Dual Perspectives on Shame in Recovery

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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 apply to most emotional malfunctions, including depression, substance abuse, ADHD, PTSD, generalized anxiety, and self-esteem and motivation issues. 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)   

Dual Perspectives on Shame in Recovery

One of the more identifiable characteristics of social anxiety is our overriding sense of shame. Externally, we are subject to prejudice and misinformation. Public opinion, the media, and mental health stigma contribute significantly to our negative self-evaluation. Internally, we feel shame for the defects and behaviors that support our emotional malfunction. 

Defining Shame

Psychology defines shame as the unpleasant, self-conscious feeling from being or participating in a dishonorable, ridiculous, or immodest act. Although correlating and coexisting, shame is not the same as guilt. We feel guilt for doing something wrong, whereas shame is the perception of being wrong.  

Shame and Social Anxiety

Shame can be painful and incapacitating. It can make us feel powerless and acutely diminished. When we feel shame, we want to hide and become invisible. We withdraw from the world and avoid human connectedness. We feel powerless, acutely diminished, and incompetent. These are also the prevailing symptoms of our social anxiety, so shame aggravates our condition, causing us to readily concede defeat and abandon hope. Until we rationally respond to these self-defeatisms, we remain caught in an endless cycle of desperation that alienates us from our true nature.

However, treating shame as an unhealthy emotion without considering the positive aspects of the experience is a missed opportunity for emotional well-being. Shame can be revealing, cathartic, and motivational, promoting growth and self-awareness. One of the positive attributions of shame is our moral recognition and analysis of right or wrong. 

Therefore, we must consider a balanced perspective and determine whether our shame is irrational or justifiable. We can subsequently evaluate and respond appropriately. 

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Is Our Shame Irrational or Justifiable?

Shame is irrational if it is in response to experiencing social anxiety. We are not accountable for its onset. We did not make it happen. It happened to us. There is no legitimacy for feeling shame for adolescent-onset due to childhood disturbance. SAD is common, universal, and indiscriminate, impacting roughly one in four adolescents and adults. There is no shame in experiencing the symptoms of social anxiety.

Shame is, however, justifiable in our unwillingness to remedy our social anxiety. While we are not accountable for the hand we have been dealt, we are responsible for how we play those cards. We have the means to moderate our symptoms dramatically, and not taking advantage of recovery is irrational. While there is no sensible reason to feel shame for having social anxiety, it is a legitimate emotional response to our unwillingness to do something about it. 

The Long-Term Inefficacy of Defense Mechanisms

It is common for individuals experiencing social anxiety to go to enormous lengths to remain ignorant of SAD’s destructive capabilities as if, by ignoring them, they do not exist or will somehow go away. We hide behind defense mechanisms or cognitively distort reality. We deny, compensate, project, and dissociate to avoid confronting our symptoms. 

Notwithstanding, none of these psychological responses, designed to protect us from our fears/anxieties, are effective in the long term. Irrational thought patterns perpetuate our anxiety and depression. Rather than justifying our toxic thoughts and behaviors, they reinforce them. They do not subvert our awareness of our condition; they merely conceal it from our consciousness. Nonetheless, the symptoms persist. 

The guilt of knowing, even subconsciously, that we can moderate that which has made our lives unbearable. Refusing to acknowledge or take advantage of recovery is untenable. Resistance, subconscious or otherwise, propagates our shame and other negatively valenced emotions. Rather than protecting our consciousness, it exposes it to negative neural feedback.

Negatively Valenced Emotions

Valanced is a psychological term to characterize specific emotions that negatively affect our daily lives. When left unresolved, these adverse emotions, including shame, guilt, and resentment, impact our psychological and physiological health, aggravating our negative self-appraisal and low self-esteem. They adversely affect our thoughts, behaviors, and relationships, permeate our neural network with negative energy, and obstruct the process of recovery. 


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

Unresolved Shame is Reckless

Holding onto shame is reckless because it suggests we do not care about the consequences. Simply put, we are reckless if we have the wherewithal to enable our emotional well-being and quality of life and choose not to do so. The dichotomy we find ourselves in is that social anxiety compels us to view ourselves as helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless. That is its function, and that is how it sustains itself. If we do nothing to alleviate these attributions, when recovery is accessible, we allow SAD to control us rather than the alternative. We continue to feel helpless, hopeless, undesirable, and worthless.  

Recovery Goal and Objectives

Committing to recovery is one of the hardest things we will ever do. It takes enormous courage and the realization that we are of value, consequential, and deserving of happiness. Social anxiety is relentless and manipulative in its efforts to prevent that commitment. SAD thrives in our unhappiness.

The primary goal of recovery from social anxiety is the moderation of our irrational fears and anxieties. In self-empowerment, it is the rebuilding of our self-esteem and motivation. We achieve this through a three-pronged approach.

  1. Replace or overwhelm our negative thoughts and behaviors with healthy, productive ones.
  2. Produce rapid, concentrated neurological stimulation to overwhelm the negative abundance of our neural network.
  3. Regenerate our self-esteem through mindfulness of our assets.

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


Another product of our negatively valanced emotions is our compulsion to blame others when the self-destructive nature of our shame, guilt, and resentment becomes unmanageable to our consciousness. Years of self-reproach for our negative thoughts and behaviors can be overwhelming. Our defense mechanisms impel us to hold others responsible for things we are unable or unwilling to manage emotionally. We convince ourselves that others are responsible for the hopelessness and unworthiness caused by our anxiety. Someone must be held accountable for our perceived incompetence and inadequacies. 


Or we resort to self-blame. Especially pervasive in social anxiety disorder, self-blaming is a highly toxic form of emotional self-abuse. We blame ourselves for our shortcomings. We blame ourselves for our lack of commitment or our failure to follow through. We blame ourselves for our inability to achieve our goals and objectives. Consequently, we blame ourselves for both irrational and justifiable shame.

Committing 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.

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 must bring them out of the shed and put them to work. Shame not only obstructs the door but represses the incentive.

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