Feelings are unavoidable. A lot of people, myself included, do not like this fact, and sometimes go to great -inevitably destructive- lengths to contradict this statement. At times, to feel can be confusing, distressing, and painful.
Being human, it is in fact a positive things to feel what we judge “negative” emotions, such as guilt and remorse. Inability to experience such emotions is the key characteristic of sociopaths.
But often guilt is unjustified -and even worse, shifts into shame. In my eyes, I cannot afford to share my headspace with shame. Despite this, I still give it a guest room to stay. It seems once I give way to allowing shame in, it thrives and grows, lingering down a hallway, into other rooms. It can easily consume the whole house -all the while costing me increasing fortune on the rental which is no longer my own.
For me, shame quickly turns into a useless downward spiral. I act in a way I deem unacceptable – I feel ashamed – I act out in destructive ways to cope with this feeling – I feel even more ashamed – rinse and repeat.
One of the things I feel the most shame about is my eating disorder relapse cycle. My relapses are extreme and life threatening, thus I am hospitalized frequently. I pretend to know what people are thinking: Well there she goes again -the drama never ends. Why doesn’t she just quit it already?!
I wrote in a previous post about falling under the spell of mental illness stigma; how I shame myself for not being able to “snap out of it”.
What I have come to realize about shame is it -unlike guilt or remorse- serves no good purpose. Furthermore, it is an illusory feeling of control over that which I am powerless over. Being ashamed of a mental illness means I can be unashamed if only I did not have one. But I do. And this is out of my control -so why would I be ashamed?
The realization that shame is tied to an illusion of control was a monumental shift for me, but it it still a daily battle to be rid of it.
I’ve heard it said: “Guilt says I’ve done something bad; Shame says I am bad.”
This absolutely contradicts my spiritual belief system. I am most certainly not a bad person: I am loveable unconditionally and entirely forgiven for anything I’ve ever done and anything I am yet to do. If I can hold this close to my heart, there is no room for shame to enter.