In a faith transition it is not uncommon for both partners to encounter shame. According to shame researcher Brene Brown, shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.
If you are anything like me you have thought some variation of the following:
I am ruining everything,
I should have done more to prevent this.
I am the problem in this relationship
This is all my fault
Those are examples of thoughts that cause the feeling of shame. The real problem with shame, other than the fact that it just makes us feel terrible is that it is poison to relationships.
Here is more from Brene Brown:
“I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.”
When we are in a shame thought loop (see the examples above) we are so afraid that the relationship is irreparable or we have messed up so bad that there is no way forward. That is what makes shame so dangerous. It prevents us from reaching out, using soft starts, making bids for connection. It stops us from trying.
There is a way to get out the shame cycle.1. Be aware you are in it. Often when we are in a shame thought loop we are unaware of what is even going on. This is why I recommend to my clients that they start writing down there thoughts especially when emotions are running high. This helps us slow down and become a bit more aware of what is happening in our brain. Usually thoughts come and go so quickly we do not even notice them until we are in emotional distress. 2. Stop thinking the thoughts that generate shame. It is really that simple. Simple yes, but not always easy. You have practiced your current thoughts – A LOT. Everyday, several times a day. Remember you thoughts create your emotions. In order to feel better you need to stop those thoughts that create pain.3. New thoughts will produce new feelings for you, but it takes practice.
Here are some examples of new thoughts that could be helpful. Every person is different and so you may need to find thoughts that work for you.
I am following my truth
Life is unfolding just as it should
I am an important partner in this relationship.
This is an opportunity to grow and learn more about me and more about this relationship.
Interested in getting some help recognizing thoughts that cause you shame and reframing those thoughts? Coaching can help you do just this.