Shame, Shame, Shame

On deciding what “go to guy” to help me, when setting up the 12 Step Depressed Anonymous mutual aid group, I went to Aaron Beck’s book, Cognitive Therapy of Depression.  It was there that I found out the why’s and how’s we shame ourselves.  Many times we feel shame to tell another that we are depressed.  I have felt this myself. So, when it came time to form a group for the depressed, it was there that at many of the group sessions the fact of shame came up in the fellowship. I saw that what  was   needed was a therapeutic way to deal with the fact of how to overcome the “shaming” of ourselves.

Beck advises the following to a person saddled with shame:

The patient can be told that if he adopts an “antishame”  philosophy, a great deal of pain and discomfort can be avoided. When, for example, the patient makes a mistake that he believes is shameful, he can turn this experience into an antishame exercise by openly acknowledging it instead of hiding it. If he pursues this open policy long enough, his proneness to experience counterproductive shame will diminish. Moreover, he will be less inhibited and more flexible and spontaneous in his range of responses..

One way a therapist can help a patient to resolve feelings of shame over being depressed is illustrated in the following excerpt.

Patient: If the people at work found out I was depressed they would think badly of me.

Therapist: Over 10% of the population is depressed at one time or another. Why is this shameful?

Patient: Other people think people who become depressed are inferior.

Therapist: You are confusing a psychological condition with a social problem. This is a version of blaming the victim. Even if they did think badly of  you –either out of their own ignorance or adolescent way of rating people –you do not have to accept their evaluation. You feel ashamed only if you apply their value system to yourself, that is, if you really believe it is shameful.

Beck then goes on to say that “Other standard procedures, such as having patients list  advantages and disadvantages of expressing shame, can be used to deal with this response.”

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Sources: (c) Aaron Beck . Cognitive Therapy of Depression (1979). The Guilford Press, NY. Page 179.

(c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

(c) The Depressed Anonymous Workbook. (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

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