Shame is one of the powerful and painful emotions that most people will go to great lengths to avoid feeling. In addition to causing emotional distress, shame also produces a wide array of uncomfortable physiological symptoms.
A hot, flushed face, rapid heartbeat, a cold sweat, dizziness, and even nausea are some of the things someone experiencing shame might experience. Aside from the obvious discomfort of these symptoms, it's hard to explain exactly why shame is such a painful thing to experience and where it comes from.
Experts believe that one of tne of the biggest reasons behind what makes shame so painful is the fact that it has to do with oneself. Shame stems from an especially intense sense of being inferior or inadequate.
The self loathing that comes along with shame is what makes a person want to hide in the face of whatever incident caused the feeling to arise. A person experiencing shame will want nothing more than to disappear off the face of the earth when they're in the midst of the episode.
Shame is also a very alienating experience. You may feel the deepest divide between yourself and others and a loneliness like no other. This alienation causes a person to fall into a spiral of unrealistic thoughts that reinforce their extremely negative perception of themselves.
Basically, shame will cause a person to lose touch with reality by rousing up all sort of unconscious beliefs about themselves. This only reinforces the pain and alienation and makes it harder to break out of the spiral.
Perfectionism, low self esteem, people pleasing, and guilt are some of the symptoms created by shame as a person tries to cope. A person with deep shame will unconsciously go to great lengths to hide what they are feeling.
They will often do this by acting arrogant, criticising or judging others, having dysfunctional relationships, or being overly sensitive or self absorbed. And then there's addiction. Many experts believe that shame is at the root of addiction behavior and the self destructiveness that it brings. Understanding where shame comes from and how to heal it can provide valuable insight into treating an addiction.
The origins of shame.
The are a few theories out there about where shame comes from. Some experts see it as a survival mechanism that is developed to help an individual adapt to their relationships and unique culture.
Another theory says that shame develops as a reaction to how others perceive you. If a person feels they don't meet up to the standards and perceptions of others, then they develop feelings of shame.
This reaction becomes internalized and persists in the way a person communicates, relates to others, and feels about themself. When this sort of reaction happens in early childhood, the shame that results can become very deep seated.
A third theory about shame focuses on a person's early childhood and infancy. The bond between an infant or small child with their mother and caretakers can strongly influence how much shame they carry with them throughout life.
A damaged or otherwise broken bond can create serious shame, identity, and self esteem issues. It's important to talk with a therapist about where your own shame stems from and how it has led to addictive behavior.
Once you become aware of how shame has affected your life, it may seem impossible to ever know how to heal from it but it can be done. The first thing to do is find a safe place to explore your issues.
A therapist, discussion group, or even a rehab center are all good places to begin. Being in a healing environment with people who support you without any type of judgement is where you can begin building a healthier, more realistic sense of self.