Anger and Shame: How Shame is a Defender Against Anger
Take a moment and think about how you act: are you quick to slamming doors and raising your voice? If so, your real emotion, the main offender, may not be anger; it could be shame.
There is a strong correlation between anger and shame, and for many of us, anger could be a cover for the shame we are trying to ignore and avoid feeling. Why wouldn’t we try and avoid shame? It’s not as if we are offered “shame management classes.” Shame is not an emotion that is talked about in-depth.
We avoid feeling ashamed. Shame is, after all, a painful feeling of humiliation because we have typically engaged in foolish or wrong behaviour.
Shame should never be associated with guilt, though. Guilt manifests because we have done something wrong, whereas shame makes us think there is something wrong with us.
Guilt: I did something that was no good.
Shame: I am no good.
Therefore, we use anger as a means to deflect the shame we may be feeling, making it a major trigger to our anger. We tend to react defensively if we believe we are being criticised for something we have done wrong in the past or even in the present. It is a means of cloaking our shame so that other people do not discover it.
You do not have to live in shame or anger, though. There are effective ways to handle these intense feelings.
To break the anger-shame cycle, you will need to forgive yourself. While we want to be perfect and our best selves, it is not always possible – in fact, perfection is impossible, and that is okay.
Self-forgiveness means adopting a new point-of-view. You need to learn that life is for us to learn from; we are to grow from our mistakes and not repeat them. Punishing ourselves for the past will harm not only us but also our loved ones. In the end, you will push them away.
The source of shame is often to be found in key relationships in our early development. You can reflect on who criticised you or put you down? What happens is that these voices become internal critics. The difference now is that you are an adult. One of the key tools to confront your shame is to ask yourself the simple question, “Is it true and/or do you have any evidence that it is true?”. Naturally, if it is true, you have to accept and acknowledge the truth and then move towards addressing it if you can. If it isn’t true, then that thought is being stimulated by a negative core belief – which would’ve been instilled in our formative years. If this is the case, work needs to be done to challenge the negative core beliefs because they are not true. For more information on this: Click here
Telling your version of events (truthfully)
We do not like to delve deep into our painful experiences, especially if we are ashamed of something we have said or done. When we find someone to share our story with, it can be terrifying – it leaves us vulnerable. It allows that person to judge us if they want, which is why you need to discuss your story correctly and clearly.
- Describe what happened. Do not leave out any details.
- Explain how you felt when it happened. Describe how you feel now, in the present.
- Discuss how your past choices have impacted you now.
For this to work, you need to tell the events truthfully. You cannot bend it so that you come across favourably; you cannot leave out vital information because it doesn’t suit your narrative.
2. Know your triggers
What sets you off? What triggers your feelings of shame and anger? Become aware of what’s happening around you so that you can reign your anger in and learn to control your feelings. Typically, your triggers will threaten your self-esteem – you do not want to feel low about yourself – but your trigger can be anything.
Once you know your triggers, you need to learn that these feelings of shame and anger are just that – they are only feelings. They do not have to control you; you can control them. Feelings are there to be felt, and there is no way to stop them altogether. Your only option is to learn how to manage them. It’s important to recognise that they come and go, but they do not have to define you.