or self-inflicted pain, in order to provide a safe space to be vulnerable, open, and honest about beliefs and thoughts. 

Replacing Shame with a Growth Mindset 

So how do we heal from shame? First, as mentioned above, it takes acknowledging that it is there, sometimes this takes time exploring one’s inner workings to begin to recognize the signs of trauma, abuse, or emotional “branding,” experienced and held onto from our past. And it’s really not the past if it is influencing beliefs and behavior in the present. 

Exploring our past can often help identify more clearly what is affecting our present so that we might be able to heal and move forward. 

Once key issues and beliefs are identified, it takes some exploration of new belief options. A belief is simply a thought that you keep thinking over and over, consciously or not. 

To adopt a new belief in one’s unconditional worth and well-being is a lofty goal, but one that often takes baby steps. Small evidence of worthiness and love, from others, and through healthy habits and increased positive focus, helps tremendously. 

A treatment environment is a really good place to be able to find this evidence as it is often required multiple times per day, through a loving structure, a compassionate environment, and a host of other therapeutic endeavors. 

At Oasis recovery, we believe in the power of a compassionate approach, without adding shame but addressing it, to encourage a truly healing process for addicts and alcoholics. 

We understand that rather than needing more guilt or more self-discipline, addiction calls for more compassion and a healthy look at the excess of shame that contributed to the substance disorder in the first place. 

We believe in implementing self-love and self-care to bring about true freedom. Learning to identify mistakes and failings as educational tools, and opportunities to learn and grow is a perspective that can only be fully adopted once excess shame has been addressed and healed from. 

If you are struggling with addiction or alcoholism, and accompanying shame, and need treatment click here. If your loved one is suffering from the shame of addiction and alcoholism and needs treatment click here

For a first-hand perspective on healing shame at Oasis Recovery Center, from one of our highly skilled therapists, click here. 

Because no matter how far down the path of destruction we have gone, we are all worthy of love and well-being, and learning to heal shame can help us realize this more and more each day.

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