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Shame is ....

probably the most painful feeling you can feel. Not only does it feel excruciating, it’s also disconnecting and isolating - which is also why it may go on for a very long time without anyone noticing; including yourself.

Story of shame

When you are little, you need to be seen and understood, you need to matter to someone - if it seems that you don't - that hurts. The hurt is invisible, as are you. That's how it feels - you feel bad and nobody cares how you feel. So you decide that these feelings are useless and having them makes you feel stupid. You may tell yourself "what's wrong with you anyway, to feel this? Get over it!" This is how shame takes over and emotional needs become ignored or denied. The needs themselves become something wrong (about you). And then your hurt feelings about not having your needs met cause even more shame.

Often times, shame just ‘takes over’ your life without you even noticing. This is why it’s a good idea to explore in a therapy session, where with safety, trust and time you can allow an exploration of where in your body you may be holding it and how it got there.

My experience, both personally and in working with clients is:

shame has us believe that our deepest, most natural, human needs, are what make us despicable” re-read that and let it land for a moment. This is why in therapy we explore things like what happened in your family when you needed something? Like when you needed to be held, seen, heard, valued, acknowledged and loved. We explore how needs were met in your family. You get to reflect on what meaning you give to neediness in general, and how this feels in your body. This is a big part, the feeling it - in a safe space.

Was it ok to ask for what you needed/ wanted as a child? How did your parents respond? Did you get a sense of being wrong for asking for more than they could give? Or a sense of emptiness? Or was it important not to need too much? Did you get good at hiding what you truly needed?

When you are not aware of shame, you can carry a feeling of somehow never having enough. Having a conversation about human needs being essential to wellbeing, helps link how our unmet emotional needs are often replaced with food, alcohol, work, social media and whole host of other things that remove us from being present with the discomfort shame tends to surface as.

Taking personal responsibility is a part of any healthy relationship. This is what you also get to practice in a client-therapist relationship. You have a sense of being in control for yourself and that this is personal. I see you, I'm present with you, I'm accountable for what I do in the relationship with you, I respect you as I respect myself. When you trust this is the kind of respectful relationship someones wants to have with you; the safety will help the shame to subside over time.

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