Shame 200: How Coping with Shame Contributes to Overall Wellbeing

photo by Laura Sharon

Welcome to Part 3 of the 3-part series on shame.

As you may have guessed after reading Parts 1&2–that is, “Shame 101 and 102”–like all emotions, shame just is. I used to think a time would come when shame would literally be eradicated from my life. Sounds funny, I know, but it’s true. I really thought that one day I would wake up, and shame would be gone from my experience forever. Ha! In this 3rd and final part of the series on shame, we explore the connection between working through shame when it shows up and developing an overall sense of well-being.

The Oxford English dictionary defines wellbeing as “the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy.”

Much research in the fields of neuroscience and neuropsychology has been and continues to be done that demonstrates how we can “re-wire” or “re-train” our brains to develop a greater sense of well- being.[1][2] If you do a quick Google search on neuroscience and wellbeing, you will find a ton of reliable resources on this topic.

The challenge with shame is that, like grief — if left unattended — shame has the power to derail our attainment of well-being. Just by the nature of the feeling’s intense painfulness, shame can trigger deep, pervasive, and persistent reactivity, which keeps well-being away. How can we be “comfortable, healthy or happy” when we are in deep pain?

If we look at the 12 pillars on the path to well-being developed by Rick Hanson, PhD, it doesn’t take much to see how an intensely painful feeling like shame, which leads us to believing we are defective, faulty or unworthy, might derail us from developing any one, if not all of, the 12 pillars that comprise the path to well-being.

Our brains are wired for negativity, so growing the “good” in our brains requires some conscious awareness and willingness to be teachable in order for us to grow. Unattended shame, on the other hand, leads us to shutting down, numbing, or running away from this difficult emotion, which in turn, effects how we show up in our lives with our friends, loved ones, and even our colleagues.

So, when you aim for greater well-being, are you willing to do some work on yourself to make that happen? If not, what holds you back?

After practicing the steps described in Parts 1 & 2 of this series — 1) Recognize and admit you feel shame; 2) Expose shame to the light; 3) Notice what happens; and 4) Get creative — can you begin to see how shame, when not dealt with, can make experiencing genuine, lasting well-being elusive?

I ask you to consider the price you’re paying when you choose not to meet and resolve your shame. If I told you that facing and processing your shame — no matter how long you’ve been trying to avoid doing that — is a key component of clearing the path to achieving sustainable well-being, what would it take for you to begin?

Remember that being courageous means being brave and afraid at the exact same time, according to Brené Brown. I invite you to get your courage on by joining this important conversation and posting your thoughts in the comments section below.

[1] Rick Hanson, The Foundations of Well-being. https://www.thefoundationsofwellbeing.com/affiliate/4474

[2] Shirzad Chamine, Positive Intelligence. https://www.positiveintelligence.com/

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Laura Sharon

Writer, poet, coach, and consultant. Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator.