Nothing By Chance Blog

The Paradoxical Model of Shame

ShameHands-150x150If you struggle with addiction or know someone who does, you probably recognize this cycle:

Discomfort/frustration -> acting out (addiction) -> (short term) relief -> shame (more discomfort; start the cycle again)

Sure, guilt and embarrassment come into play, too, but shame is the overriding emotion that my clients tell me they feel. Guilt and embarrassment surface when an addict gets caught or called out. Shame is an internal emotion that the addict will carry around forever if something isn’t done.

Shame, however is a crippling emotion. When someone feels shame the last thing they want to do is talk about it. To talk about it is to become vulnerable. When someone has an addiction, the likelihood that past vulnerability has been met with ridicule, disgust, teasing, (or other negative response) is high. This keeps vulnerability at bay and keeps shame trapped within.

The paradox of shame occurs when shame is talked about and it is met with understanding and compassion. Suddenly, the shame lessens and the hold it has on someone with an addiction lessens.

Look back at the top of this article to the addiction cycle. When shame is reduced, less discomfort is in the life of an addict and the need to act out lessens. Finding ways to address and reduce shame weakens the grip of addiction.

So, where does an addict go to find understanding and compassion? It may not be at home, where your addiction has caused damage. It may not be with a therapist because that’s a 1-on-1 relationship and, although hugely valuable in your recovery, serves a different purpose. It absolutely lessens shame, but not the same as in a group setting.

Shame lessening occurs in group. In my sex and pornography addiction support group, our guys tell their stories and are met by other men who are fighting the same battle. They show compassion and understanding. They can relate and they learn that there is no shame in facing your addiction and recovery. The shame starts to dissipate immediately. Attending 12-step meetings and telling your story is another way to let your shame out.

If you’re unsure of how to get started, contact me. If you’re struggling with sex or pornography addiction, I can help as can my Wednesday evening group. If I can’t help directly, I can refer you to a group or resource that can help. No matter what, if shame is part of your life, let’s talk.

Shame is paradoxical – it’s one of the most difficult things to talk about, but when you talk about it in the right setting, it melts away. And that makes life much easier.  

dan-gabbertIf you’re curious about your alcohol consumption, or if you have ever thought about changing or stopping your use, the AUDIT is a great tool.  The AUDIT is a simple 10 item questionnaire that you can use to help guide your decision about alcohol.

If you will send an email to, we will reply with directions and a free copy of the AUDIT.  To learn more about Dan’s practice click on his picture!