The Power of Shame
Recently, I visited a recovery center, and I held an in-depth conversation with their executive director. We were discussing the power of shame that has held many of us captive. This was of prime interest to me as I have recently chronicled and published my own bout with shame in my book Resilient: My Journey to Wholeheartedness. Shame seems to be at the heart of all addictions. We experience shame over the wounds of our early childhood traumas, our seemingly inherent weaknesses, inability to stop our disruptive life behaviors, and the extreme costs paid by our families and community for our unhealthy choices. Shame often worked overtime to suck the life right out of me and attempt to keep me locked in an addictive cycle. For much of my life it was successful, but no more. The director’s response to me was “yes, shame is powerful, but fear may be even more insidious in keeping us chained to our addictive thinking.” I didn’t realize how insightful this was until I realized that overcoming fear was my next battle to wage.
Fear Incessantly Taunts
Fear reveals itself in my life as incessant mental gymnastics. This may be true for you as well. Fear starts in my mind and then all of my physical senses come under it supervision. I become immobilized to move forward for meaningful destinations as I am seemingly overwhelmed with thoughts of sabotaging myself so I won’t fail. Fear becomes my natural response to challenges and obstacles. I must pull back so I won’t get hurt again. Fear seemingly asks one question over and over, and then over again. It ask incessantly “what if?” What if they won’t accept me? What if my idea is no good? What if they won’t follow me? What if this person exposes me? What if I fail again? What if I am not good enough? What if? What if? What if? This constant torment just wears me out, and I want and need relief. Is this fear taunts you as well? Unfortunately, I have discovered the hard way that pornography nor food are the tools for my future relief. They comfort for a while, and then they turn on me like a pit bull. Being truthful, both of these weapons just make it worse. Your drug of choice may be different but reap the same results when succumbing to fear.
Recovery is a Battle
Recovery is like waging a battle, one right after another similar to “whack-a-mole.” One mole is smashed and another rises up in a different spot. I smashed shame and now fear has reared its ugly head. Well, fear doesn’t know it yet, but it’s time for decline is rapidly approaching and here is how I am going to do it. My remedy for this consistent and familiar torment in the life of an addict is the 2nd step of 12 that declares “Let go and let God.” Do you know what it means? It means you can’t do it alone and need something to believe in that can take away your shame and burdens and pain.
5 Tips To Overcoming Fear
- Facing the truth of what scares me.Fear is my enemy. It is an enemy that wants to control me even daily. With God, you and I can defeat it lies. I will name it and allow light to invade its darkness.
- Choosing to live reflectively. I know by experience failure is not fatal, so there is nothing to actually fear. Whether I succeed or fail in an endeavor, I will be safe. I will practice mindfulness. I won’t reach out for my former DOC’s.
- Reminding myself I’m on the right path Paul Perez, a coach for Excellent Cultures, teaches that the risk zone (where fear resides to push us back to our norm of unhealthy comforting) is where all growth occurs in our personal and professional lives. So, that being true, when fear raises its ugly head, I will remind myself, I must be onto something good that is going to help me grow even stronger. Encountering irrational fear means I am on a good path.
- Renewing my vow to be my best I may have had my brain hard wired for fear through early Adverse Childhood Experiences, but I will now choose to live with daily affirmations rehearsing my personal value, strength, hope and vision. I will intentionally renew my brain to become my very best. I am a man of power, love and soundness of mind. Fear will not be allowed to occupy a space any longer. I have power to choose differently. This is my cup of recovery. Why not let it be yours as well.
- Acting my life the way I want it to be. A parked car can’t be steered. I will step out and accept life as it is, not as I wish it would be.
Dr. Dave Warner is a recovery coach, mental health peer counselor, author, and speaker. He is the author of “Resilient: My Journey to Wholeheartedness.” He resides in Everett, Washington and is active in the recovery community.