When Shame Hinders You From Healing

People often confuse shame and guilt or think they are one in the same. But according to Greg Hasek, who has more than 20 years of clinical experience helping men heal from addiction and trauma, with special focus on healing from abortion, they are completely different and both play a major role when it comes to healing from trauma.

Shame is a powerful emotion

Shame and guilt are different and when it comes to healing from past trauma, including abortion, the differences matter. Shame is a deeper, inner feeling of complete failure as a person, Greg Hasek explains. Oftentimes, the man never talks about shame, whether it’s from a previous abortion experience or sexual abuse or childhood trauma. It’s more than embarrassment and can present itself in several negative behaviors such as addictions and substance abuse.

Shame is incredibly powerful but for a male, it is especially potent. For example, when a woman comes to a man with the news that she is pregnant, he can either support her or not. If supportive, he will tell her he will be there for her and for the child and fulfill his duty to protect and provide for them both. If not, and he chooses to go ahead with the abortion, it is very common that afterwards he will feel as though he failed to protect his child and his partner. With that feeling, men can experience a deep level of shame, Hasek says.

“He was part of causing his partner trauma. He was part of causing the death of his child. When a man internalizes that double shame, it later gets hidden and is so deep that they don’t talk to anyone at all about it,” said Hasek. “It stays hidden for years and oftentimes that shame comes out in other ways like addiction and substance abuse.”

Shame also negatively affects relationships

Besides addiction and substance abuse issues men face when dealing with shame as part of a traumatic experience, they are hindered in forming intimate emotional bonds, most especially with their partners.

When discussing shame with his patients, Hasek often compares it to the feeling that Adam felt in the Garden of Eden after choosing sin. He went and hid from God, hid from forgiveness and that intimate relationship he shared with God.

Men are not unlike Adam when dealing with shame. They also hide and bury shame, refusing to give their entire selves to their partners.

“Intimacy is so limited when shame is involved,” said Hasek. “Men cannot engage in intimacy with their partner when they are hiding. They don’t go to their partners, the people who love them most, and share those deep feelings of shame.”

In relationships, an almost sure sign a man has some hidden shame he is dealing with is assuming a defensive position when confronted with a behavior of his that his partner is struggling with.

Hasek sees this so many times during marriage counseling. For example, the wife says she doesn’t like when her husband drinks and then the husband gets very defensive and accuses her of something he doesn’t like. Instead of addressing what she is saying, he immediately goes on defense, shoving that feeling of shame back into the recesses of where it came. This is a big reason why shame is so powerful: it negatively affects the man physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

Guilt is a different emotion

Guilt is more like regret, whereas the person will feel bad for something they have done and want to make amends. When this emotion presents itself, Hasek says, the man is ready to begin healing.

When guilt presents itself, it is often at a point where the man has positively confronted those feelings of shame if it was something he chose to do himself that lent itself to shame (versus something traumatic happening to him like childhood abuse that was not his choice). He’s ready to ask for forgiveness. He’s also ready to receive forgiveness.

Getting there from the recesses of shame, Hasek says, takes time, especially if the shame originates from an abortion decision. Support After Abortion has extensive content to help men who are wanting to explore healing from past abortion wounds at our website.

The opposite of shame is grace

One important thing Hasek notes is that when men come to him for help in healing from abortion or they go to Support After Abortion for help, they will always be met with no judgment.

“The opposite of shame is grace and Support After Abortion wants to be a place of grace. So if anyone has shame they have not been able to deal with, I want them to know we are a place of grace, which means that we see them through God’s eyes, who always offers forgiveness to us that we don’t even deserve,” said Hasek.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by abortion, you are not alone. Call or text our confidential hopeline at 844-289-HOPE (4673). Women, this is your call: if your partner, male loved one or friend has had an abortion, visit us at www.supportafterabortion.com to learn how to create a safe space, and create dialogue so more men can receive hope and healing after abortion.