This is a clip from the 2012 movie “The Sessions”. This bit of the movie really spoke to me and felt applicable to a lot of situations I have encountered in counseling. A major focus in a lot of counseling is shame we carry with us. As a therapist I often make the distinction between shame and guilt. Guilt is a normal thing we all feel at occasionally in our lives. It is when we feel badly about something we did or something negative we feel we played a part in. In contrast, shame is a deeply hurtful belief that we are fundamentally flawed, inadequate, a burden, a failure. Guilt is situational, shame is global, persistent, and unhealthy.
In the majority…if not all cases I have worked with, shame from childhood was unwarranted and undeserved. One of the major things I work on with people in counseling is codependency. Those of us raised in codependent families are often made to feel like a burden, like we need to put others above us, and like we should bury our needs. The man in this clip carries shame for having polio and requiring a lot from his family. The therapist helps him to see that he is not deserving of shame.
As children we will do just about anything for our parents’ love. In some families children are made to feel shamed for pieces of who they are. This isn’t always because the parents are malicious, actually, in the majority of cases I have worked with shame was not created through malice. Regardless of how it originated, shame needs to be addressed in counseling because it negatively impacts our inner dialogue. The most common way I see this manifested is through people feeling unable / afraid / uncomfortable / awkward around expressing their emotions and asking to have their needs met. The underlying beliefs in these cases are usually “I’m a burden, I shouldn’t bother people” or “I’m not dying, I can handle this on my own.” or “people are scary and can hurt me, I’m just going to keep quiet.”
If any of this speaks to you and your experience then counseling may be helpful for you.
Joe Borders, MFT
Counseling and Therapy in Roseville and Sacramento
1722 Professional Drive,
Sacramento, CA 95825
775 Sunrise Ave., suite 110
Roseville, Ca 95661
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