A common definition of an individual is often by their profession; therefore, we hold on to them like our life depended on them. Others often see others through the eye of their jobs too i.e. we usually hear ‘Nnamdi the tailor’, ‘Titi the hairdresser’ etc. Our careers are often our expression of success or the pursuit of it. Therefore, it’s no brainier when Charles an upwardly mobile young banker is admired by both bosses and colleagues for his dedication, charisma and conscientiousness at work. In his three years in the bank’s branch he had received award as staff of the year twice and to top it he’s a ladies’ man and a power dresser.

Recently, he was moved to the company’s head office and placed under the much revered Aunty T, everybody in the branches say the name with a pinch of dread and but he’s taking the new challenge as a task to be conquered with added promotions “like often said reward for hard work is more work”. Charles believed with his work ethics there will be no problem, Aunty T is in her mid-40s, married with kids and no nonsense boss, she immediately gave Charles tasks after his resumption and after few weeks she seem to have been won over. To the extent that they travel together for work related activities.

On one of such trips Mrs. T and Charles had to spend a week in Abuja to close a deal, he’s living his dream but on the last day of the trip – the deal was successful, at around 11pm Mrs. T came to his room with a bottle of vodka to celebrate the success. Charles was enthusiastic, unfortunately they both got drunk and ended up having sex. Charles was devastated because of moral and religious beliefs. He felt ashamed and scared, hoping it will not affect his job, career and relationship with Aunty T. To his surprise she did not mention it which made him feel awkward and disappointed with himself. Thinking he had violated a sacred boundary that night cried all through, felt dirty, ashamed and afraid for his job. The next morning Aunty T summoned Charles, though reluctant finally when they meet she was all smiles which calmed him but became worried when she handed him an envelope of cash and a key to a hotel room and threatened him that if he does not comply she would file a case of sexual assault against him and she has recordings of their previous act together. Charles felt trapped and did not want to lose his job nor be behind bars. He could not talk to anyone about it because of the shame and he blamed himself for what had happened. He was traumatized and he began to view himself as worthless, dirty, stopped being his happy self, emotionally numb, easily irritated, unable to sleep, hyper vigilant and unable to concentrate again at work and always ruminating about the event. This affected his work and people relationship that everyone says he’s now a different man.     

Exposure to a traumatic event do change our emotional state leading to negative emotionality. Among these emotions, shame is one of the emotions that can be difficult to cope with especially when it shakes our core beliefs. Research has shown that the experience of shame is associated with the severity of post-traumatic stress disorder following a traumatic event. Sometimes shame is confused with guilt but they are two different emotions entirely. Shame is the evaluation of self or action in the light that we are flawed and defective while Guilt is viewing oneself or action against what we believe or hold true, while guilt can have positive side, shame is self-depraving. Shame also make to engage in self-punishment, self-loathing which may not alleviate pain or change but guilt may lead to motivation to retrace steps by correcting the bad behavior which can make you feel good about yourself.

It had been reported that there is a strong association between shame and the experience of PTSD symptoms following a traumatic event. Researchers have said that experiencing shame after a traumatic event may lead to unhealthy coping strategies such as self-destructive behaviors which may affect the emotions associated with the traumatic event and may further contribute to the intensity of PTSD symptoms. Shame may also lead to feeling stigmatized which may not allow the individual to seek appropriate help and make inappropriate decisions.

Some of the ways one can reduce shame is by doing opposite of what shame is making you to do. Also distraction can also help take your attention off the strong emotion of shame, also, to practice self-love. Some of these activities are difficult to practice without help or guidance or knowing how to get started. See a therapist today. Contact us 081 2827 6962, +234 2291 4084.