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Re: Shame - is my therapist perpetuating it? Dinah

Posted by Pfinstegg on February 17, 2004, at 13:01:56

In reply to Re: Shame - is my therapist perpetuating it? pegasus, posted by Dinah on February 17, 2004, at 8:46:17

So glad you're here again, Dinah! (And thanks so much for the wonderful e-mail). About shame: I'm so glad you brought this topic up. It's not something people talk about much, even here, and yet I think it's one of the feelings everyone struggles with in therapy- sooner or later. One explanation I have read- in an article by Philip Bromberg given me by my analyst- is that everyone in therapy is trying to deal with some type of trauma from the past- whether outright verbal, physical or sexual abuse, or just emotional misattunement or neglect. Because we have experienced this as children, a huge part of our mental life is devoted to expecting trauma to occur again, and to feel that it *has* occurred even though the actual event might be pretty trivial- say a slight snub from someone we didn't really care about anyway. Along with this mind-set, according to Bromberg, is a deep sense of shame about feeling and reacting this way: we are ashamed of having been traumatized, feeling unconsciously that it is our own fault, or that we in some way *deserved* it, and even more ashamed that we react with so much fear to very small stressors.

This made a lot of sense to me, and I am trying now not to hide my sense of shame in my sessions, but to bring it in. The quiet, kind acceptance I receive from him helps me treat myself in a kinder way, or at least, to notice when I am feeling ashamed, and remind myself that I *might* have options.

This ties in with another point that both Bromberg and Shore made in their articles: where you have trauma and fear, you can't have thoughtfulness- you're stuck in the limbic system! As one goes over and over the same ground in therapy with a therapist who pays a lot of attention to the relational aspects of the treatment, you begin to build better connections between the limbic system and the neo-cortex. You get over the trauma by using the new, less-traumatizing relationship with the therapist to actually build new brain connections, which help us to react more moderately to various stressors. I said "less-traumatizing" on purpose, as of course,they never "get it right" all the time! (and we don't either).




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