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It's time we all shine
a light on shame.
let's talk#talkshame

Resources and inspiration for clinicians and individuals seeking freedom from toxic shame.

Treatment Plans to Deal with Shame

There are four “pillars” of treatment for shame and its related complications: Biological, psychological, social, and holistic or spiritual.

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Treating Shame

Pathological shame is treatable. Dealing with it is often the only way to avoid relapse and successfully emerge from mental health issues and addiction. There are no shortcuts.

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“Shame lived in my heart and gut. My hoplessness allowed me
to continue using”

On the feeling of shame, by a recovery alumnus

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Shame & Art

Much of the experience of shame is about the silencing of a person. By giving us the chance to express ourselves in a non-verbal way, art can help us explore and express the emotions we’re feeling. After all, true art—whatever form it takes—is about truthful self-expression.

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How to Spot Shame

Shame is a word we use so rarely in a meaningful way. We might say “what a shame”, or just imply it, by saying “I feel silly.” We talk about humiliation, disgrace, loss of pride, reproach, and contempt. But we avoid talking about the actual emotion of shame. We hide it away. This makes it incredibly difficult to spot, both in others, and in ourselves.

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The Role of Shame in

Shame prevents us from truly connecting with others. Instead, we compare. And who can blame us? We live in a co-dependent society, in which our values are based on comparison. She is prettier than me; he is richer than me; she is smarter than me.

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“Empathy's the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment”

Brené Brown

The Role of Shame in Addiction

Shame is a stealthy killer. It’s often entangled in the complexities of addiction, depression, and mental health issues.

‘Shame influences addiction before, during, and after,’ says Dr Nancy Bailey, Clinical Director at Alta Mira Recovery Programs. ‘It is often the gasoline that fuels the fire.’

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Toxic vs. Non-Toxic Shame

Shame becomes toxic when we are not able to accept ourselves as we are. At this point, shame has been felt so repeatedly and so deeply that it becomes a psychological dysfunction. It defines us, overshadowing every aspect of our lives and our relationships.

When shame is toxic—a permanent state of being—we can’t accept that being flawed and imperfect is normal. Such self-hatred is thought to affect large numbers of people, and a significant contributor to a range of mental health problems from substance addiction to eating disorders.

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Is Shame Always Bad?

“All of us harbor shame to some degree,” notes Alan Massey, Family Program Director at Alta Mira Recovery Programs: ‘Those raised in shame-based families experience more of it, but we’re all somewhere on a continuum.’

A small amount of shame can be healthy. Without darkness, we cannot see the light. If nobody ever felt it, the world would be a far more dangerous place. When it leads to humility and socially responsible behavior, it can be a source for good.

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the roots of shame

Shame is often first felt early in life. It can be traced back to overly critical parenting, religious indoctrination, and emotional and sexual abuse.

As children, we might’ve felt that disapproval was aimed at us as an individual, rather than at particular behaviours. We may have thought that part of who we are should be hidden from others. And beyond the realms of emotional abuse, physical mistreatment may have violated our boundaries, removed our privacy, and destroyed our ability to trust.

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In the words of Brené Brown, author and research professor at the University of Houston:


I'm sorry.
I made a mistake.


I'm sorry.
I am a mistake.

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shame vs guilt

To feel shame is to feel that we’re an irredeemable failure.
In the darkness, shame can be hard to spot; it’s often confused with guilt,
yet the two are very different. Shame can become so painful that we
become mired in its misery. We feel that we’re a “nobody,” that we’re
“worthless;” profoundly distanced from everyone else.

Ultimately, shame is the experience of nothingness.

Let's talk about shame
Let's talk about shame

“I sometimes think that shame, mere awkward, senseless shame, does as much towards preventing good acts and straightforward happiness as any of our vices can do.”
C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

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