Shame and Recovery

Robert F. Mullen, PhD

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The distinction between social anxiety disorder and social anxiety is a matter of severity; reference to one includes the other. The recovery tools and techniques provided are applicable to most emotional malfunctions including depression, substance abuse, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and issues of self-esteem and motivation. These malfunctions originate homogeneously, their trajectories differentiated by environment, experience, and the diversity of human thought and behavior.

“Dr. Mullen is doing impressive work helping the world. He is the pioneer of proactive neuroplasticity utilizing DRNI – deliberate, repetitive, neural information.” – WeVoice (Madrid, Málaga)

Shame and Recovery

Holding onto shame is reckless in recovery. One of the more identifiable characteristics of emotional disorder is our overriding sense of shame. This is in response to both internal and external attributions. Outside forces over which we have little to no control – public opinion, the media, stigma, and the pathographic mental health industry contribute significantly to our negative self-evaluation. Internally, we continue to express shame for our childhood behaviors that led to adolescent-onset – irrational but understandable in the face of our perceptions of undesirability and hopelessness.

Defining Shame

Psychology defines shame as the unpleasant, self-conscious feeling that comes from the sense of being or doing a dishonorable, ridiculous, or immodest act. It is irrational to feel shame for experiencing social anxiety, as we are not responsible for its origins. If there is any shame to be felt, therefore, it cannot legitimately be for our condition. If it is not in the being, then it must be in the doing – in our unwillingness or perceived inability to challenge it. We are not accountable for the hand we have been dealt. We are, however, responsible for how we play the cards we hold. We have the means to dramatically moderate our symptoms. Holding onto them is irrational. 

Shame adversely impacts our psychological and physiological health, further eroding our negative self-image and low self-esteem. Shame is a negatively valenced emotion which is one that adversely affects our daily lives. Emotions like shame, guilt, and resentment negatively impact our thoughts, behaviors, and relationships. When left unresolved, they permeate our neural network with negative energy and obstruct the process of recovery.  We have to let go to let in.

Self-recrimination for not managing our life is far more destructive than the symptoms of our condition. The shame of self-disappointment – that felt moral emptiness that pervades when we abandon our inherent ability and potential – is soul-crushing. And unnecessary.

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Shame is Reckless

Holding onto shame is reckless and implies that we do not care about the consequences. Simply put, if we have the wherewithal to enable our emotional well-being and quality of life and choose not to do so, we are reckless.

The dichotomy we find ourselves in is that social anxiety disorder compels us to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. That is its function and that is how it sustains itself. If we accept that our condition is hopeless and we feel worthless, then we identify ourselves as helpless to do anything about it. SAD, therefore, controls our being and doing.

The primary goal of recovery from social anxiety is the moderation of our irrational fears and anxieties. This is best achieved through a three-pronged approach. To (1) replace or overwhelm our negative thoughts and behaviors with healthy, productive ones, (2) produce rapid, neurological stimulation to change the polarity of our neural network, and (3) regenerate our self-esteem using methods targeted toward our individual personality.

Unresolved shame impedes these objectives. Rather than moderating our fears and anxieties, it exacerbates them. Instead of regenerating our self-esteem, it weakens it.

Shame Symptomatology

When we feel shame, we want to hide and become invisible. Shame aggravates our anxiety and depression, causing us to withdraw from the world and avoid human connectedness. We feel powerless, acutely diminished, and incompetent. Until and unless these self-defeatisms are addressed, we remain caught in an endless cycle of desperation that alienates us from our true nature. The regeneration of our self-esteem alleviates the severity of our shame. Conversely, our shame amplifies our lacuna of self-esteem.

Adding insult to injury, the shame of denying ourselves our capacity to change leads to self-blaming. Especially pervasive in social anxiety disorder, self-blaming is an extremely toxic form of emotional self-abuse. We blame ourselves for our shortcomings. We blame ourselves for our lack of commitment or, if we commit, our failure to follow through. We blame ourselves for our inability to achieve our goals and objectives. Consequently, we blame ourselves for being and not doing.

Shame can be revealing, cathartic, and motivational when utilized appropriately, promoting emotional growth and broadened self-awareness. The shame of knowing we have the capacity to recover from that which has made our lives unbearable yet refuse to take advantage of it – that seems untenable. In the memorable words of John Greenleaf Whittier, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”

Commitment to Recovery

Recovery and self-empowerment require letting go of our negative self-perspectives, expectations, and beliefs, and opening our minds to new ideas and concepts. When we hold onto shame, we remain imprisoned in the past and our negative self-beliefs.

Recovery from social anxiety is theoretically simple. Making the commitment to recover is challenging. It takes courage. Following through on that commitment is a remarkable achievement. As an expert in recovery, I speak from observation and experience. Statistics are modest and disheartening.

Pre-recovery, our symptomatic emotional status is an entanglement of weeds in a garden of potential flourishing. The tools and techniques are there but we have to take them out of the shed and put them to work. Shame not only obstructs the door but represses the incentive. It wounds our being and doing.

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WHY IS YOUR SUPPORT SO IMPORTANT?  ReChanneling develops and implements programs to (1) moderate symptoms of emotional malfunction and (2) pursue personal goals and objectives – harnessing our intrinsic aptitude for extraordinary living. Our paradigmatic approach targets the personality through empathy, collaboration, and program integration utilizing scientific and clinically practical methods including proactive neuroplasticity, cognitive-behavioral modification, positive psychology, and techniques designed to regenerate self-esteem. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.

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