Category Archives: Self-hatred And Shame

Overcoming Feelings Of Shame With Counseling

overcome feelings of shame

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that those of us who have experienced significant and protracted childhood trauma often experience irrational, deep feelings of shame as adults which can severely disrupt our lives (for much more on this, see the section of this site entitled : ‘Self-Hatred And Shame).

Because living with profound feelings of shame is so psychologically painful and impinges so seriously upon our quality of life, it is worth considering undergoing counseling to help overcome the problem.

One important counseling technique employed to help individuals diminish their irrational, but insidious, sense of deep-rooted shame is to help them build shame resilience.

Overcoming Feelings Of Shame By Building Shame Resilience :

According to the American  Psychological Association (2014), there are several important factors that help a person to overcome their feelings of shame which include the following :

  • self-awareness
  • reaching out and connecting to others
  • access to care and support
  • paying attention to own needs
  • setting healthy boundaries
  • self-confidence
  • having realistic expectations and goals
  • cultivating feelings of empathy and compassion (including, most importantly, self-compassion)

.overcoming shame

Now let’s now look at the above list of factors in a little more detail :

SELF-AWARENESS :  recognizing early life experiences that implanted deep feelings of shame into our psyches (e.g. internalizing our parents’ negative view of us / view of us as ‘bad’ whilst we were growing up) ; becoming aware of dysfunctional thought processes and irrational beliefs that help maintain feelings of shame ; identifying situations / events which trigger feelings of shame and recognizing and acknowledging defenses we employ against shame.

REACHING OUT AND CONNECTING WITH OTHERS : talking to others one trusts (such as a counselor) about one’s feelings of shame and realizing that shame is a universal emotion that, when NOT ‘toxic’, serves a vital evolutionary purpose that everyone experiences to one degree or another.

This, in turn, is likely to help one access care and support which itself can then help one to become more mindful of one’s own needs.

Relationships connected to our care and support need to be founded upon healthy boundaries to reduce the likelihood of such relationships generating further feelings of shame within ourselves.

CONFIDENCE : when the above factors are combined with increased self-confidence one can start to modify one’s expectations about oneself and others in such a way that such expectations become more realistic which, in turn, facilitates the development of realistic expectations of oneself and the setting of appropriate and obtainable goals for oneself.

CULTIVATING FEELINGS OF EMPATHY AND COMPASSION : not judging others or oneself ; seeing things from the perspective of others ; talking to others about their feelings and about our own feelings (including being open about our own feelings of shame and letting go of our defenses / ‘removing the mask’ we use to hide our shame); developing self-empathy (i.e. compassionately  and non-judgmentally accepting and understanding our own shame related experiences / behaviors and treating ourselves in the same way we would treat someone we deeply cared about) ; accepting, non-judgmentally, our human weaknesses, frailties, faults and failures / letting go of ‘perfectionism’ and ’embracing’ our non-perfect selves (to do this we need to understand that we have been shaped by our early life experiences over which, at the time, we could exert little or no control.

Because developing compassion for others and for ourselves is so important to the process of overcoming feelings of toxic shame, it is unsurprising to learn that compassion focused therapy can be a very effective means of facilitating such a process.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

Four Responses To Intense Feelings Of Shame

shame

We have already seen from other articles that I have published on this site that those of us who have experienced significant childhood trauma over a protracted period are at risk of, as adults, having to endure intense, irrational feelings of deep-rooted shame ; this can be extremely painful.

Nathanson (1992) identified four main ways in which an individual may respond to feelings of shame in an attempt (conscious or unconscious) to defend and protect him/herself from the emotional suffering such feelings can evoke.

The Four Defenses Against Shame :

Nathanson proposed that the main four defense mechanisms employed against shame (which he believed to be largely learned in early childhood to protect the self from intolerable feelings) are :

  • withdrawal
  • attack self
  • avoidance
  • attack others

Nathanson also suggests that whilst individuals may employ more than one of the above defenses against shame (depending upon the particular conditions which have given rise feelings of shame) they tend to have a kind of ‘default mode’ (i.e. a specific main defensive strategy against shame) which they most frequently rely upon.

The Compass Of Shame :

Nathanson referred to the above four defenses against shame (withdrawal, attack self, avoidance, attack others) as making up what he referred to as ‘The Compass Of Shame‘. He further explained that all four defenses were best seen as existing on a continuum running from ‘mild’ to ‘extreme’.

So, for example, a ‘mild’ enactment of withdrawal is the aversion of one’s gaze whereas, at the ‘extreme’ end of the spectrum, one might withdraw from others completely and live in a wooden hut in the forest as a hermit.

shame

The Continuums :

So now let’s briefly look at the four continuums upon which the four shame defenses lie :

1) DEFENSE AGAINST SHAME : WITHDRAWAL

MILD END OF CONTINUUM : slumped shoulders, looking downwards, blushing, covering mouth with hand, staying silent, averted gaze, chronic loneliness

EXTREME END OF CONTINUUM : physical, cognitive and emotional withdrawal, isolation, depression, retreat into ‘own internal world’, chronic loneliness, presentation of only a false and superficial self to the world, hypersensitivity to rejection and criticism (particularly criticism of character)

2) DEFENSE AGAINST SHAME : ATTACK SELF

MILD END OF CONTINUUM : deferential behavior, modesty, shyness, self-deprecating humor

MIDDLE OF CONTINUUM : self-sabotage, self-neglect, self-humiliation, self-effacement, obsequiousness, subservience

EXTREME END OF CONTINUUM : self-hatred, self-disgust, self-contempt, masochism, self-debasement, self-harm (e.g. cutting self, burning self with cigarettes etc), suicidal ideation / suicidal behavior

3) DEFENSE AGAINST SHAME : AVOIDANCE

MILD END OF CONTINUUM : self-deception, disowned shame, self-deprecating charm, impostor syndrome

MIDDLE OF CONTINUUM : ostentatious behavior / displays of wealth (jewelry, clothes etc.) arrogance,  competitiveness, thrill seeking / risk taking, hedonism, perfectionism,

EXTREME END OF CONTINUUM : pathological lying, narcissism, grandiosity, self-aggrandisement, addictions (e.g excessive use of alcohol, obsessive sexual activity,

4) DEFENSE AGAINST SHAME : ATTACK OTHERS

MILD END OF CONTINUUM : teasing, put downs, banter

MIDDLE OF CONTINUUM : bullying, humiliated fury, rage

EXTREME END OF CONTINUUM : violence

Whilst some of the above defenses against shame are clearly healthier than others, even these mostly fail to fully alleviate deeply entrenched shameful feelings – in such cases, therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and compassion-focused therapy can be of significant benefit.

RESOURCE :

LET GO OF SHAME : SELF-HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

 

 

Possible Shaming Effects Of Parents Who Objectify Their Children

objectification and shame

Objectification Leading To Self-Objectifying Feelings Of Shame :

Parents may objectify their children in various ways. For example, a parent may harbor a burning desire that his/her son or daughter become a famous musician or sportsperson to such a degree that this wish dominates the way in which s/he interacts with his/her child.  As a result, the child may come to feel that s/he is being constantly judged and evaluated by his/her parent in relation to how well s/he is developing the requisite musical or sporting skills and how close s/he is to fulfilling his/her parents’ dream.

A child brought up in this manner is likely to feel objectified by his/her parents and, according to Broucek, this leads the child (unconsciously) to learn, increasingly over time, to have objective thoughts about him/herself.

In this way, states Broucek, the child gradually learns to self-objectify, and, whenever s/he fails to live up to his/her parents’ idealized expectations, s/he is liable to feel overwhelmed by a sense of shame.

Broucek is also of the view that such feelings of shame are exacerbated by a sense of ‘being perceived from the outside’ by the parents at the expense of receiving parental empathy in relation to his/her internal, emotional experiences.

parental objectification of child

Early Life Experiences :

Broucek further hypothesizes that this parental objectification of their offspring can also occur very early in life and that such objectification can be communicated to the very young child in extremely subtle, non-verbal ways such as by a mother’s facial expression/gaze.

For example, if a very young child frequently experiences gazes from his/her mother (or other primary carer) which do not reflect his/her inner mental experiences, i.e. the mother’s facial expression fails to match / mirror the child’s inner sense of self and his/her internal experiences (to read my previously published article about research relating to this, THE ‘STILL FACE’ EXPERIMENT, click here) then s/he will develop an increasing sense of not being responded to as his/her ‘true self’ but, instead, of being objectified by the mother (or other primary carer).

Notwithstanding this, Broucek accepts that some of the time the mother’s (or other primary caregiver’s) gaze will inevitably not reflect / mirror the young child’s inner mental state but that such ‘objectifying’ facial expressions / gazes need to be balanced with gazes / facial expressions that DO reflect the child’s subjective experiences.

If, though, the mother (or other primary caregiver) fails to strike such a balance but, instead, establishes a chronic and predominant pattern of refecting the child as an object (as opposed to as a subject), the child is at risk of developing deep feelings of shame in relation to the mother’s (or other primary caregiver’s) objectification of him/her.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help us to challenge our shame inducing thoughts though other forms of psychotherapy (such as psychodynamic psychotherapy) may be more appropriate for some individuals.

 

RESOURCE :

LET GO OF SHAME (downloadable audio) – click here for further details.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Peer Rejection Leading To Withdrawal, Increased Aggression And Feelings Of Shame

effects of peer rejection

The Implicit Social Hierarchy :

In schools, it is unavoidable that children will be judged by their peers in relation to their perceived likability / popularity / desirability / acceptability etc so that, in effect, they are informally and implicitly ‘assigned’ a position in the social hierarchy.

Social Exclusion And Effects On Self-Esteem :

The way in which we were affected by such judgment by our peers when we were at school (our sensitivity to the acceptance / exclusion process tends to peak in middle school which coincides with the period in our lives when we are trying to discover our own personalities, independent of our family) has a significant effect upon how our self-esteem develops and this effect can extend well into adulthood, or even endure for a lifetime.

Responses To Social Exclusion : Aggression Or Withdrawal :

Those individuals who are chronically bullied, victimized and / or ostracized by their peers at school frequently respond in one of two ways : by becoming aggressive or by withdrawing.

Aggression :

An aggressive response might manifest itself by being directed specifically at those who have rejected the individual, or, alternatively, by being directed at other children more generally (a form of displacement , making others the victims).

Withdrawal :

If, however, the child passively accepts his/her rejection, s/he is likely to become socially withdrawn, sad and depressed.

peer rejection

A Study On The Link Between Peer Rejection And Increased Aggressive Behavior :

A study by  conducted Dodge et al. (2003) showed that rejection by peers in early elementary school was correlated with increased antisocial behavior later on (however, it should be noted that, in this study, the correlation was only significant among children who, prior to experiencing rejection by peers, were already displaying a greater than normal propensity to behave in an antisocial manner). The study also found that this effect applied equally to both male and female students.

The researchers involved in this study also suggested that the increase in students’ propensity to behave in antisocial ways following rejection by their peers could, in large part, be attributed to the fact that their experience of having been rejected had caused them to develop ‘biased patterns of processing social information’ (for example, in this study it was found that these rejected students were more likely misinterpret a neutral or non-hostile social signal as being hostile). Indeed, the child rejected by his/her peers may become hypervigilant to any potential signs of hostility directed towards him/her by others. (Cognitive therapy can be very helpful in helping people to overcome biased informational processing).

On a more positive note, the researchers of this study also suggested that even a relatively low, but stable, level of positive regard by peers during childhood can have a very significant ‘buffering’ effect on the later development antisocial behavior (i.e. make such a development less likely to occur).

Rejection, Shame And School Massacres :

Although it is extremely rare, according to research conducted by Leary et al., 2006, students who carry out (or attempt to carry out) school massacres have very frequently  been socially rejected and shamed by their peers prior to commiting (or attempting to commit) the atrocity.

The Lingering Effects Of Shame :

Being made to feel shame as a child can frequently lead to a profound sense of being intrinsically and irreparably ‘flawed’ as a person, unworthy of love or respect ; such self-loathing can (in the absence of effective therapy) last well into aduthood or even for an entire lifetime.

Shame And Alcoholism :

Research by Brown (2006)  has found that females who have experienced significant and chronic feelings of shame as children are at much increased risk of turning to alcohol as adults in an attempt to reduce the intensity of the emotional pain they feel in connection with this abiding sense of shame. Indeed, Brown suggests that such individuals can be helped to reduce their dependency on alcohol by embarking upon therapy that helps them to overcome their shame.

Shame And Grandiosity :

Another possible response to shame is a kind of over-compensation, resulting in grandiosity and a desperate need acheive and succeeed so as to gain and maintain a constant sense of external validation to help ward off deep-seated feelings of shame which continually threaten to overwhelm one. Such individuals may become highly competitive and driven to be more ‘successful’ than others, especially individuals who make up their social group, including their friends – indeed, they may adopt the mantra : It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.‘ (Gore Vidal).

 

RESOURCE :

Let Go Of Shame – click here for further details.

 

eBooks :

childhood anger ebook     childhood trauma and depression

Above eBooks now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here for further information (or to view other titles).

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

Body Dysmorphic Disorder : Its Link To Childhood Trauma

childhood trauma and body dysmorphic disorder

Studies (see below) suggest that those of us who suffered traumatic childhoods are significantly more likely to develop body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) than those who were fortunate enough to have experienced relatively stable and nurturing childhoods. I briefly summarize two of these studies below :

Study One :

A study conducted by Didie et al., 2006 involving 75 participants who had been given a diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder (with an average age of 35 years) found that 78.7 % reported having experienced maltreatment during childhood ; and, more specifically, of these 78.7 % :

  • 68 % reported emotional neglect
  • 56 % reported emotional abuse
  • 34.7 % reported physical abuse
  • 33.3 % reported physical neglect
  • 28 % reported sexual abuse

(NOTE : the above figures add up to more than 100 % because some participants in the study had suffered from more than one type of childhood trauma.)

Study Two :

A study conducted by Semiz et al., 2007 compared 70 in-patients suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) with 70 matched, healthy controls.

Results showed that 54.3 % of those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) (a disorder which itself is closely linked to childhood trauma) were also suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

Further statistical analysis revealed that these individuals (i.e. who were suffering from both BPD and BDD) had experienced significantly more trauma in childhood than those without BDD and that traumatic experiences during childhood were a significant predictor of the comorbid diagnosis of BDD in BPD sufferers.

body dysmorphia disorder

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) ?

BDD is the preoccupation with a specific ‘blemish’ of physical appearance in an individual who is, in fact, of normal appearance. It mostly occurs during adolescence and affects males and females equally.

As we saw above, it is linked to childhood trauma but can also be influenced by parental attitudes to appearance, the prevailing culture (e.g. general high value placed upon youth and beauty, especially in the media) and low self-esteem.

How Does Body Dysmorphic Disorder Make The Individual Suffering From It Feel?

Typically, the individual suffering from BDD perceives him/herself as ‘ugly’ and is obsessively concerned about some imagined physical ‘flaw.’ In order to be diagnosed with BDD, the individual’s concern with his/her appearance must be severe enough to negatively impact upon his/her daily functioning (including avoidance of social interaction due to self-consciousness in connection with the imagined physical ‘flaw.’

Can A Person Diagnosed As Having Body Dysmorphic Disorder Actually Have A Physical Defect?

Yes, but the individual exaggerates its significance in relation to his/her appearance.

Considerations Relating To Diagnosis :

For BDD to be diagnosed it must exist ‘in its own right’ and not be explained as a symptom of another disorder such as anorexia nervosa, social phobia, avoidant personality disorder, delusional disorder (somatic type), other somatization disorders or normal concerns about appearance.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy :

One of the main treatments for BDD is cognitive-behavioral therapy aimed at psychosocial functioning and body image.

 

RESOURCE :

OVERCOME BODY DYSMORPHIC DISORDER

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

3 Core Unmet Needs Underlying Emotional Pain

3 core unmet needs underlying emotional pain

Core Unmet Needs

Many of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma experience intense emotional pain as adults; such pain my present itself as severe anxiety, depression or anger, for example.

According to Timulak et al., 2012, three core unmet needs underlie such emotional suffering; these are :

  • unmet needs for safety and security
  • unmet needs for love and meaningful connection to others
  • unmet needs for acceptance, validation and recognition by others 

Sadly, such unmet needs frequently stem from growing up in a  dysfunctional family. (To read my previously published article : Dysfunctional Families : Types And Effects, click here).

 

Core Feelings Associated With Core Unmet Needs :

Timulak elaborates on the above by stating that these three core unmet needs are associated with corresponding core feelings as shown below :

  • unmet needs for safety and security are associated with feelings of fear and insecurity
  • unmet needs for love and meaningful connection to others are associated with feelings of sadness and loneliness
  • unmet needs for acceptance, validation and recognition by others are associated with feelings of shame and worthlessness

emotional pain

Secondary Distress And Obscured Core Unmet Needs And Feelings :

Timulak also alerts us to the fact that when individuals suffering from emotional pain present themselves to therapists, their core unmet needs and corresponding core feelings may be obscured and concealed because these are overlayed by surface, ‘secondary distress’ (i.e. distressing, surface feelings that have their roots in the underlying core unmet needs and associated core feelings).

Examples of such ‘secondary distress’ / ‘surface feelings’, Timulak states, include :

  • feelings of helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • feelings of depression
  • feelings of anger
  • feelings of anxiety
  • somatisation (e.g. insomnia, physical tension, exhaustion, teeth grinding, stomach pains, chest pains, loss of appetite, headaches, dizziness etc.)

Conclusion :

It is important for patients and therapists to consider the possible core issues that may lie beneath adverse surface feelings (secondary distress). Often, these core issues will have their roots in childhood trauma.

eBook :

childhood trauma and depression

Above eBook now available for immediate download from Amazon. Click here for further details or to view other titles.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

Deep Feelings Of Shame Resulting From Emotionally Impoverished Relationships With Parents

shame due to dysregulating oyjers

According to DeYoung, author of the excellent book : ‘Understanding and Treating Chronic Shame : A Relational / Neurobiological Approach‘, the experience of shame comes about as a result of dysfunctional relationships with other people (in particular, of course, with our parents when we are growing up) who are of emotional importance to us as opposed to affecting us as isolated, independent individuals. Because of this, DeYoung describes the experience of shame as being RELATIONAL (i.e. linked to the quality of our relationships with others who are important to us).

More specifically, DeYoung proposes that we can develop a deep and pervasive sense of shame in early life when ‘we experience our felt sense of self disintegrating in relation to a dysregulating other.’

What Is Meant By A Dysregulating Other?

According to DeYoung, a ‘dysregulating other’ is :

‘A person who fails to provide an emotional connection, responsiveness and understanding of what another needs in order to be in order to be well and whole.’

And, of course, if this ‘dysregulating other’ is a parent when we are very young and that parent behaves in a chronic and consistently ‘dysregulating’ way towards us, then we are especially likely to grow up into adults with a deep, pervasive and abiding sense of shame.

DeYoung also states that a dysregulating other (who, as already stated, is important to us, especially a parent) is someone we ‘want to trust‘ and, indeed, ‘should be able to trust‘, but, when we turn to that person because we are in emotional distress and need to be comforted and soothed, the way the dysregulating other responds to us / fails to respond to us leaves us feeling WORSE STILL. This is because the dysregulating other is emotionally misattuned to / disconnected from us ; the relationship is emotionally impoverished.

cause of shame

In turn, this, according to  DeYoung, can lead to us developing ‘core feelings of shame‘ as we conclude, ‘consciously or unconsciously, that there is something wrong with our neediness and that we are somehow ‘bad’ because of the painful and troubling nature of our ongoing interactions (or lack thereof) with this dysregulating other.

However, we may not be consciously aware (see above) of the fact that such feelings of shame are directly attributable to our early relationships with our parents / important others and may, therefore, erroneously attribute these profound feelings of  shame to factors that, in truth, are NOT their primary source of origin (such as our physical appearance, sexuality, perceived lack of intelligence /abilities, social status or a vast array of other factors).

What Is Meant By A Sense Of Self Disintegration?

DeYoung states that such emotionally impoverished interactions with parents / important others, when sustained and chronic, make us feel that our sense of self is disintegrating. 

This sense of disintegration can include feeling of our ‘self’ being  ‘shattered,’ ‘incoherent’ ‘blank’, ‘fragmented‘, and, furthermore, can make us vulnerable to feelings of deep humiliation (even in response to small, objectively trivial events), under threat of ‘psychological annihilation’ or induce strong desires in us, metaphorically, to be ‘swallowed up by the ground’ or ‘disappear.’

In order to emphasize just how powerful the effects of shame can be, DeYoung offers the extreme example of the Japanese suicide ritual of hari-kiri which used to be carried out by warriors who had been ‘disgraced.’

RESOURCES :

  • DeYoung’s Book / eBook (Click on book’s title below) :

Understanding and Treating Chronic Shame: A Relational/Neurobiological Approach

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

Being Constantly Humiliated By Parents May Damage Brain’s Corpus Callosum

damage to corpus callosum

What Is The Corpus Callosum?

The brain is divided into two halves called the RIGHT HEMISPHERE and the LEFT HEMISPHERE. These two halves are connected by a structure called the CORPUS CALLOSUM. (It is located above the thalamus, underneath the cortex, see image below)
corpus callosum
Above : The location of the corpus callosum (marked in orange). Of all the brain’s white matter structures, it is the largest.

What Is The Function Of The Corpus Callosum?

The function of the corpus callosum is to allow communication to take place between the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere ; it facilitates this communication by transmitting neural messages between these two parts of the brain.

What Does The Corpus Callosum Communicate Between The Brain’s Right And Left Hemisphere?

The corpus callosum is responsible for the communication between the two hemispheres of emotion, arousal, sensory information, information relating to motor functions and higher cognitive abilities (including working memory, imagery and consciously controlled – or willed’ – action, amongst others).

The Effect Of Parental Maltreatment On The Corpus Callosum :

A study conducted by McCrory et al., 2001, found that children who were significantly maltreated by their parent (or parents) over a protracted period of time had corpus collosa that were, on average, significantly  smaller than those found in children who had been fortunate enough to have experienced relatively stable and happy childhoods.

 In more specific terms, their (i.e. the maltreated children’s corpus callosa had less thickness of the white fibre area.

Children Who Are Constantly Humiliated By Their Parents May Be At Particular Risk Of Incurring Impaired Development Of Their Corpus Callosa :

Subtle, emotional abuse by parents, due, not least, to its particularly insidious nature,  can be just as damaging, or even more damaging, than more blatant forms of abuse.

Indeed, studies suggest that children of parents who frequently mock and humiliate them are especially likely to sustain damage to the development of their corpus callosa. (To read my previously published article : Humor : How Parents May Use It To Emotionally Wound Their Children, click here.)

The effect of this is to impair communication between the brain’s left and right hemispheres and it is theorized that this may explain why such  children are frequently found to lack confidence in their linguistic skills and/or  to develop difficulties controlling their emotions.

eBook :

emotional abuse book   childhood trauma damages brain ebook

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here for further details.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Self-Acceptance More Helpful To Mental Health Than Self-Esteem.

developing self-acceptance

We have already seen that, most frequently because how they were made to feel about themselves by parents / primary care-givers whilst growing up, one of the most painful, demoralizing and soul-destroying symptoms those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) must strive to endure is irrational feelings of self-hatred, self-loathing and self-disgust. (If you would like to read my article entitled : ‘ Childhood Trauma: How The Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated’ , please click here.)

Indeed, many individuals with BPD suffer from frequent, intrusive thoughts such as : ‘I am a terrible person’ ; ‘I am of absolutely no value to anybody whatsoever’ and so on…

In other words, their self-esteem is extremely low and sometimes it is hard to change such deeply entrenched, negative self-views through therapy, at least at the beginning of any such therapy. (If you would like to read my article entitled : ‘Childhood Trauma : A Destroyer of Self-Esteem’ , please click here.)

self-acceptance

However, one effective way of breaking into, and disrupting, this profoundly ingrained and seemingly perpetual cycle of self-derogatory thinking may be to develop first an attitude of SELF-ACCEPTANCE.

In relation to this possibility, Huber (2001) suggests that, in order to develop an attitude of self-acceptance, we can start off simply by trying to attain ‘a single moment of self-acceptance.’ For example, instead of thinking a thought such as :

I am a terrible person‘, we can try to replace it with the self-accepting thought :

‘Given how I was made to feel about myself as a child, it is completely understandable why I view myself as a terrible person.

Gradually, we can try to increase the frequency with which we modify our self-lacerating thinking style so that, when negative thoughts arise, we compassionately accept why we are having them as a matter of newly acquired habit.

The advantages of developing a self-accepting style of thinking, as outlined above, has been backed up by research. For example, Neff (2009) found that self-compassion is more positively correlated with psychological health than self-esteem is.

Neff also points out that, whilst self-esteem, at least in part, depends upon how we perceive others’ evaluation of us and how well we perceive ourselves to be succeeding in life’s myriad aspects at any given time, self-compassion (by definition) is self-generated and comes entirely from within ; it is always available to us no matter what the external circumstances. Because of this, it is more reliable and dependable than self-esteem and can comfortably co-exist along with feelings of inadequacy or, even, gross inadequacy.

However, we need not equate self-acceptance with ‘standing still in life’ and with not trying to improve ourselves – indeed, self-acceptance can be a great aid to self-improvement as it allows us to take a compassionate attitude towards ourselves when we face inevitable set-backs on our journey of personal development (as opposed to despising ourselves and giving up).

 

RESOURCES :

SELF-ACCEPTANCE : SELF-HYPNOSIS DOWNLOAD.

Click here for more information.
 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

Family Systems Theory And The Family Scapegoat

family systems theory

FAMILY SYSTEMS THEORY :

FAMILY SYSTEMS THEORY was developed by the American psychiatrist, Murray Bowen (1913-1990). The theory proposes that :

a) The family acts as a highly complex system

b) This system is made up of family members who are emotionally intertwined

c) The ‘units’ of the system (i.e. the emotionally intertwined family members) interact in highly complex ways

d) Family members, through emotional interaction, affect each other’s thoughts, behaviors and emotional states (though are often unaware of the degree to which this process is taking place)

e) Some family members are more emotionally interconnected than others, but all are emotionally interconnected to some extent.

THE EFFECTS OF ANXIETY PERMEATING THE FAMILY SYSTEM :

When one or more of the family members become anxious, the anxiety becomes ‘contagious’ and ‘infects’ other members of the family. As the level of anxiety increases, so, too, do the emotional interactions between family members become correspondingly, increasingly stressful.

Eventually, a particular family member (the most sensitive and vulnerable) starts to absorb the majority of the anxiety produced by the family system which puts this person at risk of developing various forms of mental illness including depression and anxiety disorders. In this way, this individual acts as a kind of ‘container’ or ‘vessel’ into which the lion’s share of the stress and anxiety generated by the entire family system is poured ; this process, in turn, can result in him/her becoming the ‘family symptom bearer‘ and/or ‘family scapegoat’ (see related article recommendations below).

I provide an example of how this can play out below :

Let’s take a hypothetical family consisting of four members : mother, father, oldest son (age 16), and youngest son (age 14). Now, let’s imagine the following scenario :

The family functions relatively well until the parental marriage comes under strain. The stress and anxiety generated by this marital friction permeates the whole family.

In response to the increased anxiety in the family home, the father spends much more time at the office, becoming a workaholic; the mother, to distract herself and bolster her self-esteem and self-image, throws herself into charity work and religious activities; the oldest brother cuts off from the family, spending his time in his bedroom listening to music or doing homework (when he is not bullying his younger brother); the youngest son responds by getting drunk, taking drugs, getting into fights and becoming involved in petty crime.

The family then identify the youngest son as being at the root of the family problems and decide they should all attend family therapy sessions.

However, the family therapist points out that the youngest son is NOT, in fact, the source of the family’s problems, and that therapy can only work if all family members face up to their own specific problems.

However, the father, mother and older brother do not wish to entertain the idea that they might have anything to do with the way in which the family has become dysfunctional, insisting, instead, that it is the youngest son who needs to be ‘fixed’, certainly not any of them!

Having made their feelings on the matter abundantly clear, the family then terminates the family therapy. Permanently.

Because the family is still convinced that the youngest son is, as it were, ‘the root of all evil’, the family pack him off to a psychiatric hospital for a couple of months.

Due to the fact that the youngest son is now away from the malign influence of the family atmosphere (rather than due to any treatment the hospital attempts to provide proactively) the youngest son’s psychological condition improves considerably. Eventually, therefore, his family (magnanimously, in their own grossly distorted and self-serving view) grant him permission to return home.

However, when the son does return home, because the other family members have failed to acknowledge, let alone address, their own issues, the youngest son’s psychological condition deteriorates again and things go from bad to worse…

In other words, it is the system as a whole that needs to be ‘repaired’, not just one part of it (i.e. the family member displaying the most inconvenient, and least socially acceptable, symptoms / psychological defenses).

 

You may like to read two related articles from this site (see immediately below) :

 

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).