Shame is like a squatter in your mind. It enters unexpectedly and requires tremendous effort to evict it from the premises. Shame creeps up when you experience pain and feel life has not lived up to your expectations. It quickly established a presence in your psyche and creates a vicious cycle of limiting and toxic thinking.
There are steps you can take to rewrite the shame script. First, understand what the shame is trying to tell you. Although the noise has become distortive, shame is a signal that you have unresolved issues that require more attention for you to more fully heal and engaged with your life. As sexual abuse survivors, we might carry the unnecessary burden of shame for thoughts, behaviors, and actions that don’t belong to us. These thoughts are a transference of pain from being subjected to intense and personal manipulative violations. The good news is that you have the powerful ability to rewrite your story into something filled with more self-compassion and fulfillment. To help expel the shame from your psyche, try one or more the following exercises.
Exercise 1: Meet Your Uninvited Guest
Shame festers in the mind, body, and spirit if left unattended. Removal requires you to understand it, including the various aspects, roots, and lessons you might need to learn. As you take the shame out of the shadow and into the light it will lose its power and help you. In this exercise, you will get a better sense of how your shame is currently presenting in your life and how you can better cultivate the steps to live a more vibrant existence.
Gather a candle, match, journal, and pencil, and find a quiet space. Ground yourself with deep cleansing breaths. Light the candle and picture the shame materializing in the flame. Observe the various facets. Does it look a certain way, or does it appear as a feeling? Do a body scan to see what parts of your body are triggered by the shame’s appearance. When you are ready, be bold and ask your shame deep-seated questions. Note its responses and how the voice sounds.
Record or draw your impressions and insights as you dialogue with the shame. As the shame’s contents emerge from the dark and onto the paper, feel your spirit becoming more invigorated. Shame gains its power from one’s avoidance of interacting with the unsettled and limiting feelings. Uncover what the shame tells you about your triggers that perpetuate your feelings of unworthiness, and steps you can take to correct limiting beliefs.
When you are ready, honor your shame for surfacing and teaching you valuable lessons. Notice how the shape and intensity have lessened, creating more space for new healthier patterns. Jot down a few positive self-care activities you can do in the coming week and an uplifting mantra that might arise in your mind. Extinguish the candle, and end by taking a few cleansing breaths and giving yourself a hug.
Exercise 2: Dismantle Your Shame Boulder
Shame can feel like a boulder that is overwhelming. Thankfully, boulders erode over time leaving pieces that can be removed, or proactively chipped away. This exercise will help you ease the burden of your shame and trauma. Only tackle a small portion of your history, to avoid becoming overwhelmed and further delay you from living your going forward story. You are on a journey of healing and rewriting your story; there is no rush.
Picture your shame and trauma in the form of a boulder. Explore all the angles and pay special attention for a small piece or two that either has fallen off or is easily able to be chipped off. Gather up a piece or two, these represent a part of your shame that your spirit is ready to release. Notice how these pieces feel heavy in your hand. Although it has fallen off the boulder it was still lingering and cluttering up your inner world. Ask Spirit to cleanse you of this added weight. Watch in your mind’s eye as the stone slowly dissolves and dissipates into a smokey gas, returning to the universe. After the last tendril of ether fades, honor the subtle yet profound shifts towards more peacefulness in your mind, body, and soul.
Finally, the next time you walk outside pick up a stone, perhaps from your cairn from last month’s exercises. Infuse the stone with the growth and insights you gained as you have evolved from Victim to Survivor to Thriver. As Spirit directs you, release the stone, ideally into a body of water. Once removed from your life, do not revisit this part of your shame, as resurfacing will obstruct your healing. On your return, honor your bravery and resolve to embrace life more fully. Fill this newly reclaimed space in your psyche with love, gratitude, and positivity.
Exercise 3: Loving-Kindness Meditation
The next time you practice meditation or prayer focus your practice promoting radical love and kindness to yourself and then share that love with the rest of the universe to promote self and collective healing from pain, shame, and sorrow. Try to repeat this practice for a week and see how your wellbeing improves.
Begin by sitting in a comfortable position and place one hand over your heart chakra and the other over your solar plexus chakra. Call up an image of yourself around the time of your trauma and a second image of how you look currently, and state out loud the following:
May I be full of loving-kindness
May I be happy
May I be protected from inner and outer harm
May my pain and sorrow be eased
May I accept myself, just as I am
May I know the joy of being alive
Next, picture a person who has been instrumental to you during your journey towards healing and wholeness. Pay special attention to the ways they have helped you tackle your feelings of shame and guilt. Repeat the following mantra:
May you be full of loving-kindness
May you be happy
May you be protected from inner and outer harm
May your pain and sorrow be eased
May you accept yourself, just as you are
May you know the joy of being alive
Then, address this mantra to the person or individuals that abused you. Although this may be very difficult for you to do, it is essential to helping you heal. They are a major component of your shame. Radical empathy eases pain for all parties. Take extra time and care with each blessing and remember to breathe through any tension that might arise.
End by repeating the following mantra to help benefit the collective universal community. This should help provide you a balm from any difficulties you experienced during this exercise.
May all beings be full of loving-kindness
May all beings be happy
May all beings be protected from inner and outer harm
May all beings’ pain and sorrow be eased
May all beings accept themselves, just as they are
May all beings know the joy of being alive
At Survivors to Thrivers we believe that we all have a right to transcend mere existence. Shame gains its power when we deny ourselves our power and devalue our self-worth. Embracing yourself for who you are and the entirety of your experiences, you regain control over your story and destiny. You are no longer a victim, instead, you have implemented the lessons you have learned throughout your life. You have transformed into an inspiration and light-keeper for other survivors or allies. We look forward to hearing all the ways you are shining your light to help cast out the shame surrounding sexual abuse in your community. Share your stories, thoughts, and tips via email, blog comments or on our social media channels. Thank you for being a part of this loving, uplifting and empowering community.