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#3 The universal challenge of shame in psychotherapy
Content of the activity and a detailed outline of the event
Robert Lee suggests: ‘there is either shame, or belonging’.
Shame is one of the hard wired emotions. But its different than other emotions, because its ‘the emotion about emotions’. That is, it’s an essential signal regarding the safety of exposing feelings in the social sphere. Hence its description as a ‘social emotion’.
Therapy inevitably exposes feelings and experiences which have often long been tucked away - for good reason: there was not enough support at the time to fully be present with those experiences.
The danger of therapy is that, even with the best of skill and intentions of the therapist, the same feelings of shame can arise.
However, no one wants to feel shame - its generally far too painful. Instead, a range of other behaviour substitute. This is true also of the therapist, who may be caught by surprise at getting caught up in a shame cycle with a client. This happens easily, and not infrequently, but can easily be masked by therapists.
The most common way to do this is to ‘ask questions’, which are the stock in trade of most therapists. However, questions act like a spotlight, exposing the client, and keeping the therapist safely hidden.
Knowledge of the nature of shame, its origins, its manifestations and its dynamics in therapy, is an essential part of professional practice. But this has only come to light in recent years; and many therapists have not dealt extensively with shame in their own personal process, so it can be hard to address successfully in therapy.
This workshop serves as an introduction to a very big topic. We will move gently and respectfully into the fraught territory of working with shame.
The topic will be approached from a Gestalt perspective, so there will be an equal emphasis on application to self as well as clients.
We will look at shame as a regulator of excitement, healthy shame, ground shame, shame cycles and the shame spectrum. We will examine the juxtaposition of the yearning to belong, and the experience of alienation.
Issues of therapeutic management will be addressed, the indicators of shame, and a range of possible responses.
Support is a counter balance to support, so we will look at the relevance and use of support in the therapeutic context.
Equally important, we will use exercises, sharing, and demonstration work to connect the theory with personal experience and insight.
Articles by Lee and Jacobs will be provided, which explore the therapeutic issues related to the topic of shame.
The emphasis in the workshop will be on creating conditions of safety, as we gain insight and explore both experientially this important topic.
How will participants benefit from attending this seminar?