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  • Depth Psychotherapy, Shadow Work & Dealing with Shame

    dealing with shame

    Dealing with shame is essential psychological work, and it is closely tied to shadow work, from a /a-midlife-transition point of view.

    Shame is a fundamental aspect and problem of human existence.  We need to find ways to cope with it.  But it’s a thing that we can often find hard to talk to anyone about, even though we may feel a great need.

    No One Gets Through Life Without Shame

    All of us experience shame acutely in our lives.  Most of us can feel right into times and places where it was acute.  Times when who and what we are was exposed to the core and felt to be lacking.  Depth case studies knows such experiences mark us with wounds that we often feel that we can’t show to anyone.

    Dealing with Shame When It’s Toxic

    The times when we feel genuinely ashamed of ourselves can be truly toxic.  Depth case studies reveals that we are often most ashamed when we are unable to know and accept who we are.  As Jungian analyst Mario Jacoby states:

    At a certain intensity, shame has the power to make us feel

    completely worthless, degraded from head to foot,

    sometimes without our having done anything bad at all.

    When it cuts across the partially conscious image we have within ourselves of how we want to be seen, valued and respected, it does particular violence.  How can we then find value in ourselves?

    Dealing with Shame: Escape?

    Given the experiences of shame we all carry in our lives, how can we recover our self esteem, and value what we most fundamentally are?  Only in fundamental self acceptance can we hope to move past our bondage.

    Shadow Work: What Shadow Knows

    A famous radio program in the 1940s and 50s had the tag line, ” Only the shadow knows…”  There’s some truth in that.  The shadow, in the sense of the unacknowledged and unconscious parts of the personality, knows many important things about shame.

    Shadow work shows that there is no perfection in this life.  That we all struggle with our inability to match the idealized self image that we carry within.  Only when we begin to encounter that part of ourselves that knows and accepts all that we are, can we put off our pretensions, and with them, our shame, and realize the ways in which our broken-ness and weakness make us one with the rest of the human race.   As /a-midlife-transition knows, this enables us to move into our own unique destiny.


    PHOTOS:  Attribution Some rights reserved by pinksugarface
    © 2012 Brian Collinson



    1. Patrick McCurry
      April 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm -

      Hi Brian, I enjoyed your post very much and feel that recognising our shame is an essential part of self-growth. When we are able to touch our shame, in the presence of supportive others, it can be a life-affirming as well as a painful experience. The ‘easier’ path is to ignore our shame, to douse it with distractions and addictions, but in the long run it always returns.

      1. Brian C
        April 3, 2012 at 2:47 pm -

        Thank you for your comment, Patrick. I firmly agree with you that recognising and accepting our shame in the presence of someone whom we trust, and who will support us, can be a very powerful and important experience. It is very easy for all of us to get caught up, in various ways, with running from shame. However, if we ever are to have a more solid basis for the self, it must be faced, and we must recognize it for what it is.

    2. jamenta


      April 3, 2012 at 4:04 pm -

      Thx for the blog Brian. Interesting that I was writing just on this topic in my journal this morning – then read your new post here and was struck by the coincidence.

      I like where you talk about how shame (even if it is not your fault) “can make you feel completely worthless, degraded from head to foot”. This is exactly what I was writing about this morning. I felt that I had lost my sense of identity, of the sense of – grace – one feels about your own goodness and your place in the world – when you are assaulted by the darker parts of the shadow: such as succumbing to shame, of being convinced of your worthlessness.

      Unless you really truly encounter such an experience – I don’t think it can be easily explained to someone who has not had to live through such a – destruction of self/well-being. It can be devastating – crippling. For myself I found myself demotivated – rejecting life.

      As recovery takes place – you begin to find Self-Acceptance as you write. That Self-Acceptance for me is tricky though – because I need to also Accept life – reject the Materialistic myth of our time – and believe that I am not just a random result of a mechanical universe. I suppose that is one of the great attractions to Jung’s approach to who we are – and to our psyche – he does commit to the belief that there is an “objective” meaning inherent to who we are, that arises deeper than just an ego “subjective” desire for meaning – but lies and emerges from the unconscious, as myths universally spontaneously arise. And that meaning is intrinsic in each of our existences – and that there is a definite goal to each of our lives – a very personalized goal – even though we may not fully see it from the viewpoint of our ego.

      That sense of meaning allowed me to accept the depersonalization and pain of shame – and feeling that I felt was imposed upon me (beyond my will) making me feel unacceptable – even to myself. A dark – shadowy place to be indeed.


      1. Brian C
        April 3, 2012 at 5:05 pm -

        Thanks for your comment, John, and for your very frank discussion of how shame can impact us, and lead us to devalue ourselves. I think many of us can relate to the sense of lost identity and lost self-esteem that you describe. I certainly can relate to it in a very personal way. The dimension of “objectivity” that you describe in Jung’s approach is, I think, very important here: the sense that there is a potential in us that is seeking to be, and is seeking to fulfil itself — this is vital stuff for us. Thank you for sharing all of this in your comment.

    3. Meredith Moon
      April 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm -

      It appears to me that shame is imposed/taken in from outside ourselves and annihilates the Self while guilt comes from within and leads to needed remorse through which one both internally unwinds the deed and embraces the shadow and acceptance.

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