I had a great reminder today. I was reminded that to be a “good therapist,” I need to get over myself. Seriously! It’s less about me showing up to do some kind of healing miracle on someone, even though years of schooling and showing up with all my therapist armor (boundaries, EMDR, witty sayings) can sometimes lead me to believe otherwise. It’s more about creating a safe, non-judgmental environment and that’s where the magic happens. I had this reminder after a session when a client said “wow, that feels better.” And I laughed to myself, thinking, “oh, well I didn’t do much.”
And so you see, my biggest secret to combat shame: share. Talk about it. There may be times when more intentional conversations are needed, but just opening the lid to let some air get into the shame mix is the best step I’ve seen to date. I know Brene Brown talks about this necessary step quite a bit. If you’re new to Brene, this is my most recommended Ted Talk. Sharing in a safe way is what opens the door for healing shame.
What is shame, you ask? Shame is feeling like you’re not enough. Not pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough…just plain old NOT GOOD ENOUGH as you are. It’s feeling you’re somehow defective or broken. And it’s the hardest thing to talk about. So we don’t. We stay in our own corner and try to ignore it. We work harder, eat more (or less), hustle more, sleep around more…anything to fix the pain of feeling like we are not enough.
So back to my tip for healing shame: SHARE. Here are ways to share...
1) Find someone safe
It can be a friend, a therapist, a minister, spiritual director, mentor. Please note, not everyone deserves to know your story. Try to pick someone that has worked on themselves or is working on themselves. Pick someone who is kind, compassionate, and will believe you. I put emphasis on picking the right person to share with because shame can get piled on if the person is not healed enough to join you in your story.
2) Find a support group
A support group can also work. There are support groups all over the place. Just the other week I realized I might still have some healing to do (healing is an ongoing process) from the birth experience I had with Marley. What did I do? I opened up to a friend and she suggested an amazing support group. I didn't actually join, but I was amazed to see the option. In case you or anyone you know has had a traumatic birth experience, Climb Out of Darkness is a wonderful resource. Support groups are an option I suggest because they help you know you're not alone in what you're struggling with. That common humanity, seeing our shared experience, is what makes things just a bit more bearable.
This one I suggest last, because while I've studied the healing ability of the old school tool of writing things out with pen and paper, I also know many people aren't able to offer a safe space to themselves. They start journaling and might get even harder on themselves. If that's you, I recommend the first two options. Journaling is a great tool if you're open to offering yourself a place to get down your thoughts and feelings without judging yourself. If you struggle to be a non-judgmental, compassionate presence for yourself, check out these exercises by Kristin Neff. This is a website I recommend quite often to clients!
So there you have it! My biggest tool for combating shame: share! You're not alone in your feelings of unworthiness. You are worthy of love and belonging. You are worthy of feeling safe. You are good enough! So on that note, my friends, happy rooting!