Category Archives: Shame

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.”


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.

Depression is the greatest misery…

Depression is the greatest misery, for in it we’re alone in a  prison from which there seems to be no escape. When we have a physical illness, no matter how great our pain, at times we can separate ourselves from our suffering and feel close to other people, sharing a joke, feeling loved and comforted. But when we’re in the prison of depression, and there is always a barrier between ourselves and other people.

People who are depressed describe this prison in many different pictures: “I am at the bottom of a black pit.”  “I’m locked in a dungeon and they’ve  thrown away the key.”  “I’m inside a black balloon and as much as I struggle, I can’t escape.” “I’m  alone in an icy desert.”   “I’m totally alone, and a great black bird is  on my shoulders, weighing me down.”  The pictures are many and various, but the meaning is always the same. The person is alone in a prison.

Even worse, inside the prison of  depression, we  turn against ourselves in self-hatred. We torture ourselves with guilt, shame, fear and anger. We tell ourselves that we shall never escape from the prison, and indeed, in some way, we do not want to leave the prison. It is torture. It is safety.

The prison of depression is torture because it is isolation, the one form of torture which as all tortured know,  will break even the strongest person.  But it is safety because the walls of the prison shut out most of the things which threaten to overwhelm us and cause our very self to shatter and disappear.”

SOURCE:  Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011). Depressed Anonymous Publications. ( Foreword by Dorothy Rowe, Ph.D., Page 11.)

We are what we repeatedly do. – Aristotle

“It is our own real, lived experience which leads us into the prison of depression. It is not a gene, or own hormones, or our dysfunctional and illogical thinking, our lack of faith, or our complexes and inadequacies which have brought depression  upon us, it is what happened to us  and, most importantly, what we have made of what has happened to us: it is the conclusions  we draw from our experiences.

That sort  of conclusions which lead us, finally, into the prison of depression was not drawn illogically or fantastically, or crazily, but were the correct conclusions to draw,  given the information we had at the time.

If, when you were a child, all the adults whom you loved and trusted were telling you that you were bad and that if you  didn’t mend your ways terrible things would happen to you, you wisely and correctly drew the conclusions that you were bad and had to work hard to be good. If, when you were a child, all the people you loved and trusted left you or disappointed or betrayed you, you wisely drew the conclusion that you must be wary of other people and that you should never love anyone completely ever again.  You were not to know that if we grow up believing  that we are intrinsically bad, and that other people are dangerous, we shall become increasingly isolated, the joy will disappear  from our life, and that we shall fall into despair….” SOURCE: Dorothy Rowe. The Depression Handbook. Collins. London.

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I believe that in my own case what Dr. Rowe points out is so true. Our childhood experiences are so important because they set us up for how we think about ourselves as we mature. I remember vividly when I was in the 3rd grade, a teacher shamed me in  front of the whole class because I couldn’t get something right. She told me that I  would never  be like my brother whom was brilliant or my uncle who was also brilliant. For many years after when I thought about that moment in the 3rd grade I could still feel my face getting hot with shame. The worst part is that what she said that day I believed. As I grew into middle age it became important to me that what she said had no bearing on me really, as I was not my brother or my uncle. And that that was OK.

I Am No Longer Ashamed To Talk About My Being Depressed…

AFFIRMATION

I am no longer ashamed to talk about my being depressed; when I talk with other depressed persons I feel better.

” I used to be ashamed of my condition and didn’t talk about it. But nowadays I freely confess I am a depressive , and this has attracted other depressed people to me. Working with them has helped a great deal.”

(2) Bill W.,  Co-founder of AA.

CLARIFICATION OF THOUGHT

I  know that the more I read the literature about the Twelve Steps and daily work my program, the more I am able to help myself grow out of this depression as Bill W.,  did shortly after he wrote the above piece.  So often alcoholism covers up depression so that the original cause of  the depression needs to be looked at.

MEDITATION

God, please help us through this day and help us work through these memories of shame that keep us depressed.  Let us truly believe that we can be free of our shame and live as a free person today.

COPYRIGHT(C) Higher Thoughts for Down days: 365 Daily Thoughts and Meditations for Twelve Step fellowship groups. (1999) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.  Higher thought for  June 24. Pages 126-127.

NOTE:   Because I had experienced depression myself,  this added a  healing assistance  to my encounters with clients who were depressed.  We could speak and understand each other.