Yes, it’s embarrassing – how do you deal with shame?

Something stupid was mumbled again. Help! What do others think? Shame is not a nice feeling, actually it is unbearable: we feel ourselves to be ridiculous, worthless, unattainable and stupid.

– The feeling of shame comes from when you feel that you are not good enough or not enough as you are, says a psychologist familiar with shame and its treatment, Psychotherapist Katja Myllyviita.

Shame, however, is needed so that we can modify our behavior according to how others feel.

On the other hand, strong shame that remains can cause isolation and depression.

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– Getting stuck in shame has clear mental health effects that can be seen in the brain’s neurotransmitters, Myllyviita says.

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By exercising, it is possible to free yourself from the traps that maintain a constant bad feeling. Recognizing shame in yourself and others is already a good start.

So that no one is left alone

Shame is a self-directed feeling, but it arises from comparison with other people. Everyone has a need to be part of the herd. It is natural that when you fail in something important to yourself, you feel ashamed and worried about what others think. The fear of being alone strikes.

– Shame is in our emotional reserve so that no one is left alone, because it has always been dangerous for people, Myllyviita says.

When you screw up, you start to fear the consequences. The fear of being disgraced or rejected rears its head. At the same time, self-criticism is activated, which makes it difficult to calm yourself down and assure yourself that this too can be overcome.

– When looking around through the glasses of judgement, one also interprets others as equally critical and judgmental, Myllyviita describes.

Shame sensitizes you to observe the emotional states and behavior of others. Then you may act only according to other people’s expectations, and no longer listen to your own needs and wishes.

Escape or rage won’t help

When the shame comes to the surface, I feel like putting a bag on my head or sneaking into a corner to hide. However, running away does not make you feel any easier.

– The bad feeling is triggered when you act against the first urge, i.e. instead of withdrawing, you seek contact with others, advises Myllyviita.

It’s not easy, but luckily the people around you are often kinder than you might think.

The nature of shame is that it is an emotion that you want to hide. When shame cannot be faced, it is fought with, for example, anger towards oneself or others. Sometimes the feeling can turn into shameful rage directed at other people.

– If you have experienced humiliation and ridicule as a child, the rise of feelings of shame can frighten you and turn you into rage in a fraction of a second, Myllyviita describes.

Rage and anger often become a protection after a breakup, for example, and are seen in blaming the partner or self-accusations.

Reeling in anger activates self-flagellation.

– It can be very difficult to forgive oneself in the internal conversations of the mind, in which case self-criticism can become safety behavior and one remains stuck in shame.

You are imperfect

Shame is part of life and reminds us how imperfect and fallible everyone is.

– Everyone sometimes experiences feelings similar to shame, which, while useful, are transitory and situation-related, says Myllyviita.

So it’s a healthy and functional feeling that prevents future dozing off.

It’s worrying if you don’t feel shame at all. For example, narcissism is associated with shamelessness and the inability to empathize.

A perfectionist, on the other hand, can strive for perfection by striving to keep all shame-related feelings at bay.

– Emotional blindness or an inability to empathize may prevent shame, so the mocker does not learn to act better towards others.

Compassion as counterforce

Since shame arises in relation to other people, it can also melt down with others. Talking about difficult experiences and sharing them with trusted people can reduce the perceived shame. The ability to empathize usually develops in adulthood, says Katja Myllyviita.

– As we get older, we start to look at the world from the perspective of others and we notice that the same inadequacy and longing for acceptance unites almost all people. At that time, one’s own experiences of shame become part of a wider humanity and being a person. Compassion and kindness towards oneself and others is the best antidote to unnecessary and prolonged shame, says Myllyviita.

Expert: Katja Myllyviita, psychologist, trainer, psychotherapist.

This article has appeared in Hyvä tervey magazine. As a subscriber, you can read all issues free of charge from the service

Source: Hyvä Terveys by

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