Written by: Jenny Smith
Shame is one of the hardest and most toxic of human emotions. It is centred in the belief that there is something wrong with you and carries thoughts such as ‘I’m bad’ or ‘I hate myself’. Because of its inherent behaviour of self-attack, it can be very difficult to seek help and support.
Shame is not the truth
In fact it is the very opposite. It is a way in which our truth about ourselves has become blocked and suppressed, replaced instead with a version of ourselves that we have come to believe is more acceptable to others. ¬†Suppressing core elements of ourselves is, in the long run, damaging and energy sapping. It causes us to become lethargic, inauthentic and disconnected from ourselves, which results in a life half lived.
If you want to lead a full and satisfying life, it is important to face up to and reclaim those aspects of yourself that have been denied and labelled as bad in some way.
When shame gets triggered in us, we can get flooded not only with negative thoughts and feelings, but also stress hormones like cortisol. This causes feelings to ramp up and overwhelm us. An extremely effective antidote to cortisol is oxytocin, the hormone that has been named the cuddle hormone because it is induced when we feel safe and secure, two feelings that sit at the opposite end of the spectrum of shame.
How to increase happy hormones
So what are the ways to increase oxytocin in our bodies? Hugging, stroking animals, being listened to with empathy, lying with your hand on your heart recalling a time when you felt safe and having loving sex are all great ways to relax your nervous system and increase oxytocin levels in your body.
As you increase the amount of oxytocin it will become more possible for you to be compassionate with the parts of you that carry the shame. This is literally a re-wiring of the brain, and is one of the best internal resources that we have.
Along with practices that increase oxytocin, the other resources that we have is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a fantastic practice of noticing what is going on in the moment and choosing to let go of habits that interpret and label situations, and keep us stuck in old patterns of shame.
By starting off with bringing mindfulness to everyday moments such as cleaning our teeth, washing up and walking the dog, overtime increasing the amount of time each day that we spend being mindful, it is possible to develop our practice to the point where it can help us stay present even when we feel triggers of shame.