Friends and clients often ask me,
What’s the best technique or tool to use when you’re hit with self-loathing and shame?”
And while I do have some powerful favourites, the
truth is, sometimes the shame spiral's so strong, you can’t even access the will to get out of it.
That’s when you’ve got to bring out the heavy artillery. Not just one tool, but EVERYTHING you’ve got in the arsenal.
Here’s an interesting example:
My sister suffers from migraines—the real kind that swells up from her neurological pain center and misinforms her brain—telling it to turn the pain on full blast.
When the big ones hit, it affects her whole body.
And puts her flat out for days at a time.
Mostly she manages by avoiding trigger food and watching her stress levels, but when that doesn’t do the trick, she no longer takes the pain lying down.
And that’s because her doctor gave her some great (but surprising) advice.
"When you feel a major migraine coming on, HIT IT WITH EVERYTHING YOU'VE GOT."
For Janet, that often means:
The maximum dosage of her migraine medication.
AND an Excedrin.
AND a strong cup of coffee (caffeine has vasoconstrictive properties that cause the blood vessels to narrow and restrict blood flow, which can aid in head pain relief).
AND a dark, quiet room.
AND a cool cloth on her neck.
EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING that will give her relief.
(Please note: Her doctor isn’t advocating drug abuse or overdosing. He trusts Janet to use logic and common sense to control her own pain. He knows my sister is the ONLY one who can make those choices for herself because my sister is the only who can FEEL the migraine and is also the only one who knows her own body’s signals and tolerance levels.)
The point is this:
There’s no need to suffer.
Do anything and everything to immediately stop the pain in its tracks so it won’t continue to build.
And that’s my advice too.
When you feel shame (or other forms of the pain body) coming on, deal with it immediately.
HIT BACK AS HARD AS YOU CAN.
The first line of defence is always present-moment-awareness.
The Pain Body operates from the past and will pull you back there quicker than the conscious mind can recognize.
WHICH MEANS YOU NEED TO GET YOUR ATTENTION ON SOMETHING IN YOUR CURRENT REALITY.
Look around the room. Where are you? What do you see?
Name those objects! If people are around, do this silently in your mind.
Sometimes this is enough to bring yourself back to YOU (and all your resources).
But sometimes its not.
Shame is a mind mistake that tricks the brain into believing that no one loves you, that you’re a loser, that you don't make a difference, that it will never get better, that no one will ever understand or accept you . . .
Interrupt that false story as SOON as you can.
Get outside! Move your body.
Listen to uplifting, happy, energizing music!
Call a friend, a mentor, your coach.
Reaching for drugs or alcohol or food or sex may help temporarily, but that remedy will only keep the cycle in motion.
Be careful with that!
You won’t heal shame by driving it underground with coping strategies.
Brene Brown says that shame needs 3 things to grow: Secrecy, Silence, and Judgment.
So here's the antidote to feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness:
RECOGNIZE IT! Acknowledge it and call it by name. “I’m feeling shame.” Feeling what you really feel will help move it OUT of your body.
BE HERE NOW! Shame is rooted in the past, so do whatever you can to get your awareness back to NOW. Your boss is NOT your dad. You are NOT 7 years old. You're a grown-up and you have choices. Bring your awareness to that.
EMPATHY! Talk to someone who will understand and show you love. Don’t have anyone to talk to in the red-hot moment of shame? Then you’ll have to be your own best friend and empathize with yourself.
And if that doesn't appeal to you?
Then take a note from Paul Simon.
Turn "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" into creative ways to deal with shame.
Go get support, Mort
Ask for a hug, Doug
Release that pain, Jane
Remember your glee, Lee
You get the idea.
Just do whatever it takes, my friend.
Just get yourself free.
Sending you so much love,
PS. This blog is about shame (not migraines) but I do have a quick comment I feel is important.
Migraines aren't headaches. During a migraine, the tissue surrounding the brain swells, causing intense pain. Medication prescribed for a headache (developed to dilate the blood vessels), will actually increase migraine pain.
The truth is, doctors still are not entirely sure how someone gets a migraine but here's what they think is happening.
Pain-sensing cells in your brain stem (nociceptors) pick up on this change in your routine and release a chemical (neuropeptides).
This chemical attacks other pain-sensing cells nearby, making them more sensitive to pain. They also release neuropeptides.
Some of these chemicals begin to work on the muscles surrounding the blood vessels near the surface of your brain. Those muscles relax, making the blood vessels dilate and causing more blood to flow. This is where doctors think the aura in a classic migraine comes from.
Some of the neuropeptide chemicals cause the cranial (skull) vessels to begin leaking, making the tissue around the area swell.
Doctors now think that the combination of these factors—increased sensitivity, swelling brain tissues and swelling of blood vessels—is the cause of migraines.
[source: M.A.G.N.U.M. - The National Migraine Association].