Even though it may seem difficult when one is stuck in shame, there is hope for moving beyond this painful emotion, suggests a study from the University of Alberta in Canada.
"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 researcher Jessica 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," the researcher added.
Such people 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.' They identify so much with shame that it takes over their entire view of themselves. That leads to an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness," said Van Vliet.
According to the researcher, 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 people move from a sense of uncontrollability to the belief that maybe there's something they can do about their situation, such as apologizing or making amends for their actions, it starts increasing a sense of hope for the future," she said.
Her study suggests that one of the key steps to overcoming a profound sense of shame is making connections, be it with family and friends, a higher power, or humanity as a whole.
"Connecting to others helps to increase self-acceptance, and with self-acceptance can come a greater acceptance of other people as well," said Van Vliet.
"People start to realize that it's not just them. Other people do things that are as bad or even worse sometimes so they're not the worst person on the planet. They start to say to themselves, 'This is human, I am human, others are human,'" she added.
The study has been published in the British Psychological Society journal, Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice.