What is the real emotion that is lurking behind your anger?  For many, anger covers the feeling of shame.

Shame is an unpleasant, self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of self, withdrawal motivations, and feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness. 

Shame is often mistakenly interchanged with guilt; they are vastly different emotions. John Bradshaw describes the difference between shame and guilt perfectly’ “Guilt says I’ve done something wrong; shame says there is something wrong with me. Guilt says I’ve made a mistake; shame says I am a mistake. Guilt says what I did was not good; shame says I am no good.”

It is typical to see the combination of shame and anger together. Anger is often used as a defense to divert attention away from the painful, underlying hidden feelings of shame.  It is painful to uncover the feelings of shame, which stems from the false belief that you are “not enough”.  This false belief of unworthiness usually develops at a very young age where you experienced feelings of not feeling seen, loved, valued, or understood.

The core belief of shame serves us in two ways:

  1. It provides a sense of control over other people’s feelings or behavior.  If your flaw is the reason that you are rejected by another, then you have the control to correct the flaw, to finally be accepted.  It is easier to feel flawed than to feel helpless over other people’s free will to behave and feel as they choose.
  2. It’s a false sense of control and protects us from feeling we are afraid to feel.  Feelings like heartbreak, grief, sadness, and sorrow, all stem from things of which you have no control over. Shame, of which you have the power to control is a preferred emotional diversion.

When anger is used to mask shame, the shouting, throwing things, and slamming doors might make you feel better initially, but the release is temporary. The anger ultimately creates further injury to yourself and the relationships of those that suffered from your anger.

If anger is something you struggle with, here are three coping strategies that really work.

1. Mindful, slow and deliberate breathing, being present and focusing on the feelings you feel in your body help in the process of uncovering your hidden shame.  The hurt from the past cannot be healed while it is being covered by anger.

2. The practice of self-forgiveness and the openness to new beliefs can help you to release feelings of anger and shame from your past.

3. Shame is a hidden, ugly secret that we never talk about. By talking about those painful experiences, you bring the secret to light and allowing you to release the shame associated with it.  As you authentically work to uncover the feelings of shame, it is important to accept all of you and to love and honor your experience without judgment.

If you are having difficulty, moving beyond anger and shame, you may be addicted to the feeling of control that your shame-based beliefs provide you.  If the control of feelings is what’s most important to you, you will not be able to heal your shame wound.

How do you know you are ready to let go of your false core beliefs?  When you can accept that the feelings and behaviors of others have nothing to do with you and you have a willingness to feel those hard to feel feelings, you will be ready to let the shame go and realize that you are, and always have been, perfectly good enough.

Contact Rachel Graham, a health entrepreneur, leadership coach, and empowering optimist who has dedicated her life to educating people to find their own meaning and purpose of life.  As a life coach, she understands that it is our underlying and limiting beliefs that impede our personal and professional performance.

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