Healing Shame is One of the Keys to Healing Anxiety

by | Aug 13, 2023 | 9-Month | 8 comments

Years ago, I wrote a post called You Are Loved, which I then recorded and included in several of my courses (and on this page). The post begins:

If you knew you were fully loved, if you knew that you were whole and worthy exactly as you are just for being intrinsically you, your anxiety would disappear.

That’s a big “if”, and the barrier to feeling fully loved and knowing that you are whole, good, and worthy exactly as you are is, quite simply, shame.

If you could quiet your shame, you could quiet your anxiety. I’ll edit what I wrote in 2013 and say that anxiety won’t exactly disappear; that’s not even the goal. But without shame in the way, when anxiety shows up you’ll have the self-love and self-trust to address it, which means tending to it like a scared child.

What is Shame?

Shame is the voice that says:

  • You are broken.
  • You are unworthy.
  • You are bad.
  • You’re not enough.
  • You’re too much (too sensitive, too emotional).
  • You’re a mistake.
  • You’re not allowed to make mistakes.
  • You must be perfect.
  • You’re a failure.
  • You’re stupid.
  • You’re a loser.

Shame is a barrier.

Shame is a silencer.

Shame is a liar.

Shame is the dark, lonely dungeon that causes you to forget who you are, to forget that you are anything less than good and radiant and that you have a unique gift and purpose to share with this world.

Shame a protector and, as a young person, it gave you the illusion of control; by focusing on perfection – being perfect and doing things perfectly – you protected yourself from the pain of your circumstances in early life and the awareness that the searingly soul-crushing awareness that the disconnection and ruptures in connection were not your fault.

Shame is at the root of anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and OCD, and when we soften shame, we can then work more effectively with the symptoms of anxiety.


How to Heal Shame

As shame is relational, meaning it erupts in relationship to others, one primary healing pathway is also through relationships. “The wound is where the light enters,” the poet Rumi famously wrote, meaning the wound carries the clue for healing.

We heal shame in our intimate partnerships when we feel seen and accepted by our partner.

We heal shame in a healthy therapeutic relationship when our therapist mirrors back our goodness and worthiness.

We heal shame in friendship when a true, soul friend loves us down to our very toes without condition.

And we heal shame in safe groups when we have the privilege of witnessing others being vulnerable about their struggles and, when we feel safe enough to share our own struggles, we’re met with empathic eyes and loving nods of recognition.

This is what happens in my 9-month course: Break Free From Anxiety. Through daily emails, regular group calls, and very carefully matched small groups, the members feel seen, accepted, and loved, which, over the course of nine months, leads to healing.

As Paula in Chicago shared:

The Break Free From Anxiety course was life-changing for me. I’ve healed many layers of anxiety through Sheryl’s work, but this particular course gave me the time and space to go deeper. I loved receiving daily emails because they helped me integrate the information in small, consistent bits. The group calls provided big blasts of encouragement, and even though the course is over, my small group is still going! It’s amazing to connect with like minds and hearts through this program – what a gift.”

And Francesca from Milan, Italy:

“I still remember the exact moment when I decided to enroll in “Break free from anxiety ” course. I’m from Italy and I was a bit of afraid at enrolling in a course not held in my mother tongue language but I was so tired to be trapped in my intrusive thoughts. The idea of receiving a daily email for 9 months made me think: ok, at least I will no longer feel so alone and I can honestly say this online path has been a true blessing. I never felt so seen and heard.”

With shame no longer quite so loud, we can then gently explore the six areas that help us grow a loving inner parent / wise self so that we can meet our thoughts, feelings, and sensations skillfully and tenderly. This is what the 9-month course offers: a clear and doable roadmap to help you address anxiety at the root; the information, tools, and skills that you should have received in school for how to navigate the bumpy roads of life with more grace; and the daily, weekly, and monthly support so that you don’t have to figure it out alone.

A Roadmap for Life

This is my most comprehensive course, and I only offer it once a year. It’s the course where I walk most closely alongside you, getting to know you in the Zoom/phone calls and reaching for you daily through the emails.

It’s the course that picks up where my book, The Wisdom of Anxiety, and many of my other courses, leave off.

The course meets you wherever you are: newer to inner work or a seasoned seeker, 20 years old or 75 years old, in a relationship, single, divorced. All genders. Across the globe. Together we meet in a sacred circle so that we can soften shame, tend to the next layers of healing, make connections, and bring the light and gifts of you into a world that is aching for exactly what you have to offer.

The 5th round will begin on September 9, 2023, and I very much look forward to connecting with you there.



  1. Hi Sheryl,

    I just signed up for the “Break Free from RA” course. This is more of a question from the recent post you did about the “80% rule” when finding a marriage partner. With my wife of 14 years, she’s definitely at 80% (and was when we dated) and is an amazing person, but the 20% that has been missing for me for awhile is the physical/sexual attraction. I imagine this issue is different for men than it is women (because the physical attraction is more of a factor for men). It’s what I am going to focus on improving with the break free course but my anxiety is always triggered by the thought that my lack of attraction can’t change and that it will always keep me from happy in my marriage. And I do feel shame when I notice other women who I find more attractive and wonder “what if…” Thanks for reading.

    • I’m not sure if this is directly relevant to this post, but I recently discovered a lovely passage from Josepg Campbell, in one of his posthumously published books. You and your readers might like it:

      “Two people meet and fall in love. Then they marry, and the real Sam or Suzy begins to show through the fantasy, and, boy, is it a shock. So a lot of little boys and girls just withdraw their anima or animus. They get a divorce and wait for another receptive person, pitch the woo again, and, uh-oh, another shock. And so on and so forth.

      Now the one undeniable fact: this disillusion is inevitable. You had an ideal. You married that ideal, then along comes a fact that does not correspond to that ideal. You suddenly notice things that do not quite fit with your projection. So what are you going to do when that happens? There’s only one attitude that will solve the situation: compassion. This poor, poor fact that I married does not correspond to my ideal; it’s only a human being. Well, I’m a human being, too. So I’ll meet a human being for a change; I’ll live with it and be nice to it, showing compassion for the fallibilities that I myself have certainly brought to life as a human being.”

      • Beautiful and excellent, quote!

        If anyone struggling with relationship anxiety hasn’t read We by Robert Johnson, I HIGHLY recommend it. And if you’ve already read and are still struggling, read it again :).

        • Is it best to read ‘We’ after having read the previous books (He and She, I believe)?

  2. Hi Sheryl – I had a quick question! I’ve read your book (3 times, I love it) and I’ve read some of your blogs. I’m really interested in the Tonglen exercise. Is it an exercise that can be used when I get an anxious feeling when receiving texts or when I shrink back from loving embraces?

    • Yes, Tonglen can be used for any uncomfortable feeling as a way to teach ourselves to move toward them instead of away.


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