Deconstructing the Shame Dilemma. Finally.
Some things are meant to be deconstructed. Shame is one of them.
Deconstruct is a verb.
You begin to emerge from shame when you deconstruct the shame you feel.
When you become curious about this shame you may find that it does not actually belong to you.
Often shame after a traumatic event is that kind of shame.
We feel ashamed of what we did to survive—even when what we did was not shameful.
Deconstruct is a verb.
Verbs symbolize movement.
Movement can take the form of growth.
There are three crucial moves you have to make:
1. Examine the shame. Get to know it. Find words to describe it. Stop trying to fight it—not because you need to "accept" it but in order to understand its exact origins. We have lots of posts on this.
2. Fact-check the shame. Who does it really belong to? Is it a product of scapegoating, for example? Shame that has been dumped on you, either consciously or unconsciously, is scapegoating. We have a section devoted to scapegoating, shame, and self-blame.
3. Get curious. Deconstruct the shame. Identify every aspect of it. Become a student of yourself. Observe (as opposed to judge) your reactions, emotions, and thoughts. This is what mindfulness is.
When you are in recovery from shame—after a recent trauma or, perhaps, decades into a period when you can recall no distinct trauma—you move into a space within yourself that holds the memory of the pain. This could be something that happened in the family, at school, as a child or teen, in a relationship, at work. When you were sober or not. A participant or a bystander. Aware or unaware. There are many scenarios that trigger the onset of shame. Can you identify yours? If not, how about a general or even vague sense of what brings it on?
This is deep and tender work. Be gentle and kind to yourself. If you are not sure how to be gentle or kind, start with acknowledging your dedication to this process. Being a witness to yourself is huge. It's also kind.
The practice of shame recovery is to take those until-now buried, neglected, scary, shame-filled memories, in whatever shape they present themselves, and begin to deconstruct them, and your relationship to them.
This is how you assign meaning to this shame, as opposed to this shame assigning meaning to you.