Shame. An emotion we all feel but no one wants to talk about. It’s heavy, all-consuming, and keeps us isolated and stuck.
This episode is all about letting go of shame. First, you’ll learn about its origins and how it often pretends to be useful. You’ll learn how it sabotages our efforts to heal and doesn’t allow us to see things as they really are.
Want to know what the cure is? Give this episode a listen and you’ll have real steps to take to manage the shame of your spouses’ infidelity. It will set you free!
Want to get on the waitlist for the next round of my group coaching program? Sign up here.
I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast,
episode number 93, Releasing Shame.
Hello, and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become
the boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves
If you know there’s more freedom than the life you’re currently living, but
don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick around
to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is it
possible? It is and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host, Andrea Giles.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hi everybody. I’m so happy to be here. I have to admit, I have missed my
weekly podcasting, but I’m honoring what I said I would do and I’m going to
do every other week and I’ll come back with every week. Anyway, I’m happy
to be here today. We’re going to talk about shame, but before I jump in, I
just have to share some fun things.
So as you know, I had a baby in November. She’s six months old. She’s an
absolute delight, like such a delight, except that I’m really tired because
she’s teething and not sleeping well. So I’m tired, but she’s so fun. And
any day I’m going to be welcoming a little granddaughter.
So I just kind of have to laugh at it all that my little daughter is going
to be an aunt. And she already is an aunt to two boys that are older than
her. And now another grandbaby’s coming for my little girl to be friends
with and she’s her aunt. And I’m on call to go help when this little baby
girl is born to one of my bonus daughters and I’m just so excited.
So that’s fun. I really literally am like on call anytime it’s going to
happen, she’s due any day. So that’s super fun. So today we’re talking
about shame. It’s a topic that might not sound super fun to talk about. And
it actually, in studies, they say that shame is the topic that we avoid,
that we don’t like talking about because it feels yucky.
We don’t like how we feel when we feel shame, but today I want to talk
about shame. Why? Because shame by nature can be so crippling and shame by
nature is a big fat liar. And I want to spend this episode shining a light
on it so you can spot it for yourself and release it. Okay.
I want to talk about how shame is showing up for you, how you might be
seeing it in your spouse and what to do about it. So first we’re going to
talk about the origins of shame with some examples and how it may be
showing up for you. Okay. So shame has been around since the beginning of
time. Let’s go back to the very beginning of time.
Some of you are religious, some of you aren’t, but all of you I’m sure have
heard the story of Adam and Eve. And they’re in the garden and they were
naked and then they felt shame and they hid themselves. Okay. Covered
themselves up. They felt like there was something wrong with them after
they partook of the fruit. Okay.
So let’s look at some facts about what shame is. So I did some research as
I often do before producing a podcast and I found lots of great
information. I’m going to share just a small snippet of it with you today.
Okay. One of the things I found was a great article in Scientific American
by an author named Annette Kämmerer.
And these are some of the things that Annette shared. Everyone experiences
shame to different degrees. The only people that don’t experience shame are
those who lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. We don’t love
talking about shame. We shy away from it. Shame is more common in women
It is easier for women to jump into shame and humiliation than men. Teens
often feel shame with more intensity than adults. Shame feels like
humiliation, exposed, small, unable to look someone in the eye, wanting to
sink or disappear. We feel shame when we violate the social norms that we
believe in that we think are true.
Shame makes us direct our focus inward and view our entire selves in a
negative light. So just with those things, it makes perfect sense that
teens would feel shame with more intensity because teens are wired to care
very much about social things, about people, about what people think of
So if they have any kind of idea that somebody’s judging them, even if they
are or are not, they easily can access shame. Shame is very easy for teens.
Okay. So Brené Brown, the queen bee of shame, she has studied it for 20
years plus, has a lot to say obviously about shame.
In her latest book Atlas of the Heart, she defines shame as the intensely
painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore
unworthy of love, belonging and connection. I know for me, as I was
planning this episode, I was thinking about what shame feels like for me.
And shame for me feels hot. It feels like this burning hot feeling, this
burning hot sensation in my body like I’m on fire, like I need to jump out
of my own skin. Even my ears feel hot. It can feel very heavy at times.
Definitely it feels like something that I want to escape from. It’s heavy.
Heavy, heavy. Okay. So now what makes shame grow?
There are three things that make shame grow. So if you remember back in
biology where you would do Petri dish experiments, you put something in it
and you experiment with what makes it grow. If you imagine a Petri dish of
shame, the three things that make it grow, that would make it exponentially
grow, are secrecy, silence and judgment. Okay.
So let’s look at some examples of how shame can affect you. With infidelity
by nature, secrecy is involved. Don’t tell. Things have been hidden from
you. Okay. Infidelity means intentionally hiding things from another person
to cover your butt, things that you know they would not like, things that
you know would cause problems. And so instead they go hide them.
Now not only is the one who had the affair being secretive, but many of the
women that I talk to feel like they have to keep it as secret as well. I
can’t tell you how many emails I get, how many messages I get of people
saying either I have never told anybody or I’ve only told one person and
they have no idea what I’m going through. They have no clue. They don’t
They’ve never experienced anything like it and so they don’t really know
how to help me. Yet many women feel like they have to keep things secret.
They can’t tell. Maybe their spouse is telling them to keep it quiet, or
maybe they feel shame that their spouse was unfaithful and don’t want
others to know because they’re embarrassed. So they keep this wound to
Okay. So if you are accommodating this kind of secrecy, you are fanning
this flame of shame for yourself. All the stories that you are telling
yourself about the affair and what it means about you and this doesn’t
happen to better women, this doesn’t happen to strong women, this doesn’t
happen to women who are X, Y and Z. Why did this happen to me?
Why didn’t I know? All of the stories. I must be such an idiot that I
didn’t know and it was going on right under my nose. Okay. Shame, shame,
shame, shame. I don’t want other people to know because then they’ll judge
me. Right? You are totally fanning the flame and making it harder for
yourself to heal.
Number two, silence. Okay. Silence is different than secrecy. Secrecy is
where we go to great lengths at times to hide things, to make sure nobody
finds out, covering your tracks. Silence is more passive. It’s not as
active and even aggressive sometimes, but it also breeds shame.
Silence is just not speaking up, not saying, letting people make
assumptions that just are not true and not speaking up when the opportunity
rises. And sometimes it means even in your own marriage, not speaking up
because you’re afraid of what might be said that might feed the shame, that
might make it worse for you.
So instead of talking about what happened, instead of talking about your
marriage, talking about the environment in which an affair or whatever kind
of infidelity you’re dealing with happened, it’s like, we’re just going to
be quiet. We’re just going to keep silent and not talk about it because
we’re too afraid of actually looking at the truth, really answering these
And we’ll just kind of pretend, you pretend and I’ll pretend, but that fans
that shame because it leaves you with all of those stories that you’re
carrying around. You’re not speaking them. You’re not talking about them.
You’re just carrying them around in silence. It’s going to fan your shame.
Judgment breeds shame because instead of looking at the issue at hand that
the shame came from, you are judging yourself for the thing that happened
or for even feeling shame in the first place. So with infidelity, if you
are judging yourself for having a spouse that made the decisions they did,
you’re going to grow your own shame. You’re going to make it bigger. Okay.
Often in cultures like purity cultures, where any kind of sexuality, sexual
anything is looked down on, shame is rampant. Okay. So for example, if you
were taught not to have impure thoughts, and if you notice that somebody’s
attractive and your mind wanders a little bit, it might bring you to a
place of shame that there’s something wrong with you.
For a lot of men, they’ve gotten into a really unhealthy trap around
pornography. There’s some lots of men who stumbled accidentally across
pornography in their young years, their teenage years, and it was
intriguing to them and they liked how they felt and it was curiosity,
things like that that brought them back for more.
And then coupling that with that purity culture of that it’s not about
tools of what to do when you come across, it’s more like, just don’t do it,
this is not what we do. It’s bad. It will ruin your life. It will ruin your
marriage, all the things that are tied to it.
And if people get caught in this trap of feeling shame around pornography,
for example, they’re not going to want to tell anyone because they’re
afraid of what other people will think. Remember, shame is a very social
thing. If we’ve heard all of these messages, then we’re already going to
assume what people would say if we come clean with what’s going on with us.
So they keep it pent up and then keep looking at pornography as a release
to feel better, the dopamine hit. And then the shame grows because they
feel even worse. Okay. And round and round we go. So shame can be really
rampant around pornography, around anything involving purity culture. Okay.
So what are some of the remedies to shame? Okay.
If you think of that Petri dish that is running over with shame, one good
big squirt of empathy into that Petri dish will wipe out the shame.
Empathy. Now, a couple things about empathy. Empathy is something someone
else gives you, which implies that we have to share for somebody to offer
Brené Brown says, “If we reach out and share our experience with someone
who responds with empathy, shame dismantles. Shame needs to believe that
you’re alone. Empathy is a hostile environment for shame. Empathy and shame
do not like each other.” Okay.
Now how do we go talk about things if we’re so, so shrouded in shame, what
can we do for ourselves before we share with somebody else?
Self-compassion. Okay. Self-compassion, it begins there. And then we can go
share and talk to appropriate people and receive empathy, receive
So to quote Brené again, “Shame is a social emotion. Shame happens between
people and it heals between people. Even if I feel it alone, shame is the
way I see myself through someone else’s eyes. Self-compassion is often the
first step to healing shame. We need to be kind to ourselves before we can
share our stories with someone else.”
So it begins with kindness to ourselves. Okay. So earlier this week I had
an experience where I noticed some shame bubble up. Okay. So I started to
feel shame. My kids are home for the summer. I’m seeing some things,
behaviors, attitudes, habits that when they’re in school and when they’re
not home as much it’s easier to kind of look away from, but when they’re
home, it’s hard to not see.
And I would, in one day, several things happened with my kids that I just
was like, oh my gosh, come on. And I was starting to feel shame with a
story that I have failed my kids that have not taught them enough that I’m
this, that I’m that.
And so I knew that I could follow that story and end up ruining my night by
allowing that story to take over by casting judgment, by hiding the
details, hiding things so that I wouldn’t be perceived in a certain way by
other people. And I knew that that would not be healthy for me.
So I started with pulling out my journal and I wrote all the reasons why it
might be that I have parented in the way that I have from a very
self-compassionate lens. I wrote about my experience of being a mother and
being married to the person I was married to and the difficulties that I
experienced there and the difficulties of being a single mom for three
And then the difficulties of blending two families that have been raised in
two different ways and trying to parent kids who don’t necessarily trust
you at first, right? That you have to earn their trust. All of that. I
wrote that all down and I shined a light of self-compassion on myself of
going, like of course these things are showing up, of course this is the
way it is.
And now, Andrea, now we can do something about it. The very next day I had
a one-on-one call with my own coach. I have my own coach. And instead of
just hanging out with self-compassion which helped a lot, I told my coach
some of the things that I was dealing with.
I have to rewind a little bit and say that I also mentioned to my husband,
“Husband, I feel this way. I’m scared about this. I feel these things.” And
he held space for me. He gave me empathy and space. Okay. So then I talked
to my coach and I started to make a plan. I brought some things to a group
that I’m in and asked for help with making a plan.
There are certain things that I struggle with and parenting with
consequences and things like that I wanted a little extra help with. And so
I no longer am hanging out in shame. I can hold self-compassion for myself
for the exact way things are and take steps to move forward and change some
of the things that are going on. Okay.
As a reminder, you can go back to episode 58, which is all about
self-compassion, but three things that Kristin Neff who is a
self-compassion expert teaches about self-compassion are that it must
include self-kindness versus self-judgment, being warm and understanding to
Okay. I’m going to read to you a little bit of what she says about this.
Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when
we suffer, fail or feel inadequate rather than ignoring our pain or
flagellation ourselves with self-criticism.
Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing and
experiencing life difficulties are inevitable. So they tend to be gentle
with themselves when confronted with painful experiences, rather than
getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. Okay. Next, common
humanity versus isolation.
Self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy
is part of the shared human experience, something that we all go through
rather than being something that happens to me alone. I want to make a note
on this. I can hear you. I can hear your brain going, well, not everybody
experiences infidelity. I’m the one. I am alone. Other people don’t have to
deal with this.
My sister, my best friend, all these people, they must be better than me in
some way, or I wouldn’t be alone in this. I wouldn’t have to deal with
this. What I want to say to you is that we all have our own special little
mix of trials. We all have them. Some are more public than others. Some
seem more personal than others, but we all got them, my friends, we all do.
And sometimes I will venture to say that sometimes our own unique blend of
trials are custom made for us. As much as we hate them, they can be our
instructors. They can be our teachers. They can show us exactly where our
growth is. Show us what we need to strengthen in ourselves.
Infidelity, there’s nothing quite like infidelity to show us what we need
to strengthen, to build safety and security and love within ourselves.
Okay. Number three, mindfulness versus over identification. This is a big
one. Mindfulness is a nonjudgmental receptive mind state in which one
observes thoughts and feelings as they are without trying to suppress or
We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.
Okay. We cannot see what we’re thinking and we can’t ignore what we’re
thinking and feel self-compassion. Okay. We have to show ourselves what’s
going on in our minds. Show ourselves what that mindfulness and that’s
where we can practice self-compassion. Okay.
At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be over-identified with
thoughts and feelings so that we are caught up and swept away by negative
reactivity. Okay. Over-identifying means taking it very personally, making
things bigger than they are. Instead of just, I have this thing that I want
to work on in my myself, making it mean that it’s all of ourselves. This is
all I am. Okay.
So as you are navigating this, those are some things to practice,
self-compassion, kindness versus judgment. Okay. Et cetera. All right. I
want you to think about how shame feels in your body. What triggers shame
in you? This is partly how you can grow your resilience to shame. Shame is
coming along for the ride, my friends, none of us are going to escape it.
None of us are going to be free from it forever. So how can you grow your
resilience to it so it doesn’t take you down for days at a time? Know what
it feels like in your body, understand what triggers it. What are the
things that really trigger you around shame? What are the things that
growing up were really, really embarrassing to you?
And are they embarrassing now and does it trigger shame? Shine a light on
it. What is the message that is creating the shame? Okay. How much are you
going to believe that story? So next time you find yourself in shame, some
of you listening might be hanging out in shame all the time right now.
Some of you are avoiding reaching out about and fidelity talking to me,
talking to other people and groups, things like that because you’re so
steeped in shame. I want to challenge you to look at the story of what
you’re making it mean, of what you’re making the infidelity mean, of what
you’re making it mean about you and come out of hiding.
Reach out, connect with others. Okay. We can’t experience empathy for
others if we’re not connecting. And others can’t offer us that empathy If
we are not connecting. Okay. Ask for what you need. Ask for help when you
are in a shame storm. And even though your spouse may have brought a lot of
pain by his actions, you can also involve him and say, I’m so embarrassed.
I feel so full of shame that this is my reality right now. I’m so ashamed
of, and you can speak to it, talk about it. It will help him understand you
more. Okay. So with that said, I want to shift gears a little bit. I want
to talk about your spouse and shame. If he is acting like he doesn’t care
or doesn’t seem remorseful or doesn’t want to talk about it, either one of
two things could be going on.
Number one, he could still be carrying on his infidelities. He might not be
getting everything out in the open. So he is avoiding talking about it to
protect himself, or maybe everything’s just not out in the open and he’s
afraid that discussing it will unravel more of the actual story and then
he’ll have to deal with it more.
Number two, he is no longer involved, but is so steeped in shame that
whenever the infidelity is mentioned it becomes almost unbearable to him,
so much shame. The story of what he makes it mean is so painful that he
avoids it at all cost.
When you mention it, he doesn’t get uncomfortable because you want to talk
about it or because he doesn’t care. It’s because shame comes up in his
body and it becomes intolerable. So he would rather hide from it.
One more thing I want to point out is this statement by Irene Brown, she
made a statement about shame and shame in narcissism. Okay. Some of you
might think that you’re married to a narcissist. Like if he had any moral
compass at all, if he cared at all about people, then he would not do this
thing. And he must be a narcissist. Okay.
Something that Brené brown says about this is, “Shame isn’t the cure. It’s
the cause. Don’t let what looks like a bloated ego and narcissism fool you
into thinking there’s a lack of shame. Shame and fear are almost always
driving the unethical behavior. We’re now seeing that shame often fuels
narcissistic behavior. In fact, I define narcissism as the shame-based fear
of being ordinary.”
Interesting, right? So some of you who you look at your partner and they
might seem so full of themselves and so just all about themselves, that
might be happening, but there might be something else going on too.
They may be so crippled with shame that they can’t function, they cannot
see outside of themselves. Okay. So how can you help with this? Encourage
bringing things out into the open. Offer empathy even when it’s really
hard. Okay. I know it seems unfair like what, he did this thing.
Why do I need to be empathetic? I promise you that trying to understand and
offering some empathy will ultimately help you to see if he’s someone who
is willing to step out of his own shame into empathy for you and sorrow for
what he has done, or if he is so deep into his shame or whatever else is
going on for him, for you to safely stay. Okay.
Back to you. Part of the reason I wanted to cover this topic is because
when we are steeped in shame, it is impossible to have an accurate view of
what is really going on. We care more about what others may be thinking
about us or what we think they would think if they knew what was going on
or what our spouse must think about us to do what they did.
To really make a decision from our highest selves, it will not serve you.
Okay? Shame is self-consumed and self-involved. When we are in shame, it
overrides our ability to look at another point of view or another person’s
experience. We cannot understand in any way why our spouse may have gone
down the path they did when we’re hanging out in shame.
We can’t understand them better at all. We cannot process new information
unless the info directly relates to us in that shame-based lens. Okay. We
can’t see anything outside that when we’re hanging out in shame. Empathy is
other-focused. We look outward toward other people’s experience.
We think of ourselves only when we are trying to understand how our
experience can help us understand and make sense of the situation. I
propose a happy medium that begins with self-compassion and loving empathy
for yourself. From there, you can offer it to your spouse. You can feel sad
that they felt the need to self-betray.
You can encourage them to come out of hiding and shine a light on that
shame. And if they don’t want to, if they want to continue to hide from
themselves or stay in blame, that is their choice. But you get to know that
you showed up from your highest self, even after being hurt by that person.
That my friends is courage and strength. Okay. To wrap this up, I want to
mention the power of having witnesses to your experience. Okay. When I
started my current group program Know in 90, I did not know how offering
group coaching around infidelity would be received. I didn’t know. I hoped
that it would be received well, and it has been.
And let me just say it has been magical and amazing and I’m just in love
with my group. Okay. One member of my current group said to me a few days
ago, “Thank you so much. This has been balm for my bleeding soul. There is
something magical about women helping each other and modeling strength from
Another person said, “I was so worried about talking about my issues around
other people as I normally don’t do this. Now, I can’t imagine not sharing
and supporting the women that I have come to love and trust.” My friends,
people need people. Women need women. We all need each other. You are not
meant to walk this road alone. Okay?
If you are ready for support of not just me, but from other amazing women,
get on my wait list for the next round of Know in 90. Okay. Get on my wait
list. It’s launching next month. The group starts at the beginning of
August and I would love to have you in the next round. Spots are already
starting to pre-sale. This group is powerful.
It will help you get clear on the direction you’re going from a really,
really strong empowered place where you’re not feeling like this is all I
can have. I either make the most of it here or I go leave this marriage and
be sad and lonely. Okay. Nope. We’re looking at staying with full
conviction that that is what you want.
Or leaving with full conviction that you want with a solid plan of how you
are going to move forward and create a life that you want to be in. Not
just a default that I guess is the best that I can do. Okay. This group
will help you dissolve your fears around going all in or going all out and
give you what you need to take bold steps forward with other people being
witnessed to it, being examples of it.
And you get to be examples too. Okay. So if this is something interesting
to you, go get on my wait list. Okay. The direct link to get on that is
going to be listed right in the show notes. Go to the show notes, so you’ll
be able to find it. You can go to my webpage, andreagiles.com and get on my
You can find me on social media, Andrea_Giles_Coaching in Instagram. And in
my links, you’ll see a link in my bio with a direct link to sign up, go get
on that list. Okay. Go get on that list. Enrollment opens soon to the
general public, and I’d love for you to be in that group and help yourself
cut through all of the shame and really get a clear path of where you’re
going, a clear plan and be on your way.
Okay. You do not need to needlessly suffer and hide in shame. Okay. All
right. My friends, thank you so much. I will see you next time.
Thank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast. If you would
like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast
episodes and other ways of working with me, go subscribe to my weekly
You can subscribe at andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. Again, it’s
andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. I will see you next time.