“Where did he disappear?” Tereza started looking for her date, when she didn’t see him at the dance floor. He promised to make this a nice evening, since he screwed up last time. “Oh, there he is, around the corner”. She couldn’t believe her eyes. He was kissing another women! Tereza felt so humiliated and angry. She wanted to yell at him and slap his face. But instead, she froze. Her mind went blank and words escaped her. She was scared to show her anger and burn the bridges, so she quietly packed up and left in defeat. Ten years later she was still angry at the man, who made her feel like a fool.

What does people pleasing, perfectionism and self-sabotage have to do with shame? Surprisingly a lot! How exactly does that work and how can you avoid this silent trap?

As a coach and NLP Master practitioner (Neuro – linguistic programming), I assist my clients in discovering hidden subconscious patterns of self-sabotage in their relationships. Women are often frustrated, that the same problem repeats with different men. How is that possible? Are there no good men left? Not exactly.

The hidden shame together with hidden guilt are at the core of many of the self-sabotaging patterns and cause lack of self-compassion. You have probably heard before, that you have to love yourself first, before anybody else can love you. Easier said than done, right? What if I told you that the shame and guilt is what is preventing people to love themselves? Then, things are starting to make more sense.


Shame is hard to uncover, because people are only rarely consciously aware of it and generally don’t know which symptoms relate to it.

However, when shame is correctly diagnosed, it can be quickly transformed via the NLP exercises. As a result people can finally free themselves of outdated beliefs and external standards, they have been subjected to for many years. Side effect of this process is usually short intense anger – because they realize somebody “put” them in this standard and they had suffered, following it. Short intense grief is also common because people realise they have missed many opportunities in life, because their choices were limited by the unreasonable standards.

However, the anger and grief serve a good purpose here, because they help build new boundaries and strengthen the weak identity of the individual. While the grief, anger and sometimes also guilt become activated in our awareness, it makes them accessible for transformation. Transforming guilt, grief and anger brings further relief and helps people free themselves from other old patterns, while connecting to higher energy resources. The process is not linear, but like waves of up and down feelings with an upward trend. The new realisations need a few days for integration and stuck emotions, that have just been unlocked through the process, need to be released.

As the person moves upwards in the trend, new life choices become available and life transforms to a more satisfying experience.


People report the transformation to be very deep, with fast results. Within a few sessions some people are able to grow from shy, unworthy person, who routinely accepts bad treatment of others, to somebody who is ready to express themselves creatively or verbally, starts setting clear boundaries, has a new life vision and motivation for action.

People also reported being more at peace, starting to take better care of their looks and health, having more choices and creating things they can look forward to. They become aware of strong negativity of certain people in their environment and choose to spend less time with them, saving their energy to invest in positive goals. Things on their “bucket list” start to materialise.

Marlene decided to switch jobs to accept a new opportunity. She developed her website and started her lifestyle blog. She decided to be more authentic and do things she always wanted but somehow felt she could not do. She bought a new camera and booked a trip to California. She started to manage her energy better by setting clear boundaries with her mom, who used to push her into things she didn’t want to do. She managed to remain calm when she saw picture of her ex with a new girlfriend, realising he is not the man she wanted for her future. In the past she would have fallen into self doubt and blaming herself for losing him. 

Lara spent months thinking about different services she could offer in her new business, but it was hard to decide what would feel right. After the shame resolution exercise, she became clear about her new life vision and presented her business idea proudly in front of a group of people. This would have been impossible in the past when she was afraid of public speaking. She also decided what kind of a relationship she wanted and that investing time into her ex partner will not lead to her new goal. 

Individual results and speed of progress vary. It depends on how many interferences come up during the process. Interferences are mental resistances, usually something that needs to be heard and resolved, before the person can fully move forward. Working with the resistances is part of the transformation process.


What I observed about the transformation, matches the order of the energy frequencies described by Dr. David Hawkins in his book Power vs. Force. According to his research, shame is the lowest energy frequency, guilt is the second lowest one, while grief and anger are already slightly higher on the scale.

Putting the emotions in a certain order is useful as a direction for personal development. While Dr. Hawkins is of opinion, that it is possible but unlikely people would move upwards on this chart, I am aware that a specific selection of NLP exercises can do precisely that. I am excited that we can combine these two tools, which one of them shows path and the other is step-by-step process “how to do it”.

My objective is to connect the energy levels to a practical list of symptoms related to relationship problems, that I have gathered from working with my clients. This list can serve as a simple diagnostic tool and can speed up the process of transforming the self-sabotaging patterns. I have noticed five groups of symptoms related to shame. 


There are five groups of symptoms related to hidden shame. Read through the description and notice whether you relate to one or more of the situations. Not every part of the description necessarily applies to you, note for yourself, which part is relevant.

    1. Self expression and speaking to people

    1. Standing up for self and creating healthy boundaries

    1. Individual identity vs. expectations of society

    1. Perfectionism

    1. Self vs. romantic partner


People suffering from shame often report they are not able / allowed / safe to express themselves. This includes artistic expression, speaking to others, saying their opinion, going after what they would like, as well as having clear vision for life, career, relationships. As a consequence, they have a feeling they can not do / have or be in their life what they want and feel like they haven’t accomplished much, which underlines the shame. Despite their practical effort, they end up with alternative B – which doesn’t feel right.

They feel embarrassed or paralysed to speak to or in front of others, because they could be judged, rejected, or they feel unimportant and inferior to others. Some feel invisible to others as if nobody would even notice if they didn’t exist. Others want to disappear or be invisible to escape the unpleasant pressure of perceived judgement.


Just like Tereza from the above story, people under the spell of shame feel paralysed when they are supposed to stand up for themselves. The words escape them, mind goes blank and they are not able to react on the spot, despite intense emotional reaction, that goes on the inside. The lack of reaction or delayed reaction causes that others can easily overstep their unclear boundaries.

Some find that setting boundaries is dangerous, because they could lose the love or acceptance of important people, stop belonging to an important group, end up alone or something else bad could happen. Speaking up one’s opinion is not safe, it can lead to self or others getting hurt.

With lack of inner identity, pleasing others becomes the only standard, because the individual is mentally dependent on others. Unable to say no due to shame or guilt of disappointing others, they make themselves as likeable as possible. This is supposed to secure love and good relationships. Tolerating bad treatment or demands is the price of “not being alone”. Putting focus on self feels wrong, selfish and brings guilt.


Individuals in shame don’t know what they want. They haven’t really thought of it, because their focus is on others. They are not important in their own eyes, their accomplishments are discarded as “not so special” and shortcomings are emphasised. They feel not good enough, not doing enough and obliged to behave according to what others expect them to be / do / say. They have to do like everybody does, otherwise they will not be accepted, liked and end up on the edge of society.

If they are unable to do like the society standard, they feel weird, not normal and embarrassed. Women, who don’t have a family by certain age or who haven’t accomplished astonishing career feel ashamed and that something is wrong with them. They feel they can’t have in life what they want and what they have, isn’t good enough in front of others.


Perfectionist were heavily criticised as children, while their accomplishments were taken for granted. They developed an unrealistically high expectations of self and others. They feel like a failure if not perfect and easily become disappointed by others. They feel they have to work very hard and deliver superior results to reach recognition of others. It feels like no matter what they do, it is never enough. They feel the pressure to be good in everything, ideally the best and can’t stand criticism. Hearing praise about others, while they are not recognised, feels as bad as direct criticism. They assume it is all about them and that others are trying to put them down.

There is no space for making mistake, they try to be perfect, otherwise they will become unworthy and lose face. When they don’t do something to the full extent, they feel guilty. They can’t let other people down and pressure themselves to be a role model for others. They have hard time setting boundaries because they feel responsible for everything and everybody, like the world or company would collapse, if they didn’t do their part. They can be bitterly surprised, if others replace them easily. The extreme effort  is supposed to prevent them from feeling shame and earn love and recognition.


People suffering from shame are not clear what they want for themselves in the relationship, besides the fact they want to be loved, safe and free, mainly because they don’t feel internally safe, lovable or free to express themselves. Because of that, they rarely set clear criteria for partner choice. Everything is externally referenced. Women start a relationship because he showed interest and she didn’t want to miss a chance, despite her intuition, that he wasn’t the right one. Women put themselves as objects of the relationship, rather than an equal partner – by saying I want a man who wants xxx with me. I want a man who will love me, who will see me for who I am.

They become quickly excited about a new partner and invest a lot in the relationship, focusing on supporting the partner. They are doubting whether they are doing enough, so they do even more. They don’t ask for much or nothing at all, but expect that the partner will do their part and equally support them. They emphasise “us” and are bitterly surprised when the guy doesn’t appreciate all the effort and doesn’t even love them.

Partners have lot of power over them. If partner criticises, it is extremely hurtful and the woman feels ashamed like something is wrong with her and that it is her fault things are not working. They might try even harder, until the relationship becomes unbearable and decide to break up, at which point the partner might be surprised there was even a problem.

Another scenario is that women force themselves “logically” into a relationship with a guy who showed interest, despite feeling no sparkle. Eventually they have to break up because they are not willing to commit to a man who isn’t “enough” for them, but feel guilty to do it. 


If you find yourself in one or more of the patterns of hidden shame, relief can be found through transforming the shame into “no shame”, by practicing the NLP exercises. If you require support in the process or you have still doubt whether shame could apply to you, contact me at info@michaelaray.com.


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