Shame Counselling Vancouver

Therapy for Shame & Related Issues

What is Shame?

Shame is a painful emotion to endure. It encompasses feelings of being worthless, unworthy, bad, or fundamentally flawed. Sometimes shame is fleeting, but feelings of shame can also be chronic. When someone experiences persistent shame, it can interfere with their capacity to develop a healthy sense of self.

Shame is different from guilt. Someone who feels guilty feels bad about something they’ve done: they feel guilty about their behaviour. Someone who feels shame feels badly about themselves; that is – they feel that they are bad. People may feel ashamed as a result of others shaming them, but most of the time, people experience shame quietly and alone.

Chronic shame usually starts in childhood. It can cause long-term damage to a person’s identity, self-esteem, mental health, and overall wellbeing. Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem often have roots in shame. Shame prevents us from developing friendships, getting involved in romantic relationships, showing vulnerability, and sharing how we truly feel with others.

Shame can also be destructive, and living with shame often takes its toll. Some people become abusive, angry, or develop addictions to cope with the painful emotions. It’s common for shame-sufferers to spend a lot of time alone.

The Evolution of Shame

Historically, the purpose of shame was to help people make decisions that would serve their best interests. In older societies where people relied on group cohesion for survival, acting on behalf of the group’s interest was also necessary for individual survival. Anticipating feelings of rejection from the group would make a person think twice about choices of betrayal or selfishness. Ultimately, shame protected people from themselves.

Modern society’s survival needs have changed, but shame still serves a social purpose – although debatably. Some researchers suggest that shame stops us from doing damage to our relationships. In the event that we make a mistake, shame pushes us to make amends. Others argue that shame is neither positive nor essential and that guilt can accomplish the same social goals of preventing harm to relationships and encouraging apologies. Researchers who oppose shame believe it creates unnecessary suffering and pain.

What Factors Contribute to Shame?

Cultural norms. Many cultures have standards of social acceptability. For example, some cultures reject peoples’ sexual preferences and orientations. People who deviate from cultural norms may experience rejection from others. In cultures that place greater value on group wellbeing and interests, people may feel shame on another’s behalf.

Low self-esteem. People with low self-esteem may have trouble identifying the source of their shame. Someone with an insecure attachment style may have higher levels of shame and lower self-esteem. On average, women and adolescents experience higher rates of shame, which makes them more vulnerable to low self-esteem and depression.

Trauma. Survivors of trauma often struggle with feelings of shame. It’s common for survivors to feel responsible or deserving of their trauma, or even ashamed for surviving.

Abuse. People who’ve been abused often feel shame surrounding the abuse. It’s common for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to experience shame into adulthood. Those with experiences of physical and emotional abuse are also more likely to feel shame.

Counselling for Shame

Living with shame can be difficult to bear. It prevents us from achieving our potential and holds us back from living and loving freely. Counselling can help you discover your inner strength by working with you to process your emotions. In a safe environment, a counsellor can provide the support you need while you resolve difficult feelings and experiences.

Self-compassion is one of shame’s best antidotes. Your counsellor will help you cultivate the self-compassion skills necessary to be able to work through the depth of emotions from wounds and traumas. By confronting those difficult memories and experiences with compassion, you’ll have space to build confidence and find peace.

According to famous shame researcher Brené Brown, shame requires three things to grow: secrecy, silence, and judgment. In other words – although we may have the urge to stay silent about our shame, this only increases the power it has over us. Instead, we need to break its hold by sharing our feelings and opening ourselves up to empathy, understanding, and compassion. Just the simple act of talking about your feelings with a licensed professional can help.

To learn more about our shame counselling services, please contact us using the form below. One of our therapists will be in touch within 24-48 hours to schedule a consultation.

Request a Free Consultation

    Do not use this form if you are in crisis or require immediate support. Please call the BC crisis line 604-872-3311 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room.