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  • Writer's pictureNeliona

On shame and vulnerability

This spring morning, I sit peacefully at my kitchen table sipping away small, warm doses of coffee. I hear from afar signs of life entering my space like the voice of my downstairs neighbour, the seagulls singing and the movement of the tree branches as they dance in the gentle wind.

Today I wanted to write a little about a topic that is very close to my heart as a therapist and that is the emotion of shame. When I think of shame, memories spring into my mind as a child feeling small and ashamed. When my friends refused to play with me, when I was yelled at at home, a certain glance from a stranger or non stranger, when I had made a mistake and gotten punished, when I failed an exam and did not feel good enough. Shame attached itself to my body like a wet cloth and throughout the years it found the way to my heart and locked it away from the outer dangerous world. Shame is a protective mechanism. It is a little deprived, neglected, hungry creature that guards the heart, holding a sign which screams "no more pain is entering here".

In my therapeutic space, especially in my work with trauma and traumatic memories, layer after layer people are discovering an identity which is very often guarded by a thick layer of shame. And this is where the work becomes challenging. This is where people do everything to avoid this feeling and deflect the attention away from it. They become defensive, aggressive, angry, and fearful. You see shame is such a deep part of the body that the body rejects the idea of being witnessed and baring itself in the eyes of the other. A tremendous amount of courage and trust is needed for the person to be able to show the body of shame. To tell the ugly story of what happened to them, to feel truly vulnerable, to crumble, to cry, to shake, to release. And to be able to hold those feelings trusting that they will not become a big monstrous entity that will consume them. It takes a lot of courage and willingness to push through on the side of the client and a lot of gentle care, holding and empathy on the side of the therapist.

Shame is felt in the body and through the body it has to be felt and released. Through meditation, breathing, crying, shaking, dancing, body movement. This is how shame can be felt and perhaps, when it's time given back to where it belongs. Because it never belonged to you in the first place.

Shame is felt through the body. So I invite you, next time you allow yourself to feel the emotion of shame instead of running away from it and locking it away, do this. Find a quiet safe space, close your eyes and breath into the discomfort in your body. Where do you feel the shame? Is it lump in your throat, heaviness in your shoulders or chest, a weight in your heart or perhaps pain in your stomach? Wherever it is trust that your body has the answer and the healing power to release it. I also invite you to reach out for help. You are not alone.

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