Personal Development

The feeling of shame: why we feel shame and how to overcome it

The withdrawal process is a journey that can be long and winding. Some people let themselves think that their journey will follow a calm and quiet path to their final destination. But the reality is that this path may involve a few forks and many unexpected detours, resulting in unwanted feelings that are negatively perceived. This is the case with the feeling of shame.

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September 30, 2020

Most of the time, stop smoking is difficult. The stress of quitting can expose you to unexpected and negative feelings such as shame. Kwit has some advice to help you during your withdrawal and overcome this feeling of shame

Identifying the feeling of shame

What is shame? What is the difference between guilt and shame?

Guilt is related to a behavior we have adopted. For example, if we have committed a crime or lied about something important, we tend to feel guilty and think, "What I did was wrong."

Shame, on the other hand, is deeper. According to Brené Brown, a University of Houston researcher on courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy, shame is “the most primitive emotion we feel”.

When we feel shame, we no longer focus on a behavior but on ourselves, causing thoughts like :

  • I am a bad person.
  • I don't deserve to be loved.
  • I am not important.

Shame is deep. It focuses on negative feelings about oneself. It makes us feel unworthy of support and a second chance. It can even cause us to reject the help we are offered. According to Brené Brown, shame needs 3 things to develop: secrecy, silence and judgment. The most appropriate response to feelings of shame is to talk about them to someone who will express empathy. Shame will probably not survive this.

Why does the feeling of shame appear?

In the context of a withdrawal, shame may appear at the time of a lapse or relapse. It is often one of the most frustrating and humiliating experiences one can have in recovering from a problematic habit. We then feel guilty, ashamed, and above all, the urge to throw in the towel is strong. These feelings are normal and should not be ignored. However, once we have recognized and identified them, it is important to remember not to let them control our lives. These emotions are often destructive because they transform momentary feelings of weakness into existential states that eat away at our determination to change.

In reality, the feeling of shame is only a proof of our frailties or vulnerabilities, in short, what makes us human.

Facing a relapse involves not only determining why it happened, but also knowing how to forgive ourselves in order to move serenely towards a better future.

Remember also that the withdrawal process does not follow a precise formula, everyone's path is different. A slip-up does not mean having to "start from scratch". Relapse may be part of the story, but it doesn't have to be the end.

How to deal with feelings of shame?

Shame overwhelms you? Take a break and follow the steps below:

Acknowledge your shame

In order to break the cycle, it is imperative to recognize your behavior and your negative thought patterns. When you are angry, you may clench your fists, when you are sad, you may cry. What physical reaction can you observe when feelings of shame arise? Once you have recognized the physical expression of your shame, try to take a forgiving approach. Say these words out loud: "I'll do better next time."

Express your shame

Talking about your shame can be extremely cathartic. It is also one of the basic elements of cognitive-behavioural therapy.

According to Brown, shame emphasizes the fact that you believe you are alone. When you are able to find an empathetic friend who listens to you in a safe environment, you not only have healthy relationships, but you also take steps to overcome your shame.

Accept the feeling and where it comes from

Mistakes are part of life. We all make them. It's how we bounce back from those mistakes that defines us. Remember that all the work you've done so far has not been in vain, on the contrary. How many days have you gone without cigarettes? How many times have you managed to overcome one of your cravings without smoking? Keep all of this in mind.

Be aware of your value

Treating oneself with compassion and learning to forgive oneself can be difficult, but it undoubtedly improves self-esteem and self-worth. Learn to live with your mistakes and the lessons you've learned from them, while taking action to ensure they don't happen again.

Live in the moment

Constantly thinking about past mistakes only aggravates emotions such as shame. Enjoy the moment, leave the past where it is and learn to love the moments you are experiencing now.

"If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present." — Lao Tzu

Key resource to go further: Ted Talk — Brené Brown “Listening to shame”

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