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  • Psychotherapy, Self Acceptance, & Dealing with Shame

    dealing with shame

    This is really Part 2 of the post, “Jungian Psychotherapy, Individuation and Self Acceptance“, and deals with an important barrier to self acceptance, namely dealing with shame.

    A lot could be said about our shame and how it thwarts self acceptance.

    • Shame is Deep: Maybe as Deep as it Gets

    There is a power in this feeling, sometimes greater than in any other emotion.  We confront this power when our dignity is lost, when we have gone beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable or tolerable, when we are profoundly alienated from other humans because of who or what we are.

    • Shame and Fear of Total Loss of the Self

    Deep shame can devastate.  It can be so intense as to obliterate any good feeling we have about who or what we are, and force us behind an ironclad mask.  Shame can be so intense we feel like we’re losing ourselves.

    • In Our Inner Dialogue, We Can Often Shame Ourselves

    We powerfully internalize shaming that we have received.  I’ve noted this in case studies for men, but it’s true for everyone.  Through the emotion in complexes, we can easily internalize shaming messages received from others.  This emotionally charged material can torment us.

    • Yet, We Can Find Our Humanity in our Shame

    A strange thing  to say…  Yet, true if we can have the courage to explore those places where we are most vulnerable.

    A good friend and co-worker died young from cancer.  I was asked to be a pallbearer.  Back then, I had strong unconscious inhibitions against males showing strong emotion, ground into me early in life.  Yet, bearing the coffin, I broke into uncontrollable tears.  I was filled with shame, but I couldn’t help it…I loved my friend, and tragically, he was gone.  Later, to make it worse, my boss (my friend’s friend and former boss) berated me for my “weakness”.  I felt like a selfish little baby.

    It took case studies and years of living with that humiliation to accept my vulnerable grief for my friend.  “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery” sings Bob Marley.  It was in the very heart of this shame that I found something vital to my humanity.

    Is getting free from shame is a major issue for peoples’ lives today?  I’d welcome your comments.

    Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst | Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga Ontario



    PHOTO: Auguste Rodin, Eve After the Fall, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license
    © 2011 Brian Collinson
    2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


    1. jamenta


      July 13, 2011 at 3:20 pm -

      Only now – years later – am I able to look back upon a very unkind rejection of me – in a friendship I had – and regain some sense of self that was lost because of the deep sense of feeling I was at fault for the rejective actions that were taken against me.

      Shame – guilt – strikes at the heart of one’s sense of self. The sense you are a good person deserving to be loved – worthy to be loved. Rejection of the other – in a close relationship – or friendship – can really do a number on your sense of self. Especially if you valued the opinion and the judgement of your friend and loved one deeply – where your sense of identity inevitably is tied in with the relationship itself (as it ought to be to some extent) – and so too, the extent of the blow taken when rejection takes place.

      I suppose cruel events in life parallel the rejection of a friend or loved one. Do we deserve the suffering that befalls us? Why do some of us end up struggling in chains of poverty while others seem to live a life with many options and luxuries – born into wealth? Did they deserve their wealth why you deserved poverty – and the invariable daily work and struggle that takes so much of your time away?

      A strong sense of self and a sense of connection with life – that Jung claims can be found via awareness and an ego cooperation of your own unconscious – the direction it is taking you in life – that may not always be what your ego expects – I think may be key in not feeling so guilty or shameful about events that appear to make you feel worthless – or not worthy of love.

      At least this is my hope right now – and seems to be what Jungian psychology promises.

      1. Brian C
        July 14, 2011 at 2:30 pm -

        Thank you very much for sharing these very personal reflections, John. I certainly agree that shame strikes right at the heart of the self, and at our basic sense of worth and dignity. I also agree with the way in which you join guilt and shame: they’re not identical, I think, but they are very close cousins. I think that it is a very difficult thing when we feel that we are rejected at a very fundamental level, because of something that we have done, or that we are, that we experience as a fault in ourselves. To have the self-compassion to accept these aspects of ourselves, and to forgive ourselves for these things, is the product of a long and deep journey with ourselves. To understand our wounding and the distortions that have entered into our lives, and to accept them… thei is coming close to what Jung says, when he tells us “The most terrifying thing is to accept ourselves completely”. It is possible to make that journey, but the price we must pay for it is to have a very different vision and experience of who and what we really are. Thanks again for your comment, John — they’re always heartfelt, and full of deep insight.

    2. jamenta


      July 14, 2011 at 3:17 pm -

      Thanks Brian for your kind reply. It is interesting that almost unconsciously I used shame & guilt together, and did not notice it until you pointed it out. And your are right – not identical – but cousins. Perhaps we are guilty of not being perfect – and often make mistakes in life – but how much shame should we carry for our imperfections, for the Shadow within us?

      Rejection seems to put you to the test – amplifying the sense that you have done something wrong – and that you are not worthwhile in the eyes of a friend or beloved – thus the shame. But the two – are not the same as you point out.

      Being able to see clearly our own projections, our own Shadow, and even our own Persona – can help lead to self-acceptance, and allow us to feel confident that fundamentally what we are is inviolate, worthwhile and prospective/meaningful deep down.

      I am hoping this is true – that even the severest ordeals of self-questioning, that can assault the foundations of one’s sense of identity – can be healed by awareness of the unconscious.

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