A Path to Healing Shame and Guilt

by | Personal Growth & Empowerment

This topic is one that touches every one of us at some point in our lives—shame and guilt. These emotions are like guests that overstay their welcome, weighing us down and holding us back.

For most of us, it started with our childhood conditioning, as a way to motivate us to change.  Instead, it created the opposite since the shame cycle brings us back to our dysfunctional behaviors over and over again and again.  Our thoughts get stuck in a loop, our emotions get stuck in a loop, and it manifests in our bodies with tension, pain, and even illnesses.  If you feel shame about eating, you eat more.  If you feel shame about drinking, you drink more.  If you fail to go for that walk, you beat yourself up, and then don’t walk again the next day either.

But fear not! I’m here to guide you through understanding and overcoming these emotions with five powerful tools for healing to get you out of this old pattern.

Understanding the Shadows of Shame and Guilt

Shame and guilt, oh, they’re like unwanted guests at the emotional party. Shame convinces us we’re not good enough, while guilt keeps reminding us of past mistakes or actions that haunt our thoughts. They’re heavy weights that drag us into a spiral of self-criticism and discomfort.

Many of us grew up with guilt, blame, and criticism, meant to punish and control us.  Now as adults, we come to look at our past mistakes, our errors of judgment, with exaggerated significance and think badly of ourselves.  Both guilt and shame are burdens that keeps us from giving freely and fully to the present moment.  It’s time to disrupt our self-destructive thoughts and make room for a more nurturing, compassionate, and loving point of view.  Change comes when we stop trying to please other people and we do the work to replace our limiting beliefs.

Bring on the Tools for Healing:

1. Self-Compassion Practices:

First up, self-compassion. It’s about treating yourself with the kindness and understanding you’d offer a friend or your own child. Self-compassion is not selfish, it’s self-love.  We are born compassionate, loving, unique individuals.  But with wounds, experiences, being around certain people, we move away from our true self and utilize other thoughts and feelings in an effort to feel safe.

Embrace positive self-talk, affirmations, and mindfulness to counter those negative and limiting beliefs.  We are not our thoughts but rather the awareness of them.  By being aware of negative self-talk and intentionally changing it to positive self-talk, we begin the transformation.  Suggested self-care might include going to a therapist, doing something creative, “I am” positive affirmations, meditation, yoga, somatic experiencing and movement, choosing how our day unfolds with planning and intentions, dressing “as if”, learning about boundaries, emotional freedom technique (EFT), quantum hypnosis healing technique, spirituality, and otherwise finding peace and clarity.

We can’t pour from an empty cup and you are worthy of the growth and freedom you will find when you don’t work to please others and identify who you are, who you want to be, and what you want.

For more information on self-compassion see Doing The Things That Will Make Your Life Better | Better Life Inc .

2. Forgiveness Work:

Forgiveness, now that’s a game-changer! It’s not about letting others off the hook; it’s about freeing yourself from the emotional baggage. Learn to forgive yourself and others, and watch those heavy burdens lift off your shoulders.

Forgiveness means choosing to no longer allow yourself to feel like a victim of another person or system.  To make the personal choice of freedom over martyrdom and no longer hold onto the emotions and triggers from the event that caused you harm.

What are the benefits of forgiving?  What are the pros and cons?  How might things be different if you chose to forgive?  What opportunities, life lessons, or growth can you derive from forgiveness?  Can you celebrate your resilience?

For more information on forgiveness consider Forgiveness: Healing and Transformation | Better Life Inc.

3. Therapeutic Support:

Therapy rocks! Seeking guidance from therapists or counselors specializing in shame and guilt is like having a trusted navigator on this emotional journey. They offer tailored strategies and insights you wouldn’t want to miss.

A therapist is not only self-care, but can be part of your tribe of supports along with friends, family, groups, clergy, sponsors, and your other support sources.  If you currently don’t have enough emotional supports, this is an opportunity to create one.  There are many modalities of treatment offered by therapists including talk therapy, therapy to create mindfulness, trauma processing, inner child healing, and many more.

4. Journaling and Reflection:

Grab a pen, folks! Journaling helps untangle those messy thoughts. Write about experiences, emotions, and reflections—it’s like shining a light on the darkest corners of your mind.

And, there are many options for journaling including but not limited to the “dear diary” approach, reflecting on a reading, “morning notes”, a gratitude list, or a list of affirmations to name a few.

There is also a scientifically proven psychological journaling approach to rewire the brain and heal trauma by James Pennebaker.  This includes free-writing on one topic for 15-30 minutes, four times, stating facts and feelings, and then reviewing all writings in their entirety you review the words you chose to use in order to work through the pattern of negative and positive words we use and thereby change our limiting beliefs and self-talk.  Language usage patterns reflect your underlying emotions and by using this type of journaling we can change our neural circuits.  In this writing you also identify:

  • who am I now
  • who was I in the past
  • who do I want to become

For more information on psychological journaling see Therapeutic Journaling | Better Life Inc.

5. Mindfulness and Emotional Regulation:

Mindfulness is your superpower! Practice observing your thoughts without judgment and learn emotional regulation techniques. Trust me, they’re your secret weapons against those overwhelming feelings.

You are not your thoughts but the awareness of them.  By setting intentions, practicing meditations, listening to guided meditations, somatic movement, and many other mindful techniques, healing your body and mind to overcome feelings of guilt and shame can have great benefits mentally, emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually.

Navigating Your Path to Healing

Healing isn’t about erasing the past. It’s about acknowledging it, understanding it, and using these tools to rewrite the narrative. Embrace vulnerability, challenge those negative beliefs, and set healthy boundaries.  Owning your past shadows and facing issues can reduce and eliminate your reenacting past “disasters” of someone else’s behaviors or your having made choices due to lack or to meet someone else’s expectations.  Perhaps asking yourself some tough questions:

  • what is appropriate, acceptable, tolerable and what’s not
  • what are my limits
  • how do I set boundaries, and did I fail to do so in the past
  • who am I
  • what are my values and priorities
  • am I making choices consistent with those values and priorities
  • what behaviors of mine do I want to keep
  • what do I want to change
  • how do I show up for myself

Remember, you are the window through which you see your world.  If you have been triggered, remember the trigger is one of the smallest parts of a weapon.  The larger components include the barrel and ammunition, and you are the one carrying the ammunition; you are carrying the explosive material, and only you can decide how you are going to handle that.  It’s your call.  You are powerful and can shed the burden of shame and guilt and derive freedom from doing so.

For more information on boundaries see Transforming Relationships: Healthy Communication for a Fulfilling Life | Better Life Inc.

Wrapping Up

Shame and guilt may have overstayed their welcome, but with these tools, you’re armed and ready to show them the door! It’s about empowering yourself, seeking support, and practicing self-compassion as you embark on this journey toward healing and self-acceptance.

Until next time, keep embracing those tools, keep growing, and remember—you’re stronger than those emotions would have you believe!

With infinite well wishes,