Guilt and Shame Eating Away at You? – 4 Steps to Resolve Trauma-Related Emotions

Guilt and shame - trauma emotions

Are you struggling with the guilt and shame related to a past trauma?

These emotions are hard to bear and can interfere with your daily life. However, there are steps you can take to resolve those emotions and move forward.

Step 1: Accept that it happened

When you feel guilt and shame related to trauma, it is tempting to pretend it never happened. To deny that the trauma occurred, though, only makes things worse. That is because you know deep down what occurred.

Whether it was an experience related to childhood abuse, a tragic accident, or something else makes little difference. The guilt and shame you feel will not go away until you address the trauma you experienced.

Acknowledging what happened isn’t easy. But it is an essential first step towards resolving trauma-related emotions.

Step 2: Determine what is within and outside of your control

Sometimes, when you’re reflecting on the trauma, you may ask yourself, “What could I have done differently?” That’s because you’re searching for an answer that explains what happened and how you could have avoided the situation or made a different outcome.

However, with trauma, there often was nothing more that you could have done. It happened, and now you have to move forward. However, it can be especially difficult to move on when you are feeling guilt and shame as a result of what happened.

Another way to focus on control is to look at the present. What can you control right now, and what can’t you control?

Perhaps it is hard to stop thinking about what happened. Yet, you do have the power to get up; to do something; to take care of yourself. Sometimes, just recognising what is in your control can help you feel empowered. Trauma often strips your power away, and anything you do to re-establish a sense of control will help.

Step 3: Know what triggers the feelings of guilt and shame

A third step that you can take is recognising what triggers your feelings of guilt and shame. Perhaps it is the anniversary of your car accident. Or seeing a photograph of someone you loved now gone. By recognising and acknowledging these triggers, you can begin working on them.

That doesn’t mean avoiding them. However, it means being able to get to a place where exposure to the trigger doesn’t create feelings of guilt or shame.

Step 4: Talk to others about the guilt and shame you feel

Emotions such as guilt and shame are never easy topics of conversation. They don’t make for polite dinner-talk or casual discussion. Yet, it is essential that you can talk about such feelings somewhere. Why? Because holding them in will only make matters worse as they continue to eat away at you.

Instead, reach out to a trusted friend or family member who you know will listen and not judge. Take an additional step by joining a support group of people who understand what you are feeling. They have walked in your shoes and won’t pass judgement on you. For example, you could join a support group for those who experienced childhood abuse.

Seeing a therapist

Of course, an important part of the recovery process might be working with a counsellor to address your trauma-related guilt and shame. A therapist won’t judge you, and they won’t discount your emotions or feelings. Instead, they will work with you to better understand what happened and why you feel guilt and shame. Together, you can resolve the trauma and put those feelings to rest.

In conclusion

Living with trauma is never easy, especially the residual feelings associated with trauma. However, you can take steps to resolve those feelings. These include finding acceptance, knowing what is in your control, identifying triggers, and talking to others. Finally, seeing a therapist about your guilt and shame will also help with resolving the trauma. This way you can move forward with your life.

If you would like to talk with a counsellor about the issues you are struggling with, please call us on 0151 329 3637, email enquiries@counselling-matters.org.uk, or complete our online referral form and we will get in touch with you. We look forward to speaking with you.

Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

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