We all strive for happiness. Always wanting and keeping busy in the hope that we will achieve the ultimate happiness. Working to earn the money, to buy what we think will make us happy, only to find that once we have what we worked for, we are too tired to enjoy it and so we continue to work for the next thing, unable to enjoy what we have. Then the work becomes our status: ‘I’ll feel happy with the next promotion, or when I finish this project.’
What if happiness has never been felt? What if life has been hard, traumatic and miserable?
We often hear of traumatic stories, but what about ‘miserable’ lives? People who are stuck in a life of feeling miserable. So many words fit: sad, down, heartbroken, blue, melancholy, shame and more.
Feeling shame and/or guilt can make us feel miserable. This can begin in an early age and doesn’t have to involve trauma. Shame is the belief that one is bad and has no value, wanting to hide away and not get involved with others much. Shame and its misery can manifest itself in anger and/or depression too. It can be hidden in families and passed down through the generations, living with feelings we know nothing about.
Guilt is different. It is a belief that one has done something bad to another person. ‘Guilt is a behaviour, shame is a about a person’ (Recursive Loop of Shame – an alternative Gestalt therapy viewpoint) 1997:258
Shame can be difficult to live with (and can be difficult to for others to live with) when it manifests as anger, depression or isolation. Seek help, start talking. It may bring up feelings of anger, fear and hurt, but keep going. Don’t give up.