The start of my journey out of shame

by | 10 January 2019 | 3 comments

Shame. It’s a familiar word and yet the more I think about it, the stranger it becomes. What does it mean? Where does it come from? How does it go? What is the point of it? Why does it even exist?

I’d never even considered it before therapy. It was just a run-of-the-mill emotion: one that I’d heard about, but never (so I thought) really experienced. I could grasp it at the level of ‘embarrassment’ – realising you’ve been wearing your top inside out all day – but beyond that I hadn’t given it much thought. It was like hydrogen: all around me, part of my very being, and yet invisible and odourless.

Part of the problem was that I didn’t know how to do emotions at all. I could name a few, but I was unaware that I was so emotionally illiterate. Like not being able to speak Japanese, my deficit didn’t occur to me except very occasionally. Not for one moment did I think I was a captive of shame: I lived in an invisible prison.

 

Find the complete article in Carolyn's new book, 'Unshame: healing trauma-based shame through psychotherapy', available now!

A word of explanation

I had therapy mainly between 2006 and 2015. These blog posts are not verbatim accounts of sessions, but rather the client equivalent of ‘case studies’ - amalgamations of various sessions, ‘narratively true’ rather than ‘historically true’. Although often written for stylistic purposes in the present tense, they are very much from a past period of my life. Ideally they should be read within the wider context of other blog posts, articles and my book, to give a more integrated and rounded sense of where I was at, where I’m at now, and the process that took place between those two points. I have been on a journey of recovery, and the difference in me from when I was in therapy (especially at the beginning) to now is testament to the brain’s ability to recover from even the most appalling suffering.

My primary work now is writing, followed closely by training therapists, counsellors and other professionals to support survivors of trauma. Regrettably I cannot provide one-to-one support but our charity framework PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors) provides a helpline and a range of other services: please go to www.pods-online.org.uk for more information, and https://support.pods-online.org.uk/start-here if you are looking for support.

For training, please see our range of live courses at www.carolynspring.com/live-training, and our online courses at www.carolynspring.com/online-training. We also publish a range of resources to support recovery from trauma, which you can see at www.carolynspring.com/shop. My first book, Recovery is my best revenge, is available to buy at https://www.carolynspring.com/shop/recovery-is-my-best-revenge-paperback/

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3 Comments

  1. I’m now nearly 64 & having counselling through Mind, at long last I now understand all the different personas I used to protect myself from sexual abuse from the family GP & also at boarding school. I became a chronic alcoholic & became sober when I was 32. Suffered a mental breakdown in ‘93 & was sectioned. Am married with 3 adult daughters & 5 grandchildren. I’m about to stir up a hornets nest as since ive been through a medical trauma & lost my identity that I’ve decided to walk away from my mentally abusive marriage. I can no longer live a lie. Hoping & praying there’s enough equity to do so.
    Onwards & upwards I hope.
    Thank you very much for the help with my diagnosis of DID.

    Reply
  2. In my greatest moments of doubt I read your blog and it reignite the fire in me that I can do it. Thank you Carolyn.

    Reply
  3. Unbelievably powerful words that resonate to the core of me. Having just reengaged with therapy, this blog has helped me understand the complex battle within my selves and how Shame is the underlying cause of so much pain and distress. Thank you Carolyn for helping me realise this – can’t wait to attend your course now!

    Reply

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More from Carolyn…

What do you need?

‘How can I help you?’ the therapist asks me. ‘What do you need from me?’
I look at her closely, examining her features, whilst also looking through her, to make sure I don’t connect too closely.
First the fear: Is this a trick? What does she mean? What does she want? Why is she saying this?
Then the shame: What right have I to be helped?
And afterwards, the sadness: No-one has ever offered to help me.

Three emotions in three seconds.

How to calm down

I was brimming. And I hated it. I hated being upset. The surge of emotion through my body. Being out of control. The pounding heart, the air being crushed out of my chest, the pain-stretchy zinginess in my arms and legs, and the scream … the lacerating, shrill shriek of a scream in my head.

Ugh. Emotions.

It’s a pain: the physical impact of trauma

Physical symptoms are a big part of life for me with DID. Yes, I have ‘multiple personalities’, the “two or more distinct identities that recurrently take control of the body” and I’m not for one moment denying the significance of that or the impact it has on my day-to-day life. But I would say that physical symptoms such as chronic, unexplained pain, headaches and nausea have been and still remain far more distressing and life-impacting for me than the presence of parts.

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