Throwback Thursday: Overcoming Shame

I have written before about how much we all need human connection  (see: Family of Choice, Connection Heals, Relationships after Severe Trauma: Making Healthy Choices)and how forming positive relationships can be an important step towards developing self-love. The following research describes the role connection plays in overcoming shame, one of the core issues for trauma survivors.

Dr. Jessica Van Vliet conducted a study, published in  Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, that indicates that shame results from internalizing and over-personalizing a situation. The individual also seems to believe they are powerless to change their feelings or their fate. Shame in turn can lead to social isolation, with resulting decreased opportunities for having one’s faulty beliefs challenged by others or new, positive experiences.

Van Vliet states that connection (to family/family of choice, friends, a higher power, humanity as a whole) plays a crucial role in overcoming shame:

Connecting to others helps to increase self-acceptance, and with self-acceptance can come a greater acceptance of other people as well. People start to realize that it’s not just them. Other people do things that are as bad or even worse sometimes so they’re not the worst person on the planet. They start to say to themselves, ‘This is human, I am human, others are human.’

The implications of this research for trauma survivors are clear. This is why establishing and building a support system is such a crucial part of the first phase of trauma therapy. Support groups and connections with other trauma survivors can also play a powerful role in establishing one’s sense of being part of humanity, not completely “other”. The good news is that you can overcome shame!

Kathleen Young, Psy.D

References:

University of Alberta (2009, September 9). Overcoming Shame: Making Connections Is The Key, Says Researcher. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 4, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/09/090908193523.htm

Van Vliet, K. J. (2009). The role of attributions in the process of overcoming shame: A qualitative analysis. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 82, 137-152.

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