0 comments on “Should I stay with my cheating partner?”

Should I stay with my cheating partner?

Hong Kong counsellling therapist

People cheat for many reasons.  It might be that the primary relationship lacks physical or emotional intimacy.  Another reason might be that one person feels unappreciated and seeks validation outside of the primary relationship. For more information on why people cheat, click here.

It is difficult not to take being cheated on personally.  Trust in the relationship is missing and may be hard to repair.  Here are some options and points to consider in an unfaithful circumstance or relationship.

1. Was your partner trying to hurt you or get revenge?  If your partner had an affair to punish you, can you forgive this?  Are they punishing you for having an affair? Or are they punishing you because you have not met some of their expectations?  This is a conversation to have to with your partner to understand their motivation and if you can repair the relationship.  If your partner cheated to hurt you to have more power or control over you, be cautious in taking them back.

2. Your partner is insecure in relationships in general: If your partner cheated because they are afraid you will abandon them, or they are insecure in relationships in general, they might always cheat.  If your partner is insecure because you have not been appreciative, emotionally or physically available, then you can aim to work towards repairing the relationship if you have the desire to save it.

3. Your partner wanted new sexual experiences: Your partner may have cheated because they wanted a unique or varied sexual experience.  If your relationship lacks sexual intimacy, your partner may have strayed to have their sexual needs met.  The question to ask yourself in this situation is, why don’t I want to have sex with my partner and can we work and repair this?  Am I ok with an open relationship?  Do I also want new sexual experiences that we can try as a couple?

4. Your partner wanted validation: Does your primary relationship have gratitude and appreciation for one another.  Couples often focus on what they do not have in a relationship instead of what they do have.  If someone is feeling taken for granted, or neglected, they might rationalise having an affair.  This is an opportunity to make your relationship stronger if you can see past the violation of trust and use it to build intimacy in your relationship.

An affair can break a relationship if the trust has been broken past the point of repair.  If both partners are willing to work on the problems in the relationship, a relationship can become stronger after an affair.  An affair might bring new appreciation to the relationship because it brings an awareness to how hurtful losing the relationship would be.  If you believe the relationship is worth saving, focus on the other person as a person and not a possession.  A marriage counsellor or therapist might be able to help both partners see the other person’s perspective and help the couple to communicate better.

Dr Monica Borschel is a US-trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment. Reach out to Dr Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

0 comments on “What’s Wrong With Me?”

What’s Wrong With Me?

As a psychologist, I often get the question, “What’s wrong with me?”

You have flaws and strengths just like anyone else. You have made decisions to be who you are, which might not fit into societies standards.

The real question is, “Why do you think there is something wrong with you?”

Often people feel like there is something wrong with them because they don’t fit into a box. They might believe they are different because they are creative, but others want them to be academic. They might also feel like they don’t fit in because they are not what their parents or society wants them to be. They might feel awkward because they are introverted and would prefer to stay at home alone. Some people think that they are weird because they are not in a relationship or because they don’t want to have children. Others might disagree with the religion or culture that they were brought up in, which makes them feel out of place.

Being yourself and following your own goals and beliefs is not wrong. It only becomes a problem when either yourself or someone else is hurting because of it. You are not responsible for other peoples feelings; however, you should not hurt others on purpose. A good example would be a woman or a man who is getting pressured to marry from their parents. However, they are not ready to marry. In this situation, not getting married places stress on the parents, but does not put stress on the adult child. If the adult child were to marry to please their parents, they might end up unhappy, in turn making the parents unhappy. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are feeling conflicted or feeling bad about yourself.

1. How has my culture affected my belief system?: Culture plays a significant role in how we view ourselves and what we should be doing. Are your beliefs in line with your culture? If they are there is no conflict. If they aren’t, is that ok? Can you accept that about yourself?

2. Religious background: Religion can shape how we view morality and relationships. Is your religion shaming you for what you believe in? Are your own beliefs in line with your faith? These are other ideas to explore for mental conflicts.

3. People pleasing: Are you having a difficult time because you want to please others and you have forgotten that your needs also matter? Boundaries are essential for mental well being. Giving more than you want to provide leads to resentment and exhaustion.

4. Negative thoughts: Negative thoughts about yourself and others can also make you feel like something is wrong with you and can lead to depression and anxiety. If you are having a difficult time thinking positive or feeling hopeful, a professional should be contacted.

5. Trauma, abuse and loss: A trauma can make you feel like others, or your environment is not safe. This can make you feel disconnected and out of place. Abuse can also lower self-worth and self-esteem. When we go through a loss, we often feel rejected or other emotions such as grief. When we are in a low place, we feel like no one can understand us. This is also a great time to contact a professional who can help you.

Dr Monica Borschel is a US-trained Clinical Psychologist Reach out to Dr Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Skype or private session available

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

0 comments on “Understanding Trauma”

Understanding Trauma

Hong Kong counselling therapist services

Trauma occurs when an accident, abuse, loss or something unpredictable causes us to feel emotions such as intense fear, shock, denial and distress. For the most part, people might have trauma reactions such as nightmares, hypervigilance or physical symptoms after a tragic or dangerous event that heals by itself after a short period. However, depending on the intensity and duration of the trauma, people might need to reach out to a trained mental health professional to recover and get back on track. Here are some concepts to help you understand trauma for yourself and your loved ones.

  1. The mind-body connection: Our mind is connected to our body, and there is a constant feedback loop between the two. During an accident or traumatic event, our system goes into fight or flight for protection. If our body is in fight or flight for too long, our mind becomes distressed and hypervigilant. Our immune system and nervous system might also be affected, and we might experience physical symptoms. After a trauma, it is essential to find ways to relax so that our mind and our body can get back to normal. If you are having a difficult time sleeping or focusing at work, a mental health professional can help you.
  2. Avoidance or seeking: Often after a trauma, we want to avoid the person, place or situation that caused the trauma. This may or may not be in your favour. Reflect on the situation and ask yourself if avoiding will raise or lower your quality of life. If avoiding will reduce your quality of life, but you can’t go back to the situation, seek a professional. Those who do not avoid might tend to seek out the situation, person or place that caused the trauma to relive and figure out the situation. Just like avoiding, this can be dangerous or helpful. If seeking out the situation is dangerous, and you find yourself doing it, reach out and seek help.
  3. Not everyone wants to talk about it: Everyone copes with trauma and loss differently. If someone is not ready to talk about it or seek help, do not push them. This might be doing more harm than good because it might interfere with the person’s natural coping system.
  4. Withdrawing: You might want to withdraw from your partner, friends, and from social events.  This is to help you to find the stability you perceived lost.  This might affect your relationships in a negative way if you do not communicate what you need and what you are feeling.
  5. Express and release: Express and release the trauma through art, music, dancing, sports or writing. This can help to release the trauma’s powerful hold on you.  A professional can also help by listening with empathy and no judgement.
  6. When to seek help: You can seek help at any point after a trauma. However, if you’re relationships or quality of life is suffering, reach out as soon as possible. Some symptoms to pay special attention to are constant agitation, hypervigilance, strained relationships, flashbacks, nightmares and physical symptoms such as tension, a pressure in the chest, chronic pain, stomach and headaches.

Dr Monica Borschel is a US trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr. Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

0 comments on “Identifying Toxic People”

Identifying Toxic People

Hong Kong counsellling therapist services

co-author Paul Logan (www.basicreflex.com)

Artwork by Kalok Ng

Email: thekalokng@gmail.com

Identifying toxic relationships and abuse

Toxic relationships often harm our self-esteem and leave us feeling drained of energy. When we learn how to recognize toxic relationships and abuse we can move away from them. If we have a history of being abused, we may not recognise that we are caught in a cycle of abuse. After reading this article, people ask themselves, “Am I toxic?”  This article is meant for you to understand that sometimes we can all be toxic, for example, if we are in a conflict or in a dangerous situation.  However, toxic people are often more times than less, toxic.  A toxic person does not usually ask themselves if they are toxic because they believe they are always right.  Some warning signs to watch for are:

You feel unheard 

You have told the other person how you feel or think, yet they do not seem to hear you.  When you speak, they may often talk over you or not allow you to get a word in edgewise.  They may speak as if they are the expert on all topics, therefore what you have to say is irrelevant.

Your words and emotions are used against you

The toxic person watches your emotions and listens to your words carefully so that they can use this information in the future to get a reaction out of you.  Toxic people often draw energy from other people’s negative reactions.  If the toxic person is feeling angry or depressed, they want those around them to feel the same way.  You may often feel as if you are constantly walking on eggshells.  You are never sure what pleases them or makes them angry.

The toxic person tried to isolate you from friends and family

This is a huge red flag that should not be ignored.  If the toxic person wants to separate you, beware that this might be an indication that abuse is around the corner.  If you are isolated from others, they can abuse and control you with the interference of others.  Some people who have social anxiety might also want to be with you alone as well.  They are not toxic, they are just nervous around others that they do not know.  Some people might also want to enjoy your company alone.  However, it becomes a problem if you are in a relationship with someone who does not want you to have contact with anyone other than them.

The toxic person criticises you or shames you in private or in public

The toxic person is often concerned that they are going to lose you.  To keep you they might try to use this tactic to make you feel bad about yourself.  If you feel bad about yourself, you will be easier to control. Beware if you often feel humiliated or small around this person.

When toxic people enter your life, they want you to believe that you can’t live without them. They use manipulation tactics to keep you hooked on them. These tactics may include:

Acting hot and cold. 

One minute they are love bombing you, sweeping you off your feet and the next minute they want nothing to do with you.  They may profess their love to you, and the next to disappear for days at a time.

Gaslighting 

Gaslighting is used to make you feel like you are going crazy.  For example, they might say, “I didn’t do that, you’re crazy.  Have you completely lost your mind.”  When in fact, you saw or heard them do this particular action in question.  They will use this tactic to make you doubt your own judgement.

Playing victim to get your sympathy.

This tactic works on those who are high in empathy.  Often toxic people are attracted to empathetic people because they can use the empath’s willingness to help them.  Once they have your sympathy, the toxic person will hurt you to control you or make you feel bad about yourself.

These are just a few of the tactics that toxic people use.  Leaving an abusive relationship can be difficult because self-esteem has been damaged. Often the help of a counsellor or therapist can be useful to make sure that you are safe both physically and emotionally. It can take some time to rebuild self-esteem and self-identity after abuse.

Dr Monica Borschel is a US-trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

0 comments on “Romantic Attachment: A Different Perspective”

Romantic Attachment: A Different Perspective

Hong Kong counselling therapist services

Artwork by Kalok Ng

email:thekalokng@gmail.com

The first relationship we had was with our mother when we are in the womb. We were safe and protected in the womb; we were warm and well fed.  When we were born, we bonded with our parents through feeding, sleeping and eye contact.

As we grew into children, we realised that we were separate from our mother, and we developed a sense of self.  If our home environment was neglectful, rejecting or abusive, we might have come to the conclusion that we were not worthy of love.  If our home was safe and warm, we might have come to the conclusion that we were worthy of love.  This relationship decided our attachment style to our parents and our image about ourself.  We may have had an avoidant attachment style to one of our caretakers if they were too rejecting, abusive or if they were overbearing.  We might have had an anxious attachment anxious style to one of our parents if they were neglectful or abusive.  As we matured and formed other relationships, we formed different attachment patterns to different people.

An avoidant attachment to a person is the idea that “I am worthy of love, but the other person is not.”  If you are feeling an avoidant attachment to someone, you don’t want the other person to become too psychologically close or dependent on you.  You dislike the idea of psychological intimacy and prefer to remain independent of the other person.

An anxious attachment to a person is the idea that, “I am not worthy of love, but the other person is worthy of love.”  This is the feeling that you want to become intimate or psychologically close to this other person, but you believe that they do not want to be close to you.  You might be anxious about the other person abandoning you.

Secure attachment is the idea that, “I am worthy of love, and you are worthy of love.”  Ideally, both people in the relationship have a secure attachment to each other.  When the attachment is secure, communication and growth can happen.  Both partners feel safe and secure within the relationship.

If we are insecure about our worthiness of love, we may become vulnerable to the influences of the media and society that may heighten our sensitivities to rejection and failure. This, in turn, may harm our relationships, continuing the belief that we are not loveable.  Certain steps can help us to break this pattern.

Recognising negative thought patterns and reframing them.

Sometimes we may have a negative internal monologue because we have been around negative people, or we have been abused.  When we recognise that we have a negative internal monologue – such as calling ourselves “stupid, fat, or ugly.” Try to reframe that thought to constructive criticism. For example, “My boyfriend said he wants to spend time with his friends.  I understand it is nice for him to spend time with them.” Instead of “I think he is cheating on me because I am fat.” The first phrase provides a workable situation that enhances growth, whereas the second phrase leaves you unmotivated with a lowered self-esteem.

Allow yourself some space around your fears and emotions without judging them.

We evolved to have fear to keep us out of danger and to prevent us from being eaten by bears, or killed by a neighbouring tribe.  However, sometimes our fear is irrational.  Sometimes we are afraid to talk to another person we are attracted to because we have a fear of rejection.  In this case, don’t judge your fear.  Don’t put yourself down.  Instead, breathe into the part of your body that is tight from the fear, and imagine a space opening up in that area.  Run through the worst and best case scenario in your mind.  If they reject you, how will you respond?  If they accept you, how will you respond?  Remember, rejection does not mean you are not worthy of love.  It merely means you are at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Learn communication strategies that enable you to express how you feel

If you feel that you are unworthy of love, you may have a hard time articulating your feelings.  This might be because you have not been listened too in the past, or you believe that your feelings do not matter.  If this is the case, begin by noticing sensations in your body.  For example, if you have a stomach ache, ask yourself if you are anxious or scared, or if you have a tight chest ask yourself if you are sad or angry.  When you begin to recognise the emotional signals in your body, you can be patient with yourself in learning how to verbally express your feelings.  Another option is to write your feelings out and send to the other person.

Learn strategies to boost your self-esteem.

Learn about who you are as a human being.  What are you curious about, what is your passion?  What are your strengths and weaknesses and how can you promote growth in your life by setting goals and accomplishing them?  Take care of yourself physically by going to the gym, eating healthy and getting enough sleep.  Refuse to allow any negative people in your life who abuse you.

Dr Monica Borschel is a US-trained Clinical Psychologist  Get in touch with Dr Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

0 comments on “Navigating a break-up or divorce”

Navigating a break-up or divorce

Hong Kong Clinical Psychologist counsellling therapist

Life can be especially lonely if you are going through a recent break-up or divorce.  Break-ups and divorce sometimes break our hearts and leave us feeling depressed or lonely. An unexpected or sudden break-up or divorce can be an end to our hopes and dreams for a future with our loved one. We might find ourselves having a difficult time trusting again or finding the motivation to move on with our lives. Here are some pointers on how to navigate this difficult time to get your life back on track.

  1. Accept the loss for what it is:  Loss is painful.  The first step to moving on is to accept that the relationship is over.  Once we recognise that it is over, we can stop analysing, why? What if?
  2. Accept that it might be a time period: Accept that this time period might be painful because you are not able to speak or see the person that you lost.  It might also be painful to see other happy couples and families together during this period.   Try to stay present and focus on what you do have, and not on what you don’t have.  Focus on what your wants, and needs are.
  3. Be patient with your emotions: It is natural to grieve after a break-up or a divorce. Sometimes we are mourning the loss of mutual friends, finances and a future with the other person. During this period of grief, allow yourself some time to feel your feelings. If your emotions become overwhelming and consuming, reach out to a professional in the mental health field.
  4. Reconnect with loved ones: Reach out to friends and family who have been supportive and warm to you in the past. Social support is a great way to reconnect with yourself and others, helping to reduce loneliness.
  5. Focus on your desires and goals: Take the break-up as an opportunity to discover who you are and what you would like to do with your life. Set some goals and work towards them daily.
  6. Exercise: Physical activity releases stress and builds confidence. Often times after a break-up or divorce our self-esteem drops. Exercise helps us to feel healthy and fit as well as stimulates our mind and increases focus.
  7. Appreciate your journey: Appreciate the good times you had with your partner and the love that you once shared. It may seem like you will never find someone to love during this period of loss. On the contrary, you can use this experience to decide who you are and what you would like in your next partner.
  8. Rediscover who you are: A break-up or divorce can give you the opportunity to reflect on your own vulnerabilities and strengths. Who are you, where are you going and what have you learned from this experience. It can be helpful during this period to hire a psychologist to help you on your path to self-evolution.
  9. Do something nice for yourself every day: Everyday find 10-15 minutes to do something kind for yourself. It can be taking a nice bath, doing yoga, meditating, or reading a book. Make sure that you find the time for self-care.
  10. Self-compassion: After a break-up or divorce it can be easy to place blame on yourself or the other person. Blame does not heal or solve any problems. Be compassionate towards yourself and speak to yourself without judgement.

Dr Monica Borschel is a US-trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

0 comments on “How to talk to your child about divorce”

How to talk to your child about divorce

Hong Kong counselling therapist services-child therapy

Divorce is a difficult situation for adults, let alone children and teenagers.  Parents who are separating might be experiencing their own grief, sadness and anxiety.  As the adult, it is important that you are able to be the secure base for your child or teenager during this time.  Children are intuitive and can sense the mood of their parents.  To hold a safe space for your child, make sure that you are calm.

Key points to remember while speaking to your child about divorce:

1. Unconditional Love: It is important that children understand that none of this is their fault.  A child might side with the parent who they feel is hurting or the same sex parent. No matter who the child lives with, or spends time with, it is important for them to know that you still love them and that they will not be punished for this.

2. Do not involve the children in the conflict.  The children should not know about the financial pressures or constraints of the divorce.  This is one more stress they do not need, they should not be involved in adult situations.

3. Expect to answer a lot of questions.  Your child or teenager might be hurt and confused.  Be prepared to answer the same questions over and over again as they try to process the situation.  Do your best to remain patient through this process.

4. Don’t interrogate your children.  Don’t ask them about the other parent or what the other parent is doing.  Do not make your children take sides.  When you say something negative about the other parent, the child unconsciously feels as if you feel the same way about them as they are genetically half of the other parent.

5. Listen to your child’s emotions.  Acknowledge your child’s emotions patiently.  You might say something like, “I know this is scary and you are sad.  It’s ok to cry and talk about it.  Your mum and dad will love you no matter what.  Even though you don’t live with both of us anymore, we are always your mum and dad.”

6. Be honest and sincere.  Children do not need to know the adult matters, but it is best, to be honest about the living arrangements.  Children understand more than adults often give them credit for, and lying upsets and angers them.  It is best not to introduce a new romantic partner to your child or teenager for at least six months.

Dr Monica Borschel is a US-trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Private or skype sessions available

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

0 comments on “Why am I so angry?”

Why am I so angry?

Hong Kong psychological services

Humans have emotions for a reason.  Some emotions keep us safe, social and on a certain life path.  Anger is an emotion that tells others, “don’t mess with me,” or “I want to feel in control.” Anger helps us to feel powerful and it can motivate us.  Anger is not a problem, but how we react to it can be.

1. Change the psychological meaning from anger to disappointment.  Dissapointment is a healthier way to acknowledge that something did not turn out the way you expected or desired.  When we are disappointed it is easier to respond instead of react.  When we can respond in an objective manner we have more control over a situation.

2. Where and when do you feel out of control?  When we acknowledge and accept the situations where we feel out of control, we can respond to them better.  We might feel out of control if we can’t have the partner, job or social status we desire.  We can understand that our feelings of anger can be used in a positive way to motivate us to attend to our goals.  Anger becomes destructive when we become aggressive and sabotage our relationships and career opportunities.

3. Your focus is on external validation.  When we are constantly seeking the validation of others, we might be more sensitive to rejection.  The feeling of rejection might anger us and cause conflict in our relationships.  Focus on your goals and needs and how you can reach internal validation and confidence.

4. You have been abused.  People who have been abused might unconsciously feel that they need to be aggressive towards others before someone hurts them first.  Anger and violence is a way to feel in control and to control the other person.  Anger can even be directed towards yourself and self-loathing can take place.  Be aware of who is safe and unsafe in your environment.  Work on creating a safe space for yourself both physically and psychologically.  When this becomes overwhelming or difficult, a professional can walk you through this process.

5. De-stress.  Sometimes we feel agitated and angry when our stress levels are too high and we are out of balance.  Focus on taking some stress out of your life by going into nature, meditating, playing sports or by spending time with friends.

Dr Monica Borschel is a US-trained Clinical Psychologist

Reach out to Dr Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

0 comments on “Navigating a break-up or divorce”

Navigating a break-up or divorce

Hong Kong Clinical Psychologist counsellling therapist

Life can be especially lonely if you are going through a recent break-up or divorce.  Break-ups and divorce sometimes break our hearts and leave us feeling depressed or lonely. An unexpected or sudden break-up or divorce can be an end to our hopes and dreams for a future with our loved one. We might find ourselves having a difficult time trusting again or finding the motivation to move on with our lives. Here are some pointers on how to navigate this difficult time to get your life back on track.

  1. Accept the loss for what it is:  Loss is painful.  The first step to moving on is to accept that the relationship is over.  Once we recognise that it is over, we can stop analysing, why? What if?
  2. Accept that it might be a time period: Accept that this time period might be painful because you are not able to speak or see the person that you lost.  It might also be painful to see other happy couples and families together during this period.   Try to stay present and focus on what you do have, and not on what you don’t have.  Focus on what your wants, and needs are.
  3. Be patient with your emotions: It is natural to grieve after a break-up or a divorce. Sometimes we are mourning the loss of mutual friends, finances and a future with the other person. During this period of grief, allow yourself some time to feel your feelings. If your emotions become overwhelming and consuming, reach out to a professional in the mental health field.
  4. Reconnect with loved ones: Reach out to friends and family who have been supportive and warm to you in the past. Social support is a great way to reconnect with yourself and others, helping to reduce loneliness.
  5. Focus on your desires and goals: Take the break-up as an opportunity to discover who you are and what you would like to do with your life. Set some goals and work towards them daily.
  6. Exercise: Physical activity releases stress and builds confidence. Often times after a break-up or divorce our self-esteem drops. Exercise helps us to feel healthy and fit as well as stimulates our mind and increases focus.
  7. Appreciate your journey: Appreciate the good times you had with your partner and the love that you once shared. It may seem like you will never find someone to love during this period of loss. On the contrary, you can use this experience to decide who you are and what you would like in your next partner.
  8. Rediscover who you are: A break-up or divorce can give you the opportunity to reflect on your own vulnerabilities and strengths. Who are you, where are you going and what have you learned from this experience. It can be helpful during this period to hire a psychologist to help you on your path to self-evolution.
  9. Do something nice for yourself every day: Everyday find 10-15 minutes to do something kind for yourself. It can be taking a nice bath, doing yoga, meditating, or reading a book. Make sure that you find the time for self-care.
  10. Self-compassion: After a break-up or divorce it can be easy to place blame on yourself or the other person. Blame does not heal or solve any problems. Be compassionate towards yourself and speak to yourself without judgement.

Dr Monica Borschel is a US-trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

0 comments on “Shame, the darkest emotion”

Shame, the darkest emotion

Hong Kong Clinical Psychologist

Art work by Kalok Ng Email: thekalokng@gmail.com

Shame is the darkest emotion as it makes us feel like everything about us is wrong.  The difference between shame and guilt is that guilt tells us that our behaviour was wrong, where shame tells us that as a person we are horrible.  Guilt helps us to treat people better and stay out of trouble with society and the law.  Guilt is the feeling we get when we regret an action.  Shame is the feeling we get when we think we do not deserve to be loved.  Shame can be fleeting and teach us that we deeply regret something that we have done, or it can be long lasting.  Long lasting shame might stem from abuse from someone else or from ourselves.  Shame can start when we are children if we have been neglected, rejected or abused by our parents.  Shame can also happen if we abuse ourselves.  Shame can happen if we self-harm or criticise ourselves constantly.  And if we self-harm and criticise ourselves the shame deepens.

Shame can be dangerous if we feel it so deeply that we can not connect to ourselves and to others.  If the shame is painful enough we might try to avoid our emotions and shut down.  When we shut down we lack empathy.  If the shame is intense, we might become depressed or anxious.  Crawling out of the hole of shame can be tricky, but it can be done.  Here are some pointers:

1. Speak kindly to yourself.  Notice when you are abusing yourself and rephrase.  For example, “I’m an idiot,” becomes, “I am capable of fixing that mistake.  I can handle this.”  Speak to yourself like you would speak to someone that you respect and admire.

2. Understand that if you were abused, it has nothing to do with you. When you are abused, you might begin to believe that you deserved it, or that you are worthless.  Understand that people who are happy and comfortable with themselves do not abuse others.  Abusers tend to be people who are hurting deeply and want to control by devaluing others.  Break the cycle of abuse by healing your emotional wounds and treating yourself and others with respect and compassion.

3. Differentiate between guilt and shame: Guilt is my behavior was wrong. I feel bad and I learned that I will not do that again. Shame is I’m a horrible person, I don’t deserve to be loved. Guilt is easier to forgive because it is about the behavior and not who you are as a person. Shame is not helpful.

4. Ask for forgiveness: Ask the person you believe you hurt for forgiveness. If they can’t forgive you, give them some space.

5. Write yourself a letter asking for forgiveness: sometimes it’s more difficult for us to forgive ourselves than it is to forgive others. If you are having a difficult time, write yourself a letter. In the letter write down your emotions, why you are sorry and how you will make up for it. You do not need to punish yourself as you already feel bad about the situation.

6. Stop blaming: Be careful of blaming yourself. Especially for things that are in the past and you can not control.

7. Accept yourself: Accept that you are not perfect. Create some space for yourself to make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and become a better person.

8. Write or talk about your pain: Sometimes the shame is so deep that we don’t dare to tell anyone about it.  If this is the case, write it out.  Notice what you feel in your body, and then let the pain go.

9. Reach out for support: Speak to those who support you or reach out for professional help.  The effects of abuse can be unconscious and hard to detect.

Dr Monica Borschel is a US-trained Clinical Psychologist

Reach out to Dr Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel