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Healing the Unhealthy Shame-Anger Cycle

Danica Joan Dockery January 17, 2022

You will want to challenge the five core shame messages that cause you to feel worthless and small.

  1. You are no good.
  2. You are not good enough.
  3. You are unlovable.
  4. You don’t belong.
  5. You shouldn’t exist.

These are shaming statements that were thrown at you by someone else or through your own feelings of powerlessness.

Defending against the feeling of Shame only keeps the cycle going. As long as you will not allow the feelings of shame to be present, they will stay with you. You cannot successfully push away shame feelings. You must go through them. The best idea is to bring them out into the sunlight and deal with them head-on. Understand the process that sends you from feeling threatened right into the feeling anger so that you avoid feeling the shame. Learn about Shane, bullying and scapegoating. Figure out what type of Shame you have.

What triggers your powerlessness and helpless feelings and what sets you off? Really take your anger log seriously, especially the trigger thoughts. Become aware of what’s happening inside you in order to become the master of your feelings instead of letting them master you. Learn to observe the process of feeling a threat (a trigger that threatens self-identity) and the automatic swing into anger. Step back and watch how you lose your control and give away your power to do something effective when you feel threatened. When vulnerable feelings such as disappointment or frustration arise say, “This is a feeling. It’s only a temporary feeling. Feelings are meant to be felt. That’s why they are called feelings. I choose to breathe through this feeling rather than act out on it.”

Review the following helpful skills and techniques.

Take responsibility:

Taking responsibility for your own actions can become a way to gain self esteem. Allow yourself to feel the emotions of shame. Leave the upsetting situation and hang out with the feelings of shame. To diffuse its power, call It by name. “So this is shame. I’m being flooded with adrenaline. I can handle this. Even though it feels excruciating, I can breathe through it.” Find an anger management specialist to help you look at the patterns of violence that you learned in your family, the neighborhood or at school when you were young or when you were in an abusive relationship. Living with an aggressive person may have affected you so deeply that you took on the energies of the aggressor. Real strength is learning to allow feelings of hurt, disappointment and vulnerability instead of flying off the handle.

Listen to your body:

Catch yourself when you start to trigger, heat up and lose control. Observe how your body reacts when you are about to trigger. Does your stomach tighten up or your jaw clench? Do you stop breathing? Do you feel the adrenaline rush as your first clue? Does your heart beat faster? Find your body cues that signal you are losing it. Learn body cues to break the shame-anger cycle before it becomes punishing behavior.

Coping statements:

Use coping statements to keep yourself from blowing up. Talk yourself down. Use several phrases that calm you down such as, “This isn’t worth it. I refuse to lose it. I don’t have to go down to anger Road. I can leave instead of blowing up and ruining thing.” Cool yourself down with deep breathing. Tell yourself, “I will learn to deal with frustrating situations.”

Be kind to yourself as you are learning these new skills and techniques. You are breaking habits of a lifetime. If you mess up and revert back to old behavior, analyze what went wrong. Don’t beat yourself up that only makes things worse. Tell yourself that you made a slip and you will be more aware next time. Keep whittling away at the shame/anger cycle. You will get better over time if you keep at it. Give yourself a break this is a process. You are not a bad person when you feel helpless or poorly about yourself. Forgive yourself for doing what you learned growing up. Change destructive reactive patterns of shame/anger and develop the person you really want to be. Using your capacity to understand your emotions, own them and work with them instead of acting them out. Deeply desire to change and you will. You deserve to have a satisfying, happy life.

We will now turn to the fascinating subject of Shadow material which is closely related to the issue of Shame and very relevant to anger management.