My Healing Your Shame Program
I created a proprietary program for healing the shame of abuse. It has proven to be effective for many of my clients throughout the years. There are five major pathways to reducing or eliminating shame:
- Self-compassion. Compassion is the antidote to shame. As it is with most poisons, the toxicity of shame needs to be neutralized by another substance if we are truly going to save the patient. Compassion is the only thing that can neutralize shame. Self-compassion will teach readers how to develop an internal compassionate relationship with themselves. Readers will learn specific compassionate attitudes and skills that can reverse their tendency to blame themselves for the abuse and to begin to understand that they did nothing to deserve the abuse. In addition, it will help them to understand why they have behaved as they have and to forgive themselves for the negative behaviors they may have exhibited in response to their abuse experiences—everything from alcohol and drug abuse to sexual acting out and being reckless with themselves and their body. Finally, self-compassion will help them to give themselves the nurturance, understanding and validation they so desperately need in order to feel worthy of care, respect and acceptance. For all these reasons, self-compassion will be a major focus of the program and a primary strategy for healing shame.
- Anger expression. Whereas shame depletes our energy, anger energizes and empowers. Anger can help former victims begin to feel less helpless and hopeless and motivate them to continue on their healing journey. It can help them become less fearful of their abuser and may even help them to imagine standing up to their abuser and telling him off. And perhaps most important, it will help them to give their shame back to their abuser. I will offer strategies to help readers overcome any fear they have about getting angry and techniques to use to release their anger in healthy and safe ways.
Another benefit of anger expression is that it can push people away and can help former victims to create boundaries, which can in turn help free them to create a separate identity from their abusers. This is especially important for those who coped with the abuse by “identifying with the aggressor,” meaning that they idealized the abuser and became like him or her as a way of defending against acknowledging that they were victimized.
- Self-forgiveness. Self-forgiveness is a powerful way to reduce or even eliminate shame. In this section I will guide former victims step-by-step through the process of completing four major tasks related to self-forgiveness. First and foremost those who have been shamed or abused need to forgive themselves for the abuse itself and stop making themselves prisoners of their own making. Second, they need to forgive their body—for being invaded and for any pleasure they might have experienced. Third, they need to forgive themselves for any harm they caused themselves. And finally, they need to forgive themselves for the harm they have caused others.
- Self-acknowledgment. While self-compassion is the antidote to shame, pride is its opposite. I will encourage former victims to take pride in their achievements, including the fact that they have survived the abuse.
- Self-kindness. Unfortunately, shame has probably kept many former victims from feeling kind toward themselves in much the same way that it may have been difficult to accept kindness from others. They may not believe they deserve to be treated with the same patience, tenderness and comfort that they might naturally feel for a loved one. Hopefully, with some of their shame dissipated they will now be more open to believing they deserve self-kindness. They might not know how to treat themselves with loving kindness, but if they now believe they deserve it, then this program will help them learn how to practice it.
In summary, this program will help former victims:
- Come out of denial about how they have suffered due to childhood abuse
- Provide them ways to comfort themselves and to validate their feelings
- Help them stop shaming and blaming themselves for things other people have done to them
- Help them to forgive themselves for not being able to protect themselves or treat themselves well in the past
- Help to empower them to stand up for themselves today. Research shows that self-compassion and empowerment are positively related. In a study of 205 undergraduate students at a university in Southeastern U.S. there was a significant positive relationship between self-compassion and empowerment.