This might be sabotaging the relationship with yourself and others

This might be sabotaging the relationship with yourself and others

Dysfunctional shame and guilt can cause a lot of chaos in your relationships and are a burden to your nervous system. Find out how what happens and what you can do to heal.

Why does it burden our relationships?
Shame and guilt is a socially corrective tool that informs us how our environment is perceiving us and our behavior so that we can adjust accordingly. A normal part of our human experience, and important. Shame and guilt both come from feelings of wrongdoing, however, guilt is remorse over something you did, while shame believes there is something wrong with you.

Now why does it feel so intense? Dysfunctional shame and guilt trigger our nervous system to freeze, which means when something or someone shames us or makes us feel guilty, our nervous system gets dysregulated and we cannot access reasoning that well. The feeling is visceral and can be completely overwhelming.

Next time you get triggered, get curious.
In relationships with others that means we crawl up the walls, or we hide under the carpet, or we start to attack the other for triggering the feeling of shame. In the relationship with ourselves, self-shaming stresses our nervous system and limits our capacities. It blocks our willingness to take risks, our ability for exposure, and our capacity to connect to others. Social anxiety is a typical expression of dysfunctional shame.

When I first tried to approach the subject, my nervous system would shut down to the point of falling asleep. I signed up for a training on the subject, but could not stay awake during the sessions, it was incredible how intense the reaction was to the teachings, I could not go there. My upbringing in a religious cult and dysfunctional family made me feel ashamed for having dreams, likes, and desires and guilty for needing a place in this world. Of course, I was carrying that burden.

So, I slowed down and worked gradually to create enough safety in my system to gently explore the parts of me that were carrying so much shame and guilt. This was a tough, but liberating process. The reason I am now writing these newsletters and having fun with it.

How to heal and transform
Healing dysfunctional shame comes with awareness, notice when you feel triggered by shame and guilt, and ask yourself if you truly did something wrong, or if there is a reason to feel shameful. Notice your reaction to the real or perceived shaming, do you jump out of your skin? Or do you shut down? Notice the intensity of your reaction with compassion, try to regulate your emotions, and come back to the present moment.

A simple example of dysfunctional shame vs functional guilt: your partner points out that you forgot to put the trash out, you explode at your partner or get stressed and irritated. A healthy reaction would simply be, ah, true, I forgot, let me do that now. No biggie.

Go Deeper

If you would like to find out more on the subject, you can check out my free Ebook on the subject. My course on healing the nervous system covers shame and guilt, and also in our group coaching community, we work extensively to get this back into balance and to find ease in the relationship with ourselves and others. I would love to see you there.

Feel free to ask me anything, I enjoy chatting and reflecting with you. And be gentle with yourself if you feel you would like to explore this topic.

With love,