If you suffered childhood physical, emotional or sexual abuse, you might experience intense feelings of shame because you blame yourself for the damage or such humiliation from the past.
In some way, childhood abuse victims blame themselves —for not telling someone, for being submissive and not resist, no matter how many times they heard the sentence “It’ s not your fault.”
Therapist and childhood abuse expert Beverly Engel presents the compassion-based therapeutic approach to help you overcome the shame that keeps you tied to the past.
She says that former victims are typically changed by the experience, they were traumatized and feel a loss of innocence and dignity. Shame that victim feels actually comes to define the person, which can keep her from her full potential in every life aspect. There is the shame that victim thinks about some behavior that was a consequence of the abuse- if the injured child is unable to express their anger at an abuser, they can hurt weaker than themselves, such as younger siblings. Every aspect of a former victim’s life can be affected because of the shame- from self-confidence and body image to your ability to feel for others, to care for yourself, to learn and progress.
According to Beverly Engel, shame is responsible for many personal problems, including self-destructive behaviors such as violating drugs, alcohol, food or being accident-prone, believing you don’t deserve good things, intense rage or acting out against society and breaking the rules and laws.
Manifestation of Shame
In her book she explains that shame from childhood abuse almost always manifests in one of these ways:
- Guilt and blame cause former victims to harm themselves with alcohol or drug abuse, destructive behavior or other forms of self-harm.
- Former abuse victims may develop victim-like behavior, where they accept unacceptable, abusive behavior from others.
- Shame can cause victims to become abusive. Researchers show that 30 percent of abused children will later harm their own kids.
Self-Compassion Has a Healing Power
Shame and guilt need to be neutralized by another substance, and the compassion is the only thing that can counteract the isolation and stigmatize. Researchers have taken up the empathy and shown that the support, encouragement, and kindness of others have a considerable impact, as well as a positive effect on depression, anxiety, and stress. Also, it appears to facilitate resilience by moderating people’s reactions to adverse events and deactivates the threat system.
Therapist Beverly Engel says that learning to practice self-compassion, you will rid yourself of shame-based beliefs and you need to give yourself the recognition, validation, and support we would offer a loved one who is suffering.
Practice Compassion Toward Yourself
The goal of self-compassion is to treat yourself the same way the most compassionate person you know would treat you, give yourself love, kindness, and support.
The first step is to open up to the kindest, understanding, and supportive person you know- a friend, a relative, neighbor. Notice the feelings that come up with this memory, think of someone in your life who has been compassionate toward you. Next is to imagine becoming compassionate toward yourself as that person has been toward you, and how would you treat yourself or what would you say to yourself if you were feeling sad and ashamed.
Practicing self-compassion has benefits for many aspects of life. You reconnect with yourself, with your emotions and feelings, and then you will stop blaming yourself for your victimization. Learning to be kind toward yourself, create a nurturing inner voice to replace your critical voice. Through self-compassion you reconnect with others and become less isolated, and more social.