• The Effects of Destructive Shame

    Shame takes lives.

    Destructive shame breaks us down, pulls us away from those who love us, and confuses our ability to see ourselves and others clearly.

    Destructive shame tells us to go hide away so people won’t see our brokenness. It scolds us saying we’d never actually be accepted by others if they saw it all… in fact, it’s embarrassing we thought someone might actually want to know the real us in the first place.

    Destructive shame is mean and it’s vengeful.

    Yet, it’s a protection. It’s done it's very best to keep us safe. It's worked tirelessly to prevent further experiences of rejection and dismissal. It’s clever… it tells you that you’re the worst before you have the chance to hear it from others. But, we know it also causes so much damage. It’s associated with depression, anxiety, isolation, alcoholism, chronic illnesses, and suicide.

    Shame in its healthy form is meant to guide us back into alignment with our values, morals, and goals. It’s simply meant to say,

    “Hey, this isn’t right. You should feel bad about this decision, but let’s come up with a way to make it right and get back into alignment with what we believe.”

    Brené Brown said it so well, "If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can't survive."

    We can use self-compassion and curiosity to help our systems rewire from destructive shame to constructive shame. We always encourage you to do this with a licensed therapist — you don’t have to do it alone.

    If you live in Texas, find out if one of our therapists is a good fit for you here 👉🏼 Meet the Team

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    Dickerson, S. S., Kemeny, M. E., Aziz, N., Kim, K. H., & Fahey, J. L. (2004). Immunological Effects of Induced Shame and Guilt. Psychosomatic Medicine66(1), 124-131.

    Johnson, E. A., & O'brien, K. A. (2013). Self-Compassion Soothes the Savage Ego-Threat System: Effects on Negative Affect, Shame, Rumination, and Depressive Symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 32(9), 939-963.

    Matos, M., Pinto-Gouveia, J., & Gilbert, P. (). The Effect of Shame and Shame Memories on Paranoid Ideation and Social Anxiety. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy20(4), 334-349. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpp.1766

    Platt, M., & Freyd, J. (2012). Trauma and Negative Underlying Assumptions in Feelings of Shame: An Exploratory Study. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy4(4), 370-378. DOI: 10.1037/a0024253


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