Shame is that painful emotion of feeling like you are not good enough, unworthy, or feeling inadequate. It’s easy to want to shove these feelings down, but doing so can lead to or add to depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Let’s talk about ways to handle these feelings. Here are some DBT skills to get you past the initial shame storm in a healthy manner.
Using DBT Skills to Overcome Shame
First of all remember shame is a natural human emotion, we all experience shame. You are not alone in these feelings.
Secondly, the goal is not to get rid of your shame or never feel it again. The goal is to move through the emotion with authenticity and keep our integrity intact.
Finally, here are 3 DBT skills that can help you move through your shame with authenticity.
- Identify and label the emotions. Shame is such a powerful emotion that we often morph it into an emotion that’s more manageable – like anger. You need to be honest with yourself and identify what you are truly feeling. Shame hates to be verbalized spoken; this takes away its power. When you are feeling shameful use that word “Shame”. This simple act can help you take back your power.
- Self-sooth. Shame is a painful, full contact emotion. Use self-soothing to ride the wave of emotion by incorporating your five senses. For example, eat a piece of your favorite chocolate, be aware of the nature around you, smell your favorite essential oil, listen to a soothing song, pet your cat, etc. Doing these activities will help you regulate your emotions back to a manageable state.
- Wisemind. Shame hi-jacks our relational mind and puts us in a primitive state of fight or flight. Use self-sooth to step back from the situation and the emotion. Think logically to understand what expectation (real or perceived) you are putting on yourself. Stay curious about where you got these expectations, reality check if these expectations are reasonable. To be honest most likely they are not. Let’s use body image to illustrate this example. If I feel fat because I ate a big dessert or my pants are getting tight, my shame might be triggered. I may feel unattractive or not good enough. If I am to step back and look at the expectation I’ve placed on myself, my expectation is that I have to look a certain way in order to be lovable. The reality of the situation is that the people in my life love me for who I am not for how much I weigh and most likely I am feeling something temporary.
Shame can control our lives if left unchecked. These DBT skills will help you move through your shame and live a more healthy life.
By Megan Belcher. Megan is a therapist at Sunrise Residential Treatment Center