‘The development of shame is lodged in early attachment experiences with the primary caregiver. It is these early experiences that create internal working models of relational worth and ways of relating to others which create a template for future relationships’ (Bowlby 1969)
We all experience shame in our lives to a greater or lesser degree, but how we respond to our shame and process it will determine whether our shame becomes damaging to our intrinsic worth and sense of self. Loss of contact in relationship is the root cause of most shame experiences. Shame is an individual’s core belief that there is something wrong with them. Our early shame experiences become internalised and can cause a ripple effect in how they impact our relationships and our ability to be in relationship in the present. Being in relationship with an empathic, non-judgemental, listening therapist can be a reparative and affirming experience for the client.
Something is Wrong with Me!
It is through our interpersonal relationships in everyday life that our feelings of shame can resurface. This can happen in a number of ways: If we don’t get the response we expect from somebody, we feel misunderstood, overlooked, sense disapproval, feel not good enough or if you have a feeling that there is something not quite right between yourself and another person and rather than talk about it and process what has happened and what you are feeling in the moment these feelings are pushed down and internalised.
When these misses in relational contact happen, they tap into a deep-rooted feeling that ‘there is something wrong with me’. Sometimes we don’t understand our feelings, and this can be frightening so we silence ourselves and keep them secret which only intensifies shame feelings. Breaking the silence on your feelings of shame with your therapist is a step towards breaking free from the perceived hold they have on you.
How Can Therapy Help?
It is through the here-and-now of your relationship with your therapist that repetitive patterns of relating can be replayed. These experiences can bring to the surface feelings that are familiar, rooted in the past and may be getting in the way of your relationships with friends and loved ones.
Processing these feelings by bringing them out into the open in the safety and containment of your relationship with your therapist can help you experience what it feels like to be able to express yourself authentically creating different relational experiences and open your eyes to different ways of relating. These different relational outcomes cannot only help you understand your past and how these historical experiences impact your relationships in the present, but also create opportunities for change and ways of being in the future.
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