Psychological health

3 More Ways to Rewire Shame from Childhood Adversities

This post is part of a series. Read the other parts here.

We will conclude our exploration of strategies that modify imprinted childhood shame by describing three “top-down” strategies—or strategies that emphasize thinking. It can be experienced by simply regulating physical stress and emotional arousal. Again, please heed the warning to stop and consult a trauma specialist if any of these strategies feel overwhelming.

Healing the inner dialogue

When stress is regulated – neither too high nor too low – rational thinking is possible again. It is possible to develop new, compassionate and reasonable patterns of thinking that replace the pessimistic, frustrating, shameful thinking patterns. Examples of these negative thought patterns are:

  • There is something really wrong with me.
  • I can’t do anything.
  • It will never get better.

After calming the body and evoking pleasant feelings, you can slowly and in a gentle and humorous way repeat the thoughts that people with a good sense of self tell (Shiraldi, 2016). For example, you might relax and repeat to yourself thoughts like these:

Source: Prostock-Studio / istockphoto

  • I generally see myself as capable.
  • I do some things well.
  • Although I am imperfect, I am a worthwhile person.
  • I am quietly happy to be the person that I am.
  • I recognize and appreciate my strength.
  • Even though I am imperfect, I love myself.

How will the world be different?

This is another top-down (top-down) cognitive technique that can be effective simply by regulating the arousal of stress and emotions and the return of the left brain to internet connectivity (Ulrich, 1992). This strategy encourages you to acknowledge, from the perspective of a wiser adult, your unique combination of strengths and weaknesses. It’s strange to realize that you, like everyone else, have this mix. Regardless of your experience and how you were treated, in essence you are still infinitely worthwhile and full of possibilities. Accepting yourself with loving kindness – as a work in progress – is the safe foundation for growth.

Source: Dustanpetrovic / istockphoto

In writing, think about how the world would be different in a bad way if everyone were like you. For example, you might write that everyone will be conservative, lack confidence at times, doubt themselves, etc. Then write how the world would be different in a good way if everyone were like you. Perhaps you will notice that people will be kind and respectful to others, sympathetic to their struggles, listening to each other’s pain, accepting of others’ faults, doing their best seriously, and willing to help others. There will be no boasting or arrogance.

It is healing to acknowledge our combination of strengths and weaknesses with empathy and a reasonable expectation of improvement, recognizing that we are, in our flaws, like all other people. It is also possible to realize that beyond our weaknesses, we have unique ways to contribute to a better world. Keep track of how you feel to notice it.

Prepare for the return of shame

There is also security in the preparation. Being imperfect, when do we learn anything completely or definitively? You are likely to experience shameful experiences and/or evoke old shameful feelings. It is therefore important to anticipate such experiences and make a plan for when they will occur. This strategy, inspired by Williams and Poijula ​​(2013), asks you to plan what you will do when:

1. You are around someone who is trying to shame you.

for example, I can:

  • Look at this person with sympathy, realizing that their own shame may lead them to act this way.
  • He smiled and walked away quietly.

2. You feel ashamed.

for example, I can tell myself and be willing to believe:

  • It’s just a leftover memory from a difficult time.
  • Feelings come and go. Shame is not a reflection of my worth.
  • Although I am ashamed, I am a worthwhile person.

3. Continuing shameful feelings.

for example, I can take care of myself:

  • take a warm bath
  • Go for a fun walk
  • I smile as I remember my worthwhile nature
  • Repeating self-compassionate statements (eg: “This is a difficult moment”; “Everyone suffers sometimes”; “May I bring compassion to this moment”)
  • diary about her

Essential Readings for Adverse Childhood Experiences

The last three blogs have described a set of skills that neutralize and renew childhood shame. Like playing the piano or golf, these skills improve with repetition, powerfully imprinting the new neural pathways that are being formed. This complements articles on reconnecting unpleasant memories related to adverse childhood experiences. Future articles will look at ways to help you move towards a more positive and fulfilling way of living.

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