Many times when we think about traumas and mental health, we think about the need for individuals to improve their own self-worth. Self-worth is a large part of we overcome shame and guilt and begin to find a feeling of wanting to belong. Guilt is the idea that we have done something bad, while shame is the idea that we’re inherently bad. Although, shame and guilt are just as powerful as one another shame is usually the destructive part of us that believes we can do longer change or do better. Everyone at some point in their lives experiences shame. When I was working with alcoholics at the rehabilitation center, the majority of them felt shame for what they had done and believed that they could not change. People who are LGBTQ experience a form of shame for the way they were born and never learn to fully believe in themselves. Many times people deal with shame by overeating, withdrawing, exhibiting compulsive behavior and more. These are all unhealthy coping mechanisms people pick up because shame directly impacts our personal self-esteem.
Brene Brown says, “If we want to live fully, without the constant fear of not being enough, we have to own our story.”
There are many times we feel inadequate and like we will never be enough and it is in those feelings we begin to act out those exact feelings. The message we say to ourselves is, “I am not worthy.” Because of what happened to me as a child, sometimes I feel like I will never be worthy of love. However, there is one guiding principle that diversifies us from our shame. That diversification is a fire in the soul. What is a fire in the soul? That is the loving presence of something larger than us.
In Elizabeth Smart’s autobiography, “My Story,” she walked through her tragic story of kidnapping, rape, slavery and horrendous abuse. Every ounce of her self-worth and self-esteem was stripped by Brian David Mitchell. Although, there were plenty of times she thought of planning her escape and dreaded the idea of living out the rest of her days as his wife. There was not a single point were Elizabeth Smart thought of taking her own life. Seeing those words written in her book made chills run down my back. How could you go through something so terrible and wicked and not want to die?
Elizabeth Smart had something that I believe is an essential part of healing and recovery for all victims of mental illness. She had an undying love for a higher power. I believe that there is something that happens to us as humans when we hold on to the concept of our soul, to the concept of something larger than us.
With spirituality, we are able to connect to a wholeness that is lost without it. The idea that God is inside each and every one of us is not just a Christian fallacy. I believe in order to self-actualize, there needs to be a connection to a creative force or energy that completes who we are. Many times, mental illness can be the consequence of what I consider to be a spiritual crisis. I believe my diversity is in the fact, that I am a strong believer in all religions, spiritual groups, and practices. I have practiced Wicca, shamanism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity.
I take and pull from each of the disciplines and create a spiritual template that aligns with my soul. Indeed, that creates an everlasting flame that will never blow out. Cultivating a resilient spirit is dependent on finding wholeness within ourselves and overcoming shame.
I believe one of the best ways to heal shame is to find forgiveness and healing with your higher self. Religious diversity, no matter what it is, will be a core component of my counseling methodologies.
Never Give Up Hope