Slowing The Shame Spiral

by | Oct 12, 2022

I didn’t realize how upset I was until I stepped out of the house and made my way to the car. My mind was swirling with thoughts – a mix of anger, disappointment and shame:  

I’m a failure.

I’m never going to be a good enough mom or wife.

It’s not safe to be myself.

I’m not capable of being in relationships.

I can’t trust people.

It would be better for everyone if I was just alone.

Why can’t I just be “normal”?

I felt like a failure at relationships and they seemed to lead only to someone getting hurt. I began to isolate myself, I thought, to work through my feelings. But my inner critic just kept piling on the weight until I had spiraled so far that I felt like a failure in every area of my life.

What happens in the deep…

Have you ever seen what elicits the prey drive in a shark? (I know – sharp right turn – but stick with me.) I recently watched a video of a professional diver swimming with a shark in the open ocean to demonstrate this concept.

First, she swam on the surface of the water, kicking and splashing intensely. As you could imagine, she wasn’t gaining much distance on the large shark coming up behind her and it most definitely saw her as prey. Next, she adjusted her body into a vertical position by slowing her kicking feet and splashing arms. Then, she calmly faced the shark, made eye contact, and gently directed the nose of the shark away as if deflecting a teething puppy. It was truly remarkable.

This made me think about a few things:

  1. Our challenges often seem bigger when they are looming behind us and especially when we’re dealing with them on our own.
  2. It’s common to avoid challenges hoping that they will disappear, but they aren’t going anywhere.
  3. We have to place our trust in God in order to face big challenges.
  4. Regulating our body and emotions can help when we face big challenges.

In reflecting on my situation at the time I realized I had been kicking and splashing, trying to escape and avoid what was so difficult for me, which opened me up to so many shame-filled thoughts. The more shame and self-loathing I felt, the more I isolated myself. And the more I withdrew, the more the shame weighed me down. I was sinking fast and I started to realize that what I was doing wasn’t working.

We need to feel it to heal it.

I decided to share my feelings with my husband and I proceeded to dump all of my anger, frustration, hurt, and disappointment on him without warning. (Note to self: This approach isn’t recommended for the future.) Thankfully, despite how it all tumbled out, he extended grace and helped me start to question the thoughts in my head that had created such a shame-filled reflection. Maybe there were actually more lies than truth in them.

I took a deep breath and, in-between the negative thoughts, I started remembering that God isn’t the author of those lies in my head. He created me, He loves me, and He doesn’t want me to do life alone. I had started to slow the shame spiral but I was still so angry and disappointed. 

In an effort to calm the raging sea in my brain I put in my airpods and listened as the world around me quieted (thank goodness for noise canceling headphones!). I turned on some music, closed my eyes, and began sharing my feelings and troubling thoughts with God. Shortly after I began praying, the intro of a familiar song caught my attention and the lyrics slowly became my prayer:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior… 

Through the song I was reminded that the power of the Holy Spirit is within me and I could invite the Spirit to lead me. As I prayed “Spirit lead me…”

I felt the shame begin to shatter. I am NOT a total failure. In Christ I AM enough. And I don’t have to face challenges alone.

Shame is terribly good at making a person think that the ‘easiest’, ‘best’, or ‘only’ answer is isolation. I’m so grateful the Lord began shattering my shame before I spiraled any further.

I hope that sharing part of my story encourages you to invite God into areas of your life where you might be struggling with shame or isolating yourself. It is safe to take your feelings to God. He desires a relationship with you and He loves you unconditionally. I can’t think of a better place to start when dealing with the challenges of life.

“And the Lord is the one who is going ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not desert you or abandon you. Do not fear and do not be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8 NASB

Slowing The Shame Spiral Together,

Abbey Bailey, RS Strategic Communication Coordinator

Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Joel Houston / Matt Crocker / Salomon Lighthelm. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) (Reloaded) (audio) lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group, Capitol CMG Publishing

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