Therapy Toronto Psychotherapy Definitions
- In psychotherapy, shame refers not to the simple reactions we all endure for having done said or thought something foolish or uncaring.
Rather, it refers to the deep scarring of our personality that arises from our having been unfairly treated by others who have power over our emotions and use it unfairly.
In some societies, control of others, particularly of young people or inferiors to those with power, is accomplished by ridicule, humiliation, insults, degradation, and mocking. These responses are used to compel people to conform to a standard of 'normal' order.
Inside families, shame may be used to wound and harm those who have inadequate power to defend themselves.
In this sense, shame is one of the great barriers to personal growth, because it instills feelings of worthlessness in people who are not really guilty of anything wrong.
Victims of familial or sexual abuse report that feelings of shame and unworthiness created greater unhappiness for them than the actual things that were done to them.
In this respect, shame keeps eating away at us because the nature of shame is such that we are ashamed of our own shame.
We keep the deep dark secret that others who we trusted to love us have hurt us; that those who ought to have protected and nurtured us have abandoned their care for us; and that we have been identified by these others as the reason for our own pain.
In recent years psychotherapy has developed better ways of helping many people deal with shame effectively, largely through a better understanding of the neurological and somatic responses caused by repeated shaming in the early years of life.
Building fresh confidence and higher self-esteem appear to be directly tied to our capacity to defeat our old shame reactions in favour of freely-chosen responses in which we assert ourselves as worthy people.