Much of modern society is often termed as “shameless,” especially in terms of media and product promotion. But shame is still very much a part of the average human experience, and while some people may quickly and easily be able to overcome the feeling of shame, others may become debilitated. Shame, whether arising from a perceived faux-pas or other shortcoming, or from a traumatic event, can sometimes take hold of a person’s self-image and cause them to feel powerless and essentially wrong or bad, elements that are significantly detrimental to the enjoyment of life, work, and relationships.
Hoping to help those suffering from debilitating feelings of shame as well as mental health professionals who work with shame-affected clients, Jessica Van Vliet of the University of Albert has recently published a study that sought to examine how shame can be confronted and released. Van Vliet’s work suggests that some of the most promising avenues towards overcoming feelings of shame include distancing oneself from a shameful event or situation and taking on a new perspective, as well as considering the source of the shame in light of the experiences and lives of others. In fact, making social connections is one of the strongest prescriptions in Van Vliet’s discussion.
Reaching out to friends, family, colleagues, and mental health professionals can help those suffering from debilitating feelings of shame gain valuable insight into the capacity for people to make mistakes and to learn and grow from them as well, suggests Van Vliet. Though isolating and internalizing shame and its causes are often impulsive reactions to the feeling, choosing instead to share with others and seek common ground can lead to more rapid, lasting, and meaningful recovery.
© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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