Peer Support Groups – Healing Shame
We Need to be Witnessed with Compassion.
Knowing that another is moved by your story, and that you feel believed combats shame. Shame is a dismissal of us. It says that our feelings aren’t important—that we aren’t important and that we are not valued. When I share in a peer support group and you show that I moved you it has power to heal. An empathetic response and compassion communicates validation. You being moved by my story brings my experience to life and allows me to begin to trust its legitimacy.
You may also feel shame because of things you have done as an adult to hurt yourself, and others, such as abusing alcohol or drugs, becoming overly sexually promiscuous, or breaking the law, not realizing that these behaviors were a result of the abuse you suffered.Healing the Shame of Childhood Abuse Through Self-Compassion | Psychology Today
In a peer support group we learn to sit with emotions, sharing our experiences and learning from others. We learn that we no longer need to be afraid of our feelings. Our enjoyment of life ceases to be sidelined by the traumas we have experienced. We set free the ability to restore a connection to ourselves and to others. Sharing our understandings with other peer support group members our suffering becomes increasingly less shameful. Staying present as our peers connect to their experience, we can grow stronger and heal ourselves.
When these emotions become blocked or suppressed (for a variety of reasons) they can cause or worsen symptoms. Releasing stuck emotional energy helps the brain become more integrated, which reduces stress and symptoms. This is a key component of how people can help one another in peer support groups.Peer Support: A Model for People Helping People Heal | Psychology Today New Zealand
In a peer support group we practice compassionate listening. It is a nonjudgmental invitation for others to share without any worry about disapproval.
“Do your best to practice compassionate listening. Do not listen for the sole purpose of judging, criticizing or analyzing. Listen only to help the other person express himself and find some relief from suffering.” — Thich Nhat HanhCompassionate Listening | HuffPost Life