Dina seemed incapable of receiving compliments. In our “chit chat” during session, after I’d affirmed her accomplishments and good looks, she started avoiding eye contact by staring at the floor or holding her self tightly.
As the session progressed, Dina got more defensive. She’d suspect rather quickly that I thought negatively of her, even with a simple greeting or smile.
Perhaps she may had felt, if only I’d tell her the truth, it would confirm how bad she really feels about her self.
As I had time to think about our session, I surmised that I had come too close to Dina … too close to uncovering what’s shame-prone inside her.
Her emotional demeanor was that of unexpected, untimely exposure. And then, fear or expectations of more exposure.
According to psychologists Drs. James Harper and Margaret Hoopes, shame is related primarily to a feeling of inferiority in individuals, families, and groups.
In contrast to guilt (evaluation of behavior), shame is an emotion in response to negative evaluation of one’s self or being.
Drs. Harper and Hooper further commented,
“Everyone has experienced shame. Yet there is a vast difference between a person having a shameful experience and a person having a shame-prone identity. In fact, some degree of shameful experience is unavoidable and even helpful when people relate to each other, but shame-proneness is always devastating.”
Dina’s shame had a source from which she has to heal. She based her identity on an accumulation of the shame of rejection and abuse she had experienced from her Mom since early childhood.
She had internalized her Mom’s attitudes of her as “bad me.”
As an adult and mother herself, Dina projected her “bad me” on everyone that had contact with her. This includes her husband and four children.
In my work with her, even with seemingly benign questions, this “bad me” always got in the way of her seeing and healing her injured self.
Part of Dina’s healing from her shame is accepting the wounded child within her. As she takes steps to free this part of her, other pieces would surface.
Such new living with wholeness also involves knowing and embracing Someone much greater/better than her self … and her Mom.
If truth is told, under these conditions, you can experience a “healing cry without the shame.”