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Making connections the key to overcoming shame
Date:9/8/2009

It would be difficult to find someone who has never felt shame in their life.

Shame is a common reaction when someone feels that they have fallen below social norms or their own standards. From being intoxicated in front of one's peers and superiors to failing an important test at school or being rejected at the school dance, shame can be an internal alarm that ensures that we know when we are at risk of finding ourselves outside the lines of societal acceptance and desirability.

University of Alberta researcher Jessica Van Vliet's study, published in the British Psychological Society journal, Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, indicates that, while it may seem difficult when one is stuck in shame, there is hope for moving beyond this painful emotion.

"Shame can prompt us to make changes that will help protect our relationships and also preserve the fabric of society. It's important to emphasize that shame is essential and has value," said Van Vliet. "The problem is when people get paralyzed with shame and withdraw from others. Not only can this create mental-health problems for people, but also they no longer contribute as fully to society."

Van Vliet's research shows that people who feel debilitated by shame tend to internalize and over-personalize the situation. They also seem resigned to being unable to change their feelings or their fate.

"When people experience shame, they may say to themselves 'I'm to blame, it's all my fault, all of me is bad, and there's nothing I can do to change the situation,'" said Van Vliet. "They identify so much with shame that it takes over their entire view of themselves. That leads to an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness."

Van Vliet notes that one of the key components to overcoming these feelings is to step back from the problem and view the picture in a different light. When sufferers can identify external factors that contributed t
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Contact: Jamie Hanlon
jamie.hanlon@ualberta.ca
780-492-9214
University of Alberta
Source:Eurekalert

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