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Living with a criminal record, or the impact of a love ones offence, can feel like an uphill battle. Not only do you face the consequences and fall out of past actions, you might also grapple with shame.

What is shame?

Shame can lead to physical sensations such as feeling sick, shivering, racing heart, flushed cheeks, the inability to meet another person’s gaze and impacts on posture (e.g. slumping and making yourself smaller).  There are other, non-visual, sensations that can occur such as feeling hyperaware of other people’s attention on you, the desire to escape a situation and a wish to disconnect from your own body.  

If not dealt with, shame can escalate into mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, as shame can lead people to feel as if they are fundamentally flawed in some way.

These feelings can hinder your ability to move forward, impacting everything from relationships to chances of finding employment.

The good news is that it is possible to heal from shame.  


How can you begin healing?

Acknowledging shame

A helpful first step can be acknowledging that shame is the emotion that you are feeling. For some people, it can be hard to identify the emotion, especially if guilt is also something you are feeling.

Guilt can be summarised as feeling bad about the impact of your actions whereas shame can be summarised as viewing yourself negatively.

Everyone experiences shame, in its mildest form, throughout their lives. However, many people learn to supress it - to push it down or deny its existence. This suppression, especially when dealing with shame at an extreme level, can prevent healing from taking place. It is the acknowledgement of shame that can allow you to begin the process of healing.

Speak to someone close to you

If you feel safe to do so, speaking to someone close to you about your experience can help you to work through your feelings.  It can be helpful to bring your internal negative feelings in to the light so that they can be balanced against all the good that the other person sees in you.



Working with a counsellor or therapist can be life changing.

Different counsellors and therapists use different approaches in their work. You may find that a counsellor or therapist with experience in either of the following approaches, particularly helpful, especially if you are experiencing feelings of shame:


Compassion Focused Therapy

Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT) is a form of therapy that emphasises the importance of self-compassion, which involves treating yourself with kindness, understanding, and acceptance. CFT is a psychological therapy approach that was originally developed to help people with high shame and self-criticism. CFT centres on the three systems of emotion regulation that has evolved in humans over time; the threat (protection) system, the drive (resource seeking) system and the soothing system.

Source: Anxiety UK

CFT can be used to help manage many long-term emotional problems related to persistent shame, self-criticism, and an inability to view one’s self and one’s behaviours kindly and compassionately.

Source: Psychology Today United Kingdom


Mindful Self-Compassion


Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) combines the skills of mindfulness and self-compassion to enhance our capacity for emotional wellbeing.

Most of us feel compassion when a close friend is struggling. What would it be like to receive the same caring attention from yourself when you needed it most? All that’s required is a shift in attention—recognizing that as a human being, you, too, are a worthy recipient of compassion.

Source: Chris Germer


Finding a therapist


Our Mental Health page provides more information on how to find a therapist.


It's important to remember that the journey towards healing is personal and may be helped by professional guidance. If you or someone you know is struggling with shame related to past experiences, consider reaching out to a therapist or mental health professional who can offer support and explore therapeutic options with you.

A table with examples of appropriate language use
A table showing the notification periods for the various sentence types. Prison sentence of 30 months or more (including life), Indefinite. Order for lifelong restriction, Indefinite. Admission to a hospital subject to a restriction order, Indefinite. Prison sentence of more than 6 months but less than 30 months, 10 years. Prison sentence of 6 months or less, 7 years. Admission to a hospital without a restriction order, 7 years. Community payback order with an offender supervision requirement, The length of the offender supervision requirement. Any other sentence (e.g. a fine or admonition), 5 years.
Last updated:
May 9, 2024
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