More Than A Feeling: How Shame Subverts Healing

We talk about shame in the singular quite a bit, don’t we? Sometimes we partner it with guilt (though, as we’ve said before, we do make sure to separate the two), but shame rarely works alone.  That’s because it tends to create more problems and delay healing others.

Here are some studies that tell the tale — or some important new pieces of it:

  • There Are Direct Connections between Shame and Posttraumatic Stress
    Norwegian researchers Øktedalen, Hoffart, and Langkaas from the Research Institute at Modum Bad, in an in-depth study of 65 patients undergoing treatment for PTSD, found that those with a higher level of shame and guilt at the start of treatment had a higher level of PTSD symptoms over the course of treatment, as compared to other patients. And even more tellingly, changes in degrees of shame and guilt predicted corresponding changes in PTSD symptoms from session to session.

  • Shame Is Strongly Implicated in Leading Those with Depression to Addictive Drinking & Gambling
    In a Canadian study by Bilevicius, Single,, Bristow, et al of 210 depressed undergraduate students, researchers found that high levels of shame predicted higher than usual levels of gambling and alcohol problems — to the degree that investigators conclude that counselors should target healing shame as a clinical intervention of choice for young adults with depression and addictive behavior.

  • Shame Is the Primary Component of Moral Injury in Traumatized Military Veterans
    It’s associated with isolation, social anxiety, depression, & suicide, and presents a barrier to seeking help. This study by Gaudet, Sowers, Nugent & Boriskin, is from the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. As with other findings, clinical interventions that target self-forgiveness, self-compassion and self-kindness are recommended.

Here’s the bottom line: At the end of the day, there’s no one-stop solution for everyone. But if you’ve been feeling stuck, or like your current practices could use a boost, there’s no… (wait for it…) shame in trying something new.

One of the best things about Releasing Shame; Embracing Self-Worth is that its message reaches out across so many different fields. And while it may not be a cure-all, this meditation offers a new way to be kind to yourself — by letting go of things you may not have even known you were holding.

Whether used on its own or in tandem with your other favorite programs, we believe addressing shame adds a key that can unlock the host of other longstanding difficulties against which we take up arms each day.

And it feels pretty good to be prepared.