The signs of shame are all around us. Sometimes you can see people’s shame seep out slowly – other times it explodes. When you pay attention and listen to people long enough, you begin to hear not only what they are saying about themselves, but what they desperately want to hide. Many people seek coaching or therapy because they want to change something about themselves. We work on overcoming and healing shame first. Then we look to see what the person really needs in order to grow.
What is Shame?
At its essence, shame is a feeling you get when there is something about you that you feel is inherently bad, wrong or unlovable. You fear that, if people knew this thing (or things) about you, it would make you unfit to be in their heart, their family, their embrace. Or that instead, you would be cast out.
While we are ultimately in the business of helping people obtain new tools that will help them live happier, more fulfilling lives, we certainly never want to reinforce the extensive amounts of shame that are part of the day-to-day air we breathe.
Identifying and Uprooting Toxic Shame
We begin every session by attuning to ourselves and others, listening deeply to a person’s desired outcomes, and ruthlessly rooting out toxic shame. We call this last part of the process “de-shamifying”. And why do we start with de-shamifying before transformation? Because shame fills a person with pressure, apprehension, and restriction.
It is very hard to learn something new if you believe you are completely unlovable the way you are. That level of pressure causes a person to freeze, shut down, fake it, and run away. Trying something new is risky – it requires patience, gentleness, and self-acceptance.
And Finally – De-shamifying and Healing Shame
Once you have begun to identify and name your feelings of shame, there are some key ways you can begin to let go and heal shame. In the Somatica method, we de-shamify in multiple ways, including the following three:
1. Admitting we are flawed
Unlike many other coaches and teachers, we very vulnerably share the ways we do not have it all figured out. This helps our clients realize that it’s ok not to be perfect, that we ourselves are not perfect and are ok with it.
2. Exposing unrealistic expectations in our culture
Another way to de-shamify is to shake our fists at a world that creates all that expectation. It practically requires us to pretend that we have it all together and are ok and happy all the time. To point out that this is not true for ANYONE often helps clients realize it is actually the world that is messed up – not them.
3. Loving someone – even as they tell us what is unlovable about themselves
When someone shares their shame with us, then looks us in the eye and sees we have nothing but love and appreciation for them – that is often the key that helps to melt the shame away. This love and compassion, in fact, is often enhanced by their bravery in sharing their shame with us, and by expressing those sentiments, the person can relax, let go of anxiety and breathe again.
Sometimes people get confused by the process of de-shamifying. They ask the question: “Is our job to help a person accept themselves as they are – or to transform?” This is a false choice – the answer is actually YES, AND. Yes, it is our job to help someone accept themselves exactly as they are AND to transform. Our desire to continue to grow does not go away because we accept ourselves. Quite the contrary – self-love unfreezes us enough to exercise our freedom to experiment, to take the big scary risks, and to step more fully into the bigness of all that we can be!
If you’re interested in deeper learning around the process of overcoming and healing shame – either for personal growth or your own therapy practice – consider taking part in our Core Training sessions. We also conduct a Free Intro so you can get acquainted with the Somatica Method. We look forward to seeing you there.