Shame drains energy. Lethargy, apathy, tiredness, not wanting to get up in the morning, headaches, migraines – anxiety, fear and worry take up lots of energy! It doesn’t just stop there – keeping emotional conflicts pushed deep down can result in digestion issues, eating disorders, addictions, skin disorders and many more ailments. I’ll even show you how shame caused Crohn’s disease.
I know it sounds crazy, but the ever growing field of psychoneuroimmunology is continually finding links between mind and body.
Have you ever had an event or appointment that you’re terrified about, for whatever reason? Afterwards, you feel that “crash” as the adrenalin runs out, and your body is left tired, exhausted and “checked out”.
So its no surprise that the end result isn’t just increased risk of isolation and loneliness, and of not being truly known or understood, but of feeling…
The mind body link is extremely powerful, so headaches, migraines, digestion issues, aches, pains and skin conditions are all possible too as a result of the massive negative energy being anxiously gripped and held deep down within.
This is such a huuuuge topic that I feel like I won’t be able to do justice to it in just one page.
It really deserves a whole book to itself.
For now, I just think it would be a really useful thing to appreciate the idea that:
1) your own tiredness, lack of energy at times, headaches etc might be caused by feelings of shame, and internal conflict.
2) those same things in other people might be caused by feelings of shame or internal conflict – so you can have a better idea of where they might be coming from if complaining of such things.
Now I know you might already be thinking “this is too big a leap, too big an assumption to make without some evidence, some hard science, some research”. You’d be wise to think that, and you’d be right, and that’s why I only want to have the goal here of getting you to appreciate the idea.
Remember of course that they won’t always be caused by feelings of shame – there are other causes too which can’t be overlooked. But I honestly believe that feelings of shame account for the vast majority ailments, upset, anxiety and life turmoils.
If you don’t believe that now, after fully understanding it all and becoming more aware of the long-reaching consequences, you will!
How it works
So I’ll just explain the mechanism a little more, so you can make sense of it.
When you have a deep fear or anxiety, your mind pushes it deep down, out of your awareness.
It does this because deep-rooted fear is painful – so uncomfortable – that you don’t want to be experiencing it.
In therapy sessions, some people would seize up and burst into tears if asked if they felt loved – that’s a typical big fear that the mind wouldn’t want you to be thinking about too much, the fear of being unlovable.
So the mind keeps it pushed down there, out of sight.
It automatically, and unconsciously, shifts your attention away from anything which might remind you of those fears. It distracts you. It denies things which might threaten it. It might even delete memories, or cloud them, of things which challenge the fear and create discomfort.
Frequently, fears being pushed down like that can lead to huge life conflicts, because a person needs to do something which immediately threatens those fears.
An example would be fear of failure – closely linked to fear of rejection, of not being good enough. What happens when society places huge pressures on a person to achieve, to be successful, to take risks and do things which could hugely fail?
The mind goes into conflict. It works against itself.
All kinds of consequences could happen – avoiding opportunities, self-sabotage, even developing psychosomatic illnesses which might obstruct something that threatens the fear.
The mind repressing the fear is a bit like pushing an inflated ball down into water – it keeps wanting to emerge and surface, and it takes a great deal of energy to keep it pushed down, protected from awareness.
This is exactly why it drains your energy reserves to deal with long-term feelings of shame. The fear of not being good enough, the fear of rejection, the fear of disconnection.
All those things in the environment need to be scanned for potential threat. All those people need to be scrutinised for their ability to threaten you or make you uncomfortable. All those opportunities which need to be avoided or creatively dealt with, to keep your life within that “safe bubble” where you aren’t having to be exposed to your scary feelings.
Its exhausting for the mind – which is why life can sometimes just feel incredibly draining for no real reason.
Those conflicts really take it out of you.
The mental, nervous and exhaustive energy has all kinds of knock-on effects to the whole system.
You know how when you’re in a state of fear, adrenalin (epinephrine in the US) gets released? The fight or flight response kicks in and cortisol (stress hormone) gets released into the blood… among many other bodily consequences.
You don’t need to be staring at a bear about to pounce for those effects to happen – something purely in your imagination can have the same effect.
Imagining there’s someone in the house… that someone is following you… that you’re about to mess up in a presentation… that you’re about to get outbid on your much-wanted eBay item (you know what I’m talking about!)…
So if the imagination can create such strong bodily effects, how could long-term repressed fear, anxiety and shame NOT cause massive effects! How could it not?!
And it does!
All those stress hormones, exhaustion, sleep disturbances, nervous energy…
The immune system gets hugely effected, which can bring on colds, aches, headaches and migraines.
Nervous energy in the body can bring on mysterious back pains, stomach pains, digestive issues…
I can’t even describe the full effects of emotional conflict issues, because you probably wouldn’t believe me.
As a hypnotherapist, I once saw a very respected surgeon who wanted to stop smoking. This guy was one of those people who never feels accomplished enough – always getting one award, qualification or achievement after another.
There was clearly a shame thing going on with that as it was – but it would be hard to spot without the right awareness of how shame works. From the outside, he looked like a high-achieving, successful man. It was only his apparent complacency and dissatisfaction with it all that hinted at shame issues – not being good enough, not knowing enough, not being approved of enough…
Something was up with that.
Of course, there’s also the addiction – smoking – which is often a consequence of feelings of shame.
We sorted out the smoking in about three sessions, and he felt completely resolved about that.
But there was another issue which he wanted to talk about.
He’d had it for years, a terrible digestive pain whereby his intestinal lining was inflamed – some kind of auto-immune response gone wrong.
It affected his life in all kinds of ways. He’d traveled around Europe paying top experts vast amounts of money for various surgeries – but still hadn’t conquered it.
So I got to work on his unconscious emotional world, using light trances as a mechanism to tap some repressed emotional reservoirs.
Soon enough, it transpired that a huge emotional conflict had been repressed since childhood.
This guy was from the middle east, and had strict parents.
Something had happened in his childhood that made him feel really hurt and angry – and it led to a feeling of hatred towards his father.
Yet – in his culture, hating your parents is absolutely forbidden and sinful. It was simply impossible to ever express anger towards his father.
So he’d repressed it his whole life – leading to feelings of shame.
The never-ending obsession with achievement was a way of seeking unconscious imagined approval from his father.
He was able to gradually work through all these emotional conflicts using a few methods, as well as talking freely about the “unspeakable truth”.
What happened to his Crohn’s disease symptoms?
Incredibly, they slowed right down, rapidly, then finally stopped. Within a couple of months of the work.
Isn’t that amazing?
He came back for a follow-up session and was over the moon.
I think it blew his mind a bit, because here was a highly achieved surgeon finally finding resolve not from some other top surgeon elsewhere in Europe, but from some young, fringe therapist living in a second floor apartment, charging £40 per hour.
I always wanted to really run with his story – milk it for amazing publicity.
But I couldn’t, and wouldn’t for various reasons. Firstly confidentiality, which was hugely important to him (and obviously legally adhered to).
Secondly, I think I was afraid to even ask, because of what might happen. I know that sounds nuts. But what if loads of people with similar problems started to expect resolve from hypnotherapy? What if that created a pressure I couldn’t live up to? What if I failed?
Yes – back then (and still now to a lesser extent) – I had feelings of shame of my own – a certain fear of failure, of making a mistake, of letting someone down and not being good enough.
We’re all human.
But I still love that case-study, and think about it from time to time.
Can you relate to the energy drain of shame?
If you find your body and mind being zapped and think it could be shame related, then share your story!
What other effects have you noticed?