Breaking the Cycle of Shame and Self-Destructive BehaviorShame is: “I am bad” vs. “I did something bad.”

Shame involves an internalized feeling of being exposed and humiliated. Shame is different from guilt. Shame is a feeling of badness about the self. Guilt is about behavior — a feeling of “conscience” from having done something wrong or against one’s values.

Shame underlies self-destructive behaviors:

  • Hidden shame often drives self-destructive behaviors and other psychological symptoms such as rage, avoidance, or addictions.
  • Self-destructive behaviors often are an attempt to regulate overpowering, painful feelings but lead to more shame, propelling the self-destructive cycle.
  • Secrecy, silence, and out-of-control behaviors fuel shame.
  • Shame makes people want to hide and disappear, reinforcing shame.
  • Shame is created in children through scolding, judging, criticizing, abandonment, sexual and physical abuse.

Breaking the Cycle of Shame

Breaking self-destructive habits requires action, not just willpower:

  • Changing destructive behaviors requires trying out new, affirming behaviors to replace them.
  • New behaviors that generate positive feedback and reward create new connections in the brain, creating the momentum for ongoing growth and change. (Learning on a neurobehavioral level)

Shame can be relieved and healed by:

  • taking healthy risks to be seen and known authentically, acting from a positive motive and trying out new behaviors in a safe (nonjudgmental) setting.
  • taking actions that generate pride — the antidote to shame.
  • breaking secrecy with people who understand.

 

APA Reference
Margolies, L. (2013). Breaking the Cycle of Shame and Self-Destructive Behavior. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/breaking-the-cycle-of-shame-and-self-destructive-behavior/00015434
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Mar 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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