In my practice, I have come to believe that there is a number one trigger for anger, and that is Shame. Often times when I get clients to discuss what they are feeling beneath their anger, once they identify an unhealthy negative like shame, I interrupt them. Shame is an unhealthy negative, when people experience shame, it means that they have come to see themselves as worthless and somehow defective. I interrupt them because we can cannot proceed to the next stage of the therapeutic relationship, (where the client readily identifies his or her flaws) with shame in the way. This is because self accountability from a place of self love is the key to self growth and enlightenment.
Often times when people suffer from the illness of shame, the primary symptom they show is entitlement. This sets the stage or excuse for them to blame others for their difficult experiences, as a result they usually express a lot of anger and disdain for those they blame.
To make things worse, playing the blame game places them in a vicious circle of shame. This is because they usually come off as rude and inconsiderate to others. As a result they consistently keep would be friends at a distance and this contributes to more loneliness and because we are social creatures, more shame.
So a how does one get past shame? It’s a two tier process, first you have to commit to start taking risks. Certain beliefs provide some level of refuge for us, but that all mental constructs are illusions. Clients usually begin committing to taking emotional risks from a place of empowerment, after they become convinced that their recurring feelings of shame is being caused by only them. The second step is to practice seeing yourself as already complete. To see yourself as already complete is the process of coming to the realization that people are already complete, worthwhile and valued, in the eyes of their God or Higher Power and subsequently their own eyes. The endeavors we take on do not complete us or add to our worth in anyway. Rather, it is our doing that adds a sense of meaning and purpose to the activity at hand and the world around.
For example, my sense of meaning and purpose about life comes from my belief that prosperity can only be achieved through the help from others, helping others and never at the detriment of others. Hence, it should come as no surprise that my primary means of providing for my family comes at being of service to others.
When I don’t know, it simply means I don’t know, and it is not a reflection of my humanity. When someone pokes fun at me or attempts to insult me, it takes no iota of worth away from my humanity. If the shoe fits it simply means I have flaws (which I should work on), however that I am still valued and worthwhile. People who rush to address their flaws with the intent on adding more worth to their value end up spinning their wheels, because they’ve got it backwards.
Angry people who suffer from shame also suffer from major depression, it’s during this time of the season that I get the “I recently attempted suicide”calls. People who struggle with the illness of shame also struggle with feeling alone and left out during the holidays.
We are all valued and worthwhile.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions, a private professional counseling practice based in Tucson AZ.