Let’s do an ABC analysis of shame. The adversity (A) is that something “shameful” has been revealed about you or some group you closely identify with such as your family. The disclosure to others may occur by something you do in public or reveal about yourself. It can also occur because someone else “outs” you either intentionally or possibly unintentionally.
The consequence at (C) is that you feel the powerful and painful feeling of shame. However, you may also remove yourself from the gaze of other, isolate or hide from others, attack others in a defensive maneuver to save face and defend your self-esteem in some other way. Once feeling shame your subsequent thinking my become biased and distorted. For example, you may overestimate the shamefulness of the information revealed about you to others. You may overestimate the likelihood others will be very interested in this information or will judge you once knowing it. You may also overestimate the degree of disapproval others will show you or the time period that disapproval will be shown to you.
Fortunately, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) has a solution for those who suffer with this painful and powerful emotion. That solution is to accept yourself despite the “shameful” revelation. Why? Because you are a fallible human and will from time to time like all other fallible humans do things that fall short of the standards you wish to achieve and live by. How do you accept yourself with your shameful revelation?
There are many ways and space does not allow me to go into all of these in this piece. Let me say that you choose to define yourself “okay” whether or not others see you that way. People can define themselves as okay as people even when they acknowledge to others and to themselves that what they have done is not okay in some way. It helps to know that there are no laws of the universe that prevent humans from doing what other humans consider “shameful.” You can see an action as bad but you never have to see yourself as a bad, shameful, worthless human. The unconditional self-acceptance which is the antidote to shame is ALWAYS self-administered because only you can choose to accept yourself. Once you see this point a great liberation occurs. I believe that perhaps the greatest gift you can give to yourself is unconditional self-acceptance. I cannot give this to you, your parents cannot give this to you, your partner cannot give this to you. Only you can give this to you.
Instead of shame you could feel disappointed that you did what others in your group will consider bad and shameful. You can be concerned that there may be some consequence in the future for the thing you did. However, with unconditional self-acceptance you will be better able to shamelessly face whatever consequences lie ahead. As I said earlier, the shame you feel will likely cause you to overestimate the likelihood of those consequences occurring and the disapproval that will accompany them.
In conclusion Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) holds the answer to the emotional tyranny of shame. It is unconditional self-acceptance, self-administered, freely given by yourself to yourself because you simply choose to do this. You are a human, a fallible human, who can choose self-acceptance regardless of how shamefully you or someone close to you may act. It is a human right for you to unconditionally accept yourself. Understand this point and so much in your life will change. Why not go for shame free living starting today!