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10 Points: Breaking the Cycle of Shame and Self-Destructive Behavior

by Dr. Lynn Margolies

Published, PsychCentral, 2013

 

Shame is: “I am bad” vs. “I did something bad.”

Shame involves an internalized feeling of being exposed and humiliated. Shame is different from guilt. Shame is a feeling of badness about the self. Guilt is about behavior - a feeling of “conscience” from having done something wrong or against one’s values.

Shame underlies self-destructive behaviors:

• Hidden shame often drives self-destructive behaviors and other psychological symptoms such as rage, avoidance, or addictions.

• Self-destructive behaviors often are an attempt to regulate overpowering, painful feelings but lead to more shame, propelling the self-destructive cycle.

• Secrecy, silence, and out-of-control behaviors fuel shame.

• Shame makes people want to hide and disappear, reinforcing shame.

• Shame is created in children through scolding, judging, criticizing, abandonment, sexual and physical abuse.

Breaking the Cycle of Shame

Breaking self-destructive habits requires action, not just willpower:

• Changing destructive behaviors requires trying out new, affirming behaviors to replace them.

• New behaviors that generate positive feedback and reward create new connections in the brain, creating the momentum for ongoing growth and change. (Learning on a neurobehavioral level)

Shame can be relieved and healed by:

• Taking healthy risks to be seen and known authentically, acting from a positive motive and trying out new behaviors in a safe (nonjudgmental) setting.

• Taking actions that generate pride - the antidote to shame.

• Breaking secrecy with people who understand.

https://psychcentral.com/lib/breaking-the-cycle-of-shame-and-self-destructive-behavior/

 

To see other similar articles, click on the following links: Self-esteemSexual abuseTherapy TopicsTrauma

 
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