Unshame?’ says the therapist, checking that she’s heard me correctly.

I nod. ‘I don’t know what else to call it. Because, what’s the opposite of shame? There isn’t one really, is there? It’s not pride, because that’s all puffed up – the other end of the spectrum. What’s the position in the middle, where you’re not full of shame, and you’re not full of pride? Unshame is the only word I can think of. It’s where you’re just you and it’s okay to be you.’

She smiles encouragingly. Maybe it’s going to be one of those sessions where I just need her empathic supportiveness to contain me while I unfurl my thoughts from their tight little nest deep within my head. I need permission to challenge things. To feel things. To know things.

I need a safe space in which I can stand back from my life and rearrange its edges, like breaking up a jigsaw and starting again. I need to find the frame. I need to find some certainties. I need to be able to imagine what it will look like once complete. Because I realise that, so much of my life, I’ve been putting the pieces together upside down: a dull, pale blue cardboard life. But now, here in therapy, I’m going to jiggle the pieces around, turn them over, consider them. And start to construct a new picture. One full of life.

At least, that’s the plan. I’m not sure where my positivity has suddenly come from. I’m not sure if it will remain.

 

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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14 Comments

  1. Shame and humiliation are such powerful emotions. They are like the master emotions and if you don’t control them they will control you

    Reply
  2. Imagine how the world could change if all trauma survivors around the globe could successfully wear the clothing of unshame! How much we would feel better, contribute more & suffer less. Just as Brene Brown started up the global conversation about vulnerability, I firmly believe YOU could set up a global conversation on a survivor’s right to therapeutically work towards a new post-traumatic identity of unshame! Imagine if shame could be overturned and the perpetrators felt it instead of the survivors of their dreadful crimes! This blog is SO helpful Carolyn. I LOVE it!

    Reply
  3. Wow just wow, what an article on shame, this has been part of my make up for years, how you explain this is so real and authentic. Absolutely love this, got a lot from this and I resonate on so many levels. Great insights here.

    Reply
  4. I really liked this, thank you. But I’m not keen on all the breaks with repeated bits to tweet – they really felt like interruptions. Just thought I’d say, as I think it’s a new thing.

    Reply
  5. What a challenge for me – unshame and how to start to own it.
    THANK YOU

    Reply
  6. One of my favourite verbs….

    Reply
  7. Your words strike at the core of me, help me to notice the shame I feel so much of the time that I’m not even aware of. Good things happen and I still,don’t feel ok, because I realised today that i felt ashamed I wasn’t good “enough” ….. I hadn’t pleased the grown ups “enough”…..and instead of feeling happy, excited – I feel shame. Guess what I’m taking to therapy today! Thank you for helping me make some sense…..

    Reply
  8. Your blog today is amazingly timely, I’m almost reading about my own session today. Thank you once again for confirming the normality of post trauma experience.

    Reply
  9. Shame….thank you Carolyn, no one has ever spoken the truth of it like this before. You speak reality and open a door of hope, thank you for speaking out.

    Reply
  10. Thank you Carolyn, I am so inspired by your writing, you have an ability to touch thoughts and feelings and bring them to life. Your work with your therapist is humbling and I too hope that I am able to reach my clients with the empathy and understanding of yours.

    Reply
  11. Your words mean so much to me. It’s like you’re writing how I feel and what I think. I’m glad I’m not alone. I am struggling with having so much shame. Im not sure if I can ever be “unshamed.”

    Reply
  12. Shame is so crucial for most people. I have found it helpful – as a therapist and a client to think of the opposite of shame as dignity. This carries less negative associations than pride. In shame there is always an impulse to hide; perhaps in pride there is a sense of inflation and pushing oneself forward. In dignity; you just stand in your own dignity as flawed but real human being.

    Also, shame in its origins in childhood seems to almost always involve the body and this later on often (particularly in women??), seems to connect to sexuality.

    Reply
  13. Excellent, as ever, Carolyn, thanks so much. Great blog for therapists to read!

    Reply
  14. Best description of shame I’ve come across and how to evolve past it. Carolyn you are a little marvel. Thank goodness we have you here offering insights I cannot even begin to fathom. Now I can. Thank you.

    Reply

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