Running from shame is understandable. This avoidance can initially help you cope with the discomfort of the pain that underlies it. Facing it head-on is uncomfortable and intimidating. Thus, it seems like a “no-brainer” to choose the path that is initially less painful. However, with continued avoidance, the pain can build to an amount that is unbearable. Therefore, rather than fleeing from these feelings, you’ll undoubtedly benefit from processing through them so that you can move on for good.
To heal from shame, you have to identify the sources of it. We all experience shame at different points in our lives. Some of us are able to successfully navigate through it, while others struggle to do so. Our ability to cope is often related to early experiences in our lives. Some of us had parents who helped us process through it, while some learned how to process through it on their own. Others struggle to figure out how to work it out in their minds at all. Finally, their are those who think that they had already sorted through it, only to be blind-sided by emotional disturbances years later.
If you are someone who struggles to work through it, it is likely that you have a fight-or-flight response that is now serving to “protect” you, but is really holding you back. A common defense mechanism to deal with the shame is often an unrecognized avoidant one. In this defense mechanism shame is boxed up and shelved away. Because this doesn’t initially cause many problems, this defense mechanism begins from a place that is reinforced. However, the shelf holding these boxes of shame can only hold so much up. After many years, if none of these boxes are opened up and sorted out, the shelf will likely fall off the wall, many of the boxes will break open, and it can be overwhelming to clean up the mess. Therefore, therapy can help you process through this. Although it is by no means easy, walking through the past with someone else is much less intimidating, and you can get a perspective that you might not otherwise see.
When you identify shameful feelings, don’t run from them. Running can, and often does work for awhile. However, this rarely lasts forever. Rather than avoid the problem, it is better to identify the sources of the shame, so that you know what you have to work through. Therapy can also be helpful to help you identify the sources of your feelings, as well as navigate through them so that you have a better understanding, and can permanently feel better as a result.