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  • Shame Part 2: How to beat shame at its own game.

    An alternative to feeling shame

    We internalize the things about ourselves we hear from others.  We hear their voices inside us praising, questioning, or shaming us.  That’s called “self-talk.” When we are no longer with those trusted others, we still hear their encouraging or discouraging voices loud and clear.  Positive self-talk sustains us.  Negative self-talk drains us. 

    We feel overwhelmingly inadequate and defective in an emotionally abusive, shaming environment.  If and when we get free of that environment, we still have a running monologue of negative self-talk playing over the internal sound system.

    The way to reprogram shame is to replace the dreadful, repetitive voice that is playing on that internal sound system. The way you do that can be a three-step process:

    First, create some positive affirmations (more on that in a minute).

    Second, you have to dismiss the negative auditory feedback by drowning it out or silencing it in some way,

    Third, you fill that momentarily silent space with positive self-talk and then you repeat it over and over, and repeatedly throughout the day or week.

    It’s not easy, but it’s not hard either.

    Create positive affirmations.

    First, write down two or three of the negative comments that cycle in the back of your mind. Then, write down some positive self-statements that are the exact opposite of the negative commentary.  

    If the positive statements sound outlandish to you and you don’t believe them, that’s a good sign you’re on the right track.  If what you write gets roundly booed by the audience of shame inside you, then it’s likely to be just what you need to hear.  Put some thought into it, craft your statements with care. And use only positive words (don’t say “don’t”)!

    Use internally loud interruptive sounds when you start thinking shame thoughts.

    Because self-talk is auditory internally, you will find it effective to disrupt negative self-talk using auditory imagery. 

    Sound corny?  Ever tried it?

    Imagine yourself taking the shame commentary off the turntable and putting on a classier vibe. You’ll even possibly have fun with that mental image. Like, imagine adding some DJ record scratch to the negative refrains. Add some rhythm sound in there as you destroy the thing. Pick up the needle out of that groove. Plunk it back down. Drag it across. Finally, rip the platter off the turntable, give it a frisbee throw to the opposite wall, hear it shatter, and replace the platter.

    Here are some more ideas to disrupt negative self talk:

    • Internally, listen to barking dogs or mooing cows,
    • Hear a motorcycle engine revving,
    • Listen to an announcer and a crowd of 20,000 people cheering at an athletic event,
    • Listen to a dramatic orchestra, opera performance, or your favorite heavy metal band,
    • Hear an urban commuter train barrel by your window.
    • Hear a toilet flushing.
    • Hear firecrackers or a marching band.

    The trick to de-emphasize the negative voice is to keep in mind that you are not a defense attorney, you are a DJ.  If you try to disprove the validity of shame-based talk, you’re going to get all tangled up in non-logic and end up feeling like a failure.  You’ll lose the argument in that kangaroo court, which will just reinforce your sense of shame. 

    Use those interruptive sound effects, don’t engage your energy to fight against an unreasonable argument.

    Replace the old negative self-talk with an auditory alternative: your positive affirmations.

    With the positive affirmations, just repeat them over and over, no matter what crap you may hear in the background of your mind.  You can also write positive affirmations.  You can say them to yourself in a mirror.  You can get a loved one you trust to repeat them to you in a neutral voice ten times a day.

    Practice these fun exercises over and over. Practice saying your positive affirmations every day. There are lots of ways to make a positive self-image grow. This way is a good one.  Get help practicing with your favorite therapist.

    Copyright © 2023 by Marilee Snyder