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Dr. David P. Steinberg Headshot

Shame On You

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Very few emotions are as destructive to the self as shame. When children are raised by authority figures that use shame as a method of teaching or control, children do not necessarily learn the right way to do things, they learn the right way to hide what they truly feel, think and do in order to avoid directly experiencing the shame being projected onto them.

Eventually, if you were raised with shaming parents growing up, you will learn to internalize the shame that they experience, and it becomes a veil not just between you and the outside world, but also between you and your inner self. This is how you can find yourself working in a profession you hate, or in a passionless relationship that your Mother or Father might approve of.

Rationalizations can be made: "At least he's a lawyer and makes good money," or "I hate my job, but look at all the wealth it gives me. If I worked in a field that paid less, I wouldn't be able to afford my house in the country. " What's the point if you are emotionally disconnected, dissociated from even knowing your basic needs, such as eating when you are hungry, or stopping to eat when you are full?

Shame often comes with secrets, which can be kept from both the self and the outside world. Inter-subjectivity theorists would say that we have multiple selves, inspired by both the good and the bad relationships we experience. Parts of us, sometimes due to trauma are shut down and walled off behind a fortress of amnesia. Self-annihilation goes along with the package and curse of shame. It's in an infantile-dependent relationship that one becomes infected by shame.

In therapy, the real work begins when you start to get in touch with the destructive and often shame-based beliefs that have handcuffed you from finding the love and work that you truly deserve and desire.

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