Friday, December 22, 2017

Kicking Shame

Shame is increasingly referred to as "spiritual abuse" nowadays. And it is definitely one of the upshots of having been discounted, disclaimed, rejected, invalidated, confused, betrayed, insulted, criticized, judged, blamed, embarrassed, humiliated, ridiculed, denigrated, victimized, demonized, persecuted, picked on, dumped on, bullied, scapegoated, and/or otherwise abused by others upon whom any child depended for survival in early life.
It was commonly believed for decades that shame was just about the most difficult of the sources of anxiety and depression, as well as reactive defense mechanisms, to excise from the human psyche. Child abuse experts all the way back to Pierre Janet about a century ago (including Judith Lewis Herman, Ono van der Hart, John Briere, Bessel van der Kolk, Christine Courtois, June Tangney, Peter Levine and Patricia Ogden; see below) have asserted that this is because shame was so often embedded in children before they had the physiological capacity to 
1) use conceptual and analytical "problem solving" language... and 
2) embed complete -- rather than only fragmented -- memories of the etiological experiences they had suffered.
Which is a major reason why modern memory retrieval and re-processing techniques are vital for the healing of shame.  
Here are ten really good (and progressively more sophisticated, detailed and therapeutically effective) books on shame and the treatment thereof:
1) Miller, A.: For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child Rearing and the Roots of Violence, London: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979, 1983.
2) Miller, A.: Prisoners of Childhood / The Drama of the Gifted Child, New York: Basic Books, 1979, 1996.
3) Forward, S.: Toxic Parents: Overcoming their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, New York: Bantam Books, 1989.
4) Forward, S.: Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You, New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
5) Bradshaw, J.: Healing the Shame that Binds You, Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 1988.
6) Fossum, M.; Mason, M.: Facing Shame: Families in Recovery, New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.
7) Tomkins, S. (Sedgwick, E.; Frank, A.; editors): Shame and It's Sisters: A Silvan Tompkins Reader, Durham, NC: Duke U. Press, 1995.
8) Kaufman, G.: Shame: The Power of Caring, 3rd. Ed., New York: Schenkmann, 1993.
9) Tangney, J. P.; Dearing, R.: Shame and Guilt, New York: Guilford Press, 2002.
10) Kaufman, G.: The Psychology of Shame: Theory and Treatment of Shame-Based Syndromes, 2nd. Ed., New York: Springer, 1996. (Beltline up, the best book ever written on the subject, albeit one that is hard to find and expensive if one can find it... but worth every penny.)
The common threads in all of them, however, are:
1) "I am not responsible for my 'disease,' but I am responsible for my recovery from it."
2) No one else can do the work for me. They can show it to me, but I will have to do it.
3) Shame is always the result of having been conditionedsocialized and normalized to moral beliefs, ideals, rules and requirements stored in the brain's default mode network.
4) One digs out of that conditioning, socialization and normalization -- or perhaps more accurately, over-writes the conditioning -- with a combination of cognitive restructuring, memory retrieval and emotion processing (see all of Item 7 in this earlier post on reddit).
I am not talking out the side of my neck here. I have done the work exactly as described above and in that article... and I have helped a lot of others do it, as well. The only question remaining for most people confronted with the process is one Don Henley asked about 30 years ago, "How bad do you want it? NOT bad enough!"

A Related Post: Rebuilding Competence (my reply on a reddit thread)


Briere, J.: Therapy for Adults Molested as Children: Beyond Survival (Revised and Expanded Edition), New York: Springer, 1996.

Courtois, C.: Guidelines for the Treatment of Adults Abused or Possibly Abused as Children (with Attention to Issues of Delayed or Recovered Memory), Washington, DC: The Psychiatric Institute of Washington, 1997.

Herman, J. L.: Trauma and Recovery, New York: Basic Books, 1992.

Kaufman, G.: Shame: The Power of Caring, 3rd. Ed., New York: Schenkmann, 1993.

Kurtz, E. Shame and Guilt, self-published (iUniverse), 2007. 

Levine, P.: In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2010. 

Ogden, P.; Minton, K.: Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy, New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. 

Ogden, P.; Fisher, J.: Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment, New York: W. W. Norton, 2015. 

Tangney, J. P.; Dearing, R.: Shame and Guilt, New York: Guilford Press, 2002.

Van der Hart, O.; Brown, P.; and Van der Kolk, B.: Pierre Janet’s Treatment of Traumatic Stress, in Journal of Traumatic Stress, Vol. 2, No. 4, 1989. 

Van der Hart, O.; Friedman, B.: A Reader's Guide To Pierre Janet: A Neglected Intellectual Heritage, in Dissociation, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1989.

Van der Hart, O.; Horst, R.: The Dissociation Theory of Pierre Janet, in Journal of Traumatic Stress, Vol. 2, No. 4, 1989.

Van der Kolk, B.: The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma: Re-enactment, Re-victimization, and Masochism, in Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Vol. 12, No. 2, 1989.

Van der Kolk, B.; Hopper, J.; Osterman, J.: Exploring the Nature of Traumatic Memory:  Combining Clinical Knowledge with Laboratory Methods; in Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2001.

Van der Kolk, B: Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body and Society, New York: Guilford Press, 1996 / 2007.

Van der Kolk, B: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, New York: Viking Press, 2014.

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