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Shame: Who Do You Think You Are?

Shame: Who Do You Think You Are?

Have you ever felt a sense of inadequacy in relation to another person? Than you are very likely a “normal” human being and familiar with the concept of shame. In my previous blogpost I wrote about how core beliefs are formed and may impact on your confidence. Shame can be the result of unprocessed core beliefs. Brené Brown says that shame drives two big tapes: “never good enough” – or, “who do you think you are?

Think of shame as a spectrum:

  1. Healthy shame process: Sensations of inadequacy here and there, which doesn’t interfere with self-worth, but may helped us learning social skills.
  2. Manageable shame process: Experience of shame causes some distress, but doesn’t hinder functioning in personal and professional relationships.
  3. Toxic shame process: A deep rooted sense of being fundamentally flawed in relation with others.

Toxic shame, and the avoidance of it, can have a huge impact on our health. Brown says shame is “highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders“:

The treatment of toxic shame requires longer-term psychotherapy to unpack the underlying core beliefs that have been formed in early developmental stages.

Manageable shame may appear in work situations as perfectionism, overworking, anxiety about speaking in groups, or withdrawal from contact with others. Because shame evolved from a sense of inadequacy in relation to others, it needs “others” to undo the trouble it causes. My approach to  shame is:

  1. Establishing trust: As with all therapeutic work, developing mutual trust is key for therapeutic outcome. Therefore the first stage is to establish a therapeutic alliance by getting to know each other and learn how we can work on shame. A lot of our time will be entered around making sense of your shame process. What are the underlying core beliefs of your shame process and how do they interfere with your sense of self?
  2. Strengthening self-support functions: Once we generated more data about your shame process we start the work on strengthening your self-support functions. We will explore how you can support yourself out of a shame responses.
  3. Expanding your self-experience: Once are awareness about your shame response has increased and you have the tools in place to support yourself out of shame responses, your self-experience will widen quite naturally. You will be more able to stay with difficult and challenging experiences and as a result, feel more stable and grounded even in difficult situations.

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