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Survival and Shame

One residual symptom of codependency is perfectionism, and one area in which this affects many codependents and recovering codependents is in the form of self-criticism. We hold ourselves to impossible standards, we expect more from ourselves than from anyone around us, we forgive others but punish ourselves for the same mistake countless times. Some of these mistakes were made before we knew any better, when we were unaware, when we were children, or when we were in a state of survival that meant that we acted in ways that we wouldn’t today. We compound the painful memories we carry by adding shame that not only inhibits our ability to heal and move on from these experiences but that also makes it so much more difficult to learn and do better in the future.

Shame is one of those emotions that makes us want to hide—from others and from ourselves. Shame makes it so that we don’t want to even look at what might be causing us pain. I’ve found that the best way to release the hold that shame has on me is to talk about what I’m feeling shame around…I’ll allow myself to think about it, then I’ll write it in my journal, then I’ll talk about with my coach and with my friends, and with each step the grip of the shame loosens. With each step I am able to find more self compassion rather than self judgment. Only then am I able to really understand WHY I made the mistake (and often no mistake was even made, I just perceived it as a mistake because of my predisposition to self-blame) and to do the work necessary to make sure I don’t make it again.

Since teaching myself how to process shame, I no longer need to fear it when it comes up. I no longer need to hide from it, thereby letting it grow and grow over the years. I can simply feel it, get to know what it’s here to teach me, and open myself up to the growth available through that experience. Sometimes we’re so terrified to feel shame because it really is one of those very painful emotions, but intentionally feeling it and processing it is so much less painful and so much more beneficial to us than avoiding and suffering it for years and years.

Forgive yourself for the way you acted before you knew better. Explore what it was in you that led to that behavior. Give yourself what you require in order to not need to act in those ways in the future. Trust me, this is a much easier and much more beneficial choice than running away from the pain simply because you’re afraid of it. You can do this, and I am here for you if you need help.

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