Van Vliet's research shows that people who feel debilitated by shame tend to internalize and over-personalize the situation. They also seem resigned to being unable to change their feelings or their fate.
"When people experience shame, they may say to themselves 'I'm to blame, it's all my fault, all of me is bad, and there's nothing I can do to change the situation,'" said Van Vliet. "They identify so much with shame that it takes over their entire view of themselves. That leads to an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness." Van Vliet found that one of the key steps to overcoming a profound sense of shame is making connections, be it with family and friends, a higher power, or humanity as a whole. While it is one of several aspects of moving forward, Van Vliet notes that the step can often blend or lead into others.
"Connecting to others helps to increase self-acceptance, and with self-acceptance can come a greater acceptance of other people as well," said Van Vliet. "People start to realize that it's not just them. Other people do things that are as bad or even worse sometimes so they're not the worst person on the planet. They start to say to themselves, 'This is human, I am human, others are human.'"