Understanding and managing shame

I only share my knowledge with the intention of helping others. I have often questioned myself “Is it narcissistic to share openly about who I am?” But what I am learning is that if anything I take a risk of being misjudged every time I press the send button and a recent misinterpretation or accusation has just confirmed this. 

The post on here is a synopsis of my daily journalling, which for me has helped me understand who I am. Writing has helped me understand myself and if my writing has helped another person, then it s a bonus. But the primary goal is my own personal development. 

Sharing about some of my most vulnerable moments have actually turned out to be some of my greatest. I have been researching, reading and reflecting on the shame of late. As a result, I have felt better equip to recognise when I am feeling shame and I have learned how shame can silence us, how it has suffocated me and prevented me from moving forward. 

I have carried a lifetime of shame, shameful thoughts and feelings that have restricted me and held me back from being my full potential. In my journaling I able to better question emotional and mental shame moments, I revisit them, dissect them then disregard them and then move on. Researchers suggest that the difference between shame and guilt is the difference between “I am bad” or “I did something bad” so for example 

Guilt = I did something bad

Shame = I am bad

Shame for me has been like an invisible disease, shame has in the past consumed my thoughts and feelings and stunted my own emotional growth. Over the past year or so, I have learned more about who I am, but also the more I seem to learn about myself the less I actually know, which can be scary in itself. BUT, I would much rather live with the fear of the unknown, knowing who I am and learning to recognise and accept that “I am good enough”. 

When I open up or share some of the invisible fears derived from shame that have consumed me, people are often amazed or confused “how can you think like that?” Or “I would have never known that about you, you always seem so confident “ and that is precisely why I am willing to share my own vulnerabilities, because we live in a society where it isn’t trendy or socially acceptable to show “what might be described as weakness”. My view is that what society labels as being a weakness is actually a strength. 

We are all victims of our own emotions, and this isn’t about blame, but if we grew up in an environment where emotions were not acknowledged or talked about? Then how are we supposed to know how or what we are feeling?

I have been through my own shit, affected by my own addiction, my father’s addiction and have worked in the addiction field long enough to know that one of the key factors that keep people locked in a cycle of addiction is using substances or behaviours in order to avoid emotional pain. In, fact physical pain and intense experiences of social rejection hurt in the same way and just as we often struggle to describe or define physical pain the same can be said for emotional pain. 

Consider two scenarios. In the first, you spill a hot cup of coffee on your forearm and experience intense pain. In the second, you look at pictures of your former romantic partner, a person with whom you recently experienced an unwanted break- up; as you view each photo you feel rejected and experience another kind of “pain.” On the surface, these two events seem quite distinct. Whereas the former involves a noxious bodily stimulus, the latter involves the termination of a social relationship. However, cultures around the world use the same language—words like “hurt” and “pain”—to describe both experiences raising the question: How similar are social re- jection and physical pain? https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/108/15/6270.full.pdf

So if we are feeling highly emotional for what might appear for no reason? We need to learn to understand that there is always a reason. It can help to learn to question where this pain is coming from, if we don’t we will try our best to label it or push it to one side, deny the emotion, sometimes using substances to dull the emotional feeling or acting out in other distructivebehaviours.

Thats why you will see people seek out support groups or another professional, like a counsellor to help them navigate life. Many do this with the expectation that someone else can help them heal from what ever is causing the distress at that time, but the bottom line is that the only person that can heal us, is ourselves. There is no denying that we can learn from others, being able to share some of our own pain with others who have experienced similar emotions creates a safe space to explore ourselves. I haven’t got to where I am now, without the support and guidance of others who have walked a similar path and have been willing to freely share their journey with me.

Helping people understand themselves should never be about personal financial gain however I do class myself fortunate to be financially rewarded in my job, because in addition to problem solving I am also able to help people find themselves. I share what’s most personal to me because I fundamentally value the importance of being open and transparent and that’s why I love working in the recovery field, I get to work and meet some of the most vulnerable but also the most courageous people I know and I am learning as much from them, as they are from me. 

I will continue to use my position, my platform if you like to fight for the underdogs, for those who have been disregarded because of personal life choices or whose voice isn’t easily heard or ignored and if some people don’t get that, then that’s their problem, its no longer mine and I am slowly learning that it isn’t something to be ashamed about.

Love Fordy x

4 thoughts on “Understanding and managing shame

  1. How very true. I think we were cut from the same thinking cloth…

    I’ve had the same experience of when I try to communicate experiences, in order for others to better understand me, or make a terrible situation better, that I am then told I’m being all about me.

    Told that a narrsasist makes it all about them. Well there is a huge difference between sharing an experience to make things better, either for ourselves or others, and what a narcissistic person does.

    As with you it is sharing to gain understanding. of ourselves, others and somehow make things better.

    In my experience a narcissistic person distorts the truth only to be in control and cause pain to others.

    There is no empathy or compassion involved in what they say or do. Only accusation and self admiration, which will shift and change depending on how best it serves the agenda of the narcissist.

    That is not what we do. We are simply trying to be as honest as we can. Sharing in order it might just make a difference. We listen and learn and admit fault also. That is a big difference.

    For doing that we are the ones that put our heads above the parapet. It’s much easier for most to stay silent or portray themselves as ok. Put on a Facebook face to the world.

    It only serves to make those out there struggling, to think they are alone and everyone else is doing marvelously. Most are struggling with guilt, shame, addictions. Of one sort or another. Most are afraid to speak out.

    That is where narcissistic, sociopathic and psychopathic characters have it all sewn up. They play the game of image and personal narrative so well. To the inexperienced they do anyway. I have been put under their spell too many times. It’s intoxicating for a time.

    They play the game of self spin so effectively, that often it is only their victims left in their wake that see the truth.

    We have one face for all. Not to say we don’t know how to manage different situations and people accordingly. That’s emotional intelligence and social awareness. That’s knowledge learned from a lifetime of experience.

    My Dad told me that I wore my heart on my sleeve. He knew it meant I had been, and would be hurt. He was right. We do need to wear battle armour on that sleeve to protect ourselves at times, but not to the point it distorts the truth of who we are. That we become shamed into silence x

    1. Wow – thank you H, I love the last part “I wore my heart on my sleeve. He knew it meant I had been, and would be hurt. He was right. We do need to wear battle armour on that sleeve to protect ourselves at times, but not to the point it distorts the truth of who we are. That we become shamed into silence”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *