Much has been written and researched about shame over the last decade. Brené Brown, a well-known researcher on shame, defines it as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. “
The feeling of shame is universal and understanding and working to heal shame is an important part of healing from the often-lonely experience of trauma. Shame tends to thrive in isolation and secrecy. Healing comes from being able to tell your story. It is recommended to share with someone who is able to be supportive and empathetic. Another recommendation is to find a therapist who is educated and trained in shame and trauma.
A therapist can be an excellent resource for learning to understand and then peel back the layers of shame from the trauma. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a leading expert in trauma, stated, “You may gather the courage to face your inner music, but you will need some help to do so. You have to find someone you trust enough to accompany you. Someone who can safely hold your feelings and help you to listen to the painful messages from your emotional brain. Someone who can reflect the wholeness of you while you explore the fragmented experiences that you have had to keep secret from yourself for so long.” (The Body Keeps the Score, pg. )
Lastly, Self-compassion and empathy are helpful in reducing shame. Kristin Neff, a researcher on self–compassion, defines it as, “Extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.”. Brown suggests that the best weapon against shame is empathy. We can use empathy as a way of nurturing ourselves and ridding ourselves of our own self-shaming critic in the face of trauma.