This is How to Deal with Shame

Godzilla is Coming!

I have decided to go to school to get a degree in Psychology.  I work as a Community Service Officer and Police Dispatcher at our local college so my tuition is covered, and I really like learning what makes people tick.

One of my favorite authors is Brenè Brown.  I just finished listening to her book “Men, Women and Worthiness.”

Worthiness is “A need and yearning to belong.  To be a part of something.  To believe that who we are matters and that people want to be with us.”  To our ancestors, there was deep importance to belonging and fitting into a group, it meant survival.  We are “hardwired” to need to belong and be worthy of being part of a group.  Damn my DNA!

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”

Brenè Brown introduced me to the meaning of shame.  I had no idea there was name a for the monster within me; my own personal Godzilla.  Shame is the feeling that “I am a bad person.”  This is a feeling I have struggle with for years.  Shame is what prompted me to start this blog.  I was trying to find ways to get Godzilla out of my chest where he was tearing me up, inside out.

Godzilla, Your Name is Shame!

My Godzilla has lived with me for decades.  I battle him constantly, never really winning the battle, just hiding him from the world.  I felt it would be shameful (ironic, huh) to let anyone know that there was such a fierce battle going on inside me…no one would understand.  I felt alone, trapped by my Godzilla and powerless against it…and in pain.

The problem with not knowing there was a real name for Godzilla, shame, is I could not effectively fight against it.  Thank goodness in her book Brenè also acquaints me with some strategies to build “shame resilience”.

First was to identify my shame triggers.  I found my triggers were many…motherhood, appearance, weight, financial status, employment and even cookie skills.  These can all trigger feelings of failure and unworthiness for me.

Second was to know what it felt like to be in shame.  Shame causes the same “fight, flight or freeze” response associated with danger.  For me that was severe anxiety, sweating, and rapid heart rate…panic.  This is a limbic system reaction to shame, which over-rides the prefrontal cortex which is where we think, rationalize and solve problems (mine I think must be pretty darn flabby because it does not get enough exercise and is frequently over-ridden by the limbic system).

Third is to normalize our shame.  Not “I am a bad person” but “I made a bad choice.”

Fourth is to reach out to others.  Shame thrives on secrecy.  If we do not share our pain by reaching out we feel alone and shame keeps its control of us.  Believe me, I have about 30 decades of experience in secrecy and it got me NO WHERE.

Finally, is to speak shame.  There are several actions people take when they are in shame similar to “fight, flight or freeze”.  Fight would be acting out with rage, anger, attack language such as belittling.  Flight would be dropping of the grid, hiding and secrecy (my MO).

Shame on Me…

As mentioned, I started this blog before I knew my Godzilla had a name.  But I was definitely in shame when I started it.  I knew that this month I was going to come up short on the rent.  I have been struggling, and slowly sinking financially for a few months.  This was escalating my feelings of shame.  I felt like a failure and I was hiding that from everyone.  So all that clutter in my head was Godzilla stomping around and trashing my self esteem.  It was sort of a vicious cycle.  I would start panicking about how I was going to come up with the money and sinking deeper inside my own head.

After finishing Brenè’s book this morning I promptly sent an email off to my landlord explaining the situation.  I even outlined that I was shamed and why.  I am not sure what her reaction is going to be yet, and the scary part is my lease is up for renewal in a few months and if she does not renew my lease that brings a whole new set of problems to deal with, and yes, shame because I not only fail myself, but several of my family members.  But secrecy is not going to solve anything and so today I name my shame and prepare to do battle…at least a battle I am confident I can fight effectively now.  I am win the battle, the war…not so sure yet.

Comments, thoughts?