How can I deal with my acute feelings of shame?
July 22, 2009 2:45 PM Subscribe
I feel intense, acute, brief episodes of shame every day, several times a day. What can I do about them?
posted by anonymous to human relations (29 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
The frequency varies, but the few times I attempted to count, I got an average of about 5-10 such episodes per day. These are unbidden, intrusive thoughts, and very, very intense: say, 8/10. I've been diagnosed with GAD and social anxiety disorder, and these episodes almost always center around real or imagined social and/or moral transgressions. Some of them are staggeringly minor, when compared to the amount of distress they cause me. They are minor social gaffes that I committed years ago, things that I'm positive no one but me remembers: For example, introducing two people who happened to already know each other. Thinking about my more severe regrets and mistakes also triggers this shame reaction, though. It only occurred to me in the past few years that this might be unusual - it's been happening to me for as long as I can remember.
I am in therapy, and I have brought this up to my doctor, who suggested briefly that such repetitive, intrusive thoughts may be symptomatic of OCD. We have not talked about it at length, mostly because I find the idea of recounting these episodes that cause my feelings of shame to be ... shameful. I have no behavioral compulsions (hand-washing, turning off the stove, etc), except for a habit of repeatedly checking to make sure I haven't lost anything, even when I just already checked, when I'm outside my house. It doesn't really interfere with my life, though: I still go out, and it doesn't cause me much distress.
What can I do about this? I've flirted with vipassana meditation, but I generally found it made my anxiety worse. My usual reaction to these episodes is to try to push them out of my mind, but I've seen some recent research on thought suppression that suggests that's actually quite counter-productive. I don't know how to overcome that strong "stop thinking about this now" reaction when confronted with such intense, negative feelings. Is there something else I can try? Have you experienced this?