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The Many Faces of Addiction

The journey to healing and recovery

by Claudia Black, M.S.W., Ph.D.
Understanding the Pain of Abandonment
Living with repeated abandonment experiences creates toxic shame.
Published on June 4, 2010 by Claudia Black, M.S.W., Ph.D. in The Many Faces of
When children are raised with chronic loss, without the psychological or physical
protection they need and certainly deserve, it is most natural for them to internalize
incredible fear. Not receiving the necessary psychological or physical protection
equals abandonment. And, living with repeated abandonment experiences creates
toxic shame. Shame arises from the painful message implied in abandonment: "You
are not important. You are not of value." This is the pain from which people need to
For some children abandonment is primarily physical. Physical abandonment occurs
when the physical conditions necessary for thriving have been replaced by:
lack of appropriate supervision
inadequate provision of nutrition and meals
inadequate clothing, housing, heat, or shelter
physical and/or sexual abuse
Children are totally dependent on caretakers to provide safety in their environment.
When they do not, they grow up believing that the world is an unsafe place, that
people are not to be trusted, and that they do not deserve positive attention and
adequate care.
Emotional abandonment occurs when parents do not provide the emotional
conditions and the emotional environment necessary for healthy development. I like
to define emotional abandonment as "occurring when a child has to hide a part of
who he or she is in order to be accepted, or to not be rejected."
Having to hide a part of yourself means:
it is not okay to make a mistake.
it is not okay to show feelings, being told the way you feel is not true. "You have
nothing to cry about and if you don't stop crying I will really give you something to
cry about." "That really didn't hurt." "You have nothing to be angry about."

it is not okay to have needs. Everyone else's needs appear to be more important
than yours.
it is not okay to have successes. Accomplishments are not acknowledged, are many
times discounted.

Other acts of abandonment occur when:

Children cannot live up to the expectations of their parents. These expectations are
often unrealistic and not age-appropriate.
Children are held responsible for other people's behavior. They may be consistently
blamed for the actions and feelings of their parents.
Disapproval toward children is aimed at their entire beings or identity rather than a
particular behavior, such as telling a child he is worthless when he does not do his
homework or she is never going to be a good athlete because she missed the final
catch of the game.
Many times abandonment issues are fused with distorted, confused, or undefined
boundaries such as:

When parents do not view children as separate beings with distinct boundaries

When parents expect children to be extensions of themselves

When parents are not willing to take responsibility for their feelings, thoughts, and
behaviors, but expect children to take responsibility for them

When parents' self-esteem is derived through their child's behavior

When children are treated as peers with no parent/child distinction

Abandonment plus distorted boundaries, at a time when children are developing

their sense of worth, is the foundation for the belief in their own inadequacy and the
central cause of their shame.

Abandonment experiences and boundary violations are in no way indictments of a

child's innate goodness and value. Instead, they reveal the flawed thinking, false
beliefs, and impaired behaviors of those who hurt them. Still, the wounds are struck
deep in their young hearts and minds, and the very real pain can still be felt today.
The causes of emotional injury need to be understood and accepted so they can
heal. Until that occurs, the pain will stay with them, becoming a driving force in
their adult lives.

Excerpt from Changing Course

Shame -The Shaper of Symptoms

Lynne Namka, Ed. D. 2005

Shame is a fear-based internal state accompanied by feelings of being unworthy

and unlovable.
Shame conjures up brief, intense painful feelings of mortification due to being seen
as inadequate. Shame feelings are a threat to the integrity of the self. It keeps us
caught in fear of being found out by others. The perceived deficit is so humiliating
that the person goes to great lengths to hide the flawed self.
Induced causes of shame by others include a betrayal by them in some way. Trust in
often broken through parental disapproval and judgment. Harsh, critical parental
behavior produces shame-prone, perfectionistic children who then pass the family
bad habit down to their children. The energy of shame of others is contagious and
can be passed from one individual to another. In this manner, family dysfunction is
handed down from one generation to the other.
Parental withdrawal, rejection or favoritism of a sibling cause deep fears of
abandonment and shame. The child feels that he must be really bad or his parents
do not love him. Parents who have too high expectations of behavior, criticism and

disapproval for failure create shame as the child cannot realistically live up to the
high expectations. Parental humiliation and punishment for distress, crying or
making a mistake creates the need in the child to try to hide his vulnerability. He
worries incessantly about what others think, fears public failure and stops taking
risks due to fear of social disapproval. He is becomes afraid of rejection and

When parents point the "bony finger of blame" at a child and say "Shame on you.
Shame. Shame. You are a __________. " the child learns to believe that he is
unworthy. He may then act out inappropriately and become what the parent has
labeled him. Doing what the parent has accused him up is the self-fulfilling

The trauma of being bullied or physical and sexual abuse imprints major feelings of
being devalued and unworthy in the victim. Shame can pass from the perpetrator to
the victim. People who live in abusive relationships where they feel helpless learn
the shame-rage cycle. Shame and rage are passed from one person to another
through learning to act like the aggressor.

Some churches use shame to control their members by preaching rigid rules which
are inconsistent with human nature. The more that "hell and damnation" are
emphasized, the more guilt and shame the members will have.

Guilt is a feeling that we did something wrong. Guilt is usually tied to a specific
behavior. Guilt says, "I did something bad. I must pay." Common causes of guilt are
violation of society's' values around sexual and aggressive behavior, issues around
bathroom functions care and being different and being looked down upon by others.
We create guilt and shame in ourselves when we engage in morally-inappropriate
behavior and get caught and there is public humiliation.

Guilt is about actions, shame is about the self. Shame says "I am bad. I am
different." The shame core can build up after engaging in behaviors you know are
wrong. Accumulated guilt by continuing to act in ways that you know are wrong can
turn into shame.

Guilt and shame can build up with repeated incidents of humiliation and lead to
internal global beliefs of "I am unworthy. I don't deserve good things. I am
unlovable. " The feelings around these deep core beliefs are so bad that they must
be avoided at all costs. Other more acceptable feelings such as sadness, anger or
rage get substituted instead.

Shame is the shaper of symptoms. It creates a false self where you cannot be real.
It can create nasty behaviors that you regret later. Repressed shame leads to
substituting more acceptable emotions (to you) such as anger, rage, depression and
anxiety to reduce the internal tension that is so hard to bear. Other defenses of
shame include macho behavior, intellectualization and shutting down feelings.
Controlling, blaming, criticizing or feeling superior to others are other common
defenses to avoid feelings of shame. Engaging in excessive use of alcohol,
substances and addictive behavior may be an indicator of shame. Drunken behavior
may then cause more shame. Engaging in behaviors that society frowns upon
creates more guilt and shame.

In the shame/rage cycle, there is an instant flooding of adrenalin and cortisol to

prepare the person to fight back. You come under the control of fight or flight
hormones and attack the other person going for their jugular vein. Your common
sense goes out the window as you lose your personal sense of responsibility and
then lose control.

Patterns of dysfunctional behavior in a person's life usually indicate a strong internal

shame core. Lack of intimacy and connection to others indicates a lack of trust
which was brought about by early feelings of helplessness and humiliation.
Repressed shame and guilt cause a lack of trust of others and a deep breach or
separation from others and the real self.

Rage is always about entitlement and feeling insecure inside. The person believes
he has the right to vent and yell to get the other person to back off. He uses anger
to intimidate others to get them to leave you alone. Bad behavior works to reduce
the threat, but it damages relationships.

At some point in your, the old defenses of anger, rage and running away from pain
no longer work. Shame comes up big time. Your life crashes and you hit an

emotional bottom. An important relationship is threatened or ends which may

prompt you to seek psychological help.

Shame is the Shaper of Symptoms but It is Also the Way Home

One purpose of the negative emotion is to help us look at those aspects of ourself
that is not congruent with our deepest values and understanding of what it means
to be human from a soul level. You can use your shameful feelings as a signal that
something needs examining. The anxiety around the painful past must be entered
into and moved through.

Understanding how shame works helps release it. Shame can be released through
owning it, talking about it and processing the original painful experiences.
Uncomfortable feeling can be accessed and worked through with the help of a
skillful therapist. The shame reduction work must be experiential; it usually cannot
be released on an intellectual level. Laughter about one's predicament sometimes
helps shift shame energies.

You can learn to become a detective on your own emotions and behavior so you can
break into the hormonal hijackings that spiral you into bad behavior. You can learn
to detach and become an observer of your own internal state of shame choosing not
to shut down the painful feelings but to stay present and learn from them. When
you get upset, step back and watch how the ugly adrenalin-driven behavior takes
away from being the person you really want to be. The shame-rage link was
learned. The association between hormones and bad behavior can be unlearned.

You can learn to break into beliefs of being entitled to scream and yell to shut the
others down. You can break the belief of "I get to hurt others by my ugly words
because I feel an uncomfortable feeling." You can stop the attitude of "I earn the
money here so I get to do what I want and violence is justified. You can learn better
communication skills. You can stop focusing on blaming your partner and take
responsibility for your part of the problem. You can try to see the issue through your
partner's eyes. This is about finally becoming a grown up!

The cleaning out of the global beliefs of "I am bad. I am a bad person. I am not safe.
I will be rejected because I am unworthy. I will be abandoned." takes time and
exploration but it can be done with a therapist who understands the process of

shame release and can stay present with unconditional love. The other side of
shame is "I am worthy even though I make mistakes. I am a good person even if I
get angry. I am lovable." The truth is that you are a beautiful person who was
shamed as a child and you now need to claim yourself as being worthy of being

Bring the integrity of who you are forward and work your early painful issues
through to create a different understanding of the early painful experiences that
caused shame. Turning the shame over to something greater than oneself can
negate those global beliefs of unworthiness.

Feelings of guilt and shame can be worked out with a competent, compassionate
therapist. When shame release work is combined in therapy with assertiveness
training and learning to speak up and say no, to state boundaries and to share
feelings, self esteem zooms upward.

No easy task, but there it is. By careful monitoring and studying your shame and
rage and breaking into them you can become the master of your feelings. If this is
the work that you came to do, then the higher part of who you are says, "Let's be
about the work!"

For further information about shame, read The Drama Triangle, Scapegoating and all
the articles on family violence and narcissism on the Angries Out web site at

Managing Abandonment Depression in Complex PTSD

By Pete Walker

Here is a map of the layering of defensive reactions to the underlying feelings of

abandonment typically found in Complex PTSD. This territory is best viewed through
unwinding the dynamics of emotional flashbacks. Flashbacks are at the deepest
level painful layers of reactions - physiological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral
- to the reemerging despair of the childhood abandonment depression. One very
common flashback-scenario occurs as follows: Internal or external perceptions of
possible abandonment trigger fear and shame, which then activates panicky Inner
Critic cognitions, which in turn launches an adrenalized fight, flight, freeze or fawn
trauma response (subsequently referred to as the 4F's). The 4F's correlate
respectively with narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, dissociative or codependent
defensive reactions.

Here is an example of the layered processes of an emotional flashback. A complex

PTSD sufferer wakes up feeling depressed. Because childhood experience has

conditioned her to believe that she is unworthy and unacceptable in this state, she
quickly becomes anxious and ashamed. This in turn activates her Inner Critic to
goad her with perfectionistic and endangering messages. The critic clamors: "No
wonder no one likes you. Get your lazy, worthless ass going or you'll end up as a
wretched bag lady on the street"! Retraumatized by her own inner voice, she then
launches into her most habitual 4F behavior. She lashes out at the nearest person
as she becomes irritable, controlling and pushy (Fight/ Narcissistic) - or she launches
into busy productivity driven by negative, perfectionistic and catastrophic thinking
(Flight/Obsessive-Compulsive)- or she flips on the TV and becomes dissociated,
spaced out and sleepy (Freeze/ Dissociative)- or she focuses immediately on solving
someone's else's problem and becomes servile, self-abnegating and ingratiating
(Fawn/Codependent). Unfortunately this dynamic also commonly operates in
reverse, creating perpetual motion cycles of internal trauma as 4F acting out also
gives the critic endless material for self-hating criticism, which in turn amps up fear
and shame and finally compounds the abandonment depression with a non-stop
experience of self-abandonment. Here is a diagram of these dynamics: Triggered
(Perfectionism & Endangerment) -- 4F's: (Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn Response).
Especially noteworthy here is how the inner critic can interact with fear and shame
in a particular vicious and escalating cycle.

This article describes a treatment approach that decreases retraumatizing reactivity

to the internal affects of the abandonment depression. It guides the client to meet
abandonment feelings equanimously by staying somatically present to the physical
sensations of depression and fear. This in turn promotes the ability to feel through
abandonment experiences without launching into inner critic drasticizing and 4F
acting out. R.D. Laing once stated that: "The only pain that can be avoided is the
pain that comes from trying to avoid unavoidable pain". In my experience resisting
unavoidable encounters with depression and fear accounts for more than the lion's
share of the PTSD client's pain.

The etiology of a self-abandoning response to depression. Chronic emotional

abandonment is one of the worst things that can happen to a child. It naturally
makes her feel and appear deadened and depressed. Functional parents respond to
a child's depression with concern and comfort; abandoning parents respond to it
with anger, disgust and further abandonment, which in turn create the fear, shame
and despair that become characteristic of the abandonment depression. A child who
is never comforted when she is depressed has no model for developing a selfcomforting response to her own depression. Without a nurturing connection with a
caretaker, she may flounder for long periods of time in a depression that can
devolve into The Failure to Thrive Syndrome. In my experience failure to thrive is

not an all-or-none phenomenon, but rather a continuum that begins with excessive
depression and ends in the most severe cases with death. Many PTSD survivors
"thrived" very poorly, and perhaps at times lingered near the end of the continuum
where they were close to death, if not physically, then psychologically. When a child
is consistently abandoned, her developing superego eventually assumes totalitarian
control of her psyche and carcinogenically morphs into a toxic Inner Critic. She is
then driven to desperately seek connection and acceptance through the numerous
processes of perfectionism and endangerment described in my article "Shrinking
The Inner Critic in Complex PTSD" (see link for this article: Shrinking the Inner
Critic). Her inner critic also typically becomes emotional perfectionistic, as it
imitates her parent's contempt of her emotional pain about abandonment. The child
learns to judge her dysphoric feelings as the cause of her abandonment. Over time
her affects are repressed, but not without contaminating her thinking processes.
Unfelt fear, shame and depression are transmuted into thoughts and images so
frightening, humiliating and despairing that they instantly trigger escapist 4F acting
out. Eventually even the mildest hint of fear or depression, no matter how functional
or appropriate, is automatically deemed as danger-ridden and overwhelming as the
original abandonment. The capacity to self-nurturingly weather any experience of
depression, no matter how mild, remains unrealized. The original experience of
parental abandonment devolves into self-abandonment. The ability to stay
supportively present to all of one's own inner experience gradually disappears.

We can gradually deconstruct the self-abandoning habit of reacting to depression

with fear and shame, inner critic "freak out", and 4F acting out. The processes
described in this article and my paper: "Managing Emotional Flashbacks in Complex
PTSD"(see link for this article: 13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks) awaken the
psyche's innate, developmentally arrested capacity to respond amelioratively to
depression and the fear and shame that attaches to it. It is a long difficult journey
however, for even without attachment trauma, feelings of fear and depression are
difficult to accept and weather.

The normalcy of depression

We live in a culture that judges fear as despicable, and depression as an unpatriotic
violation of the "pursuit of happiness". Taboos about depression even emanate from
the psychological establishment, where some schools strip it of its status as a
legitimate emotion - dismissing it simplistically as mere negative thinking, or as a
dysfunctional state that results from the repression of less taboo emotions like
sadness and anger. I believe we must learn to distinguish depressed thinking which can be eliminated - from depressed feelings - which must sometimes be felt.
Occasional feelings of enervation and anhedonia are normal and existential - part of

the admission price to life. Moreover, depression is sometimes an invaluable

harbinger of the need to slow down, to drop interiorly into a place that at least
allows us to restore and recharge, and at best unfolds into our deepest
intuitiveness. One recurring gift that typically comes cloaked in depression is an
invitation to grow that necessitates relinquishing a formerly treasured job or
relationship that has now become obsolete or moribund. Overreaction to depression
essentially reinforces learned toxic shame. It reinforces the individual's notion that,
when depressed, he is unworthy, defective and unlovable. Sadly this typically drives
him deeper into abandonment-exacerbating isolation. Deep level recovery from
childhood trauma requires a normalization of depression, a renunciation of the habit
of reflexively reacting to it. Central to this is the development of a capacity to stay
in one's body, to stay fully present to all internal experience, to stay acceptingly
open to one's emotional, visceral and somatic experiences without 4F acting out.
Renouncing this kind of self-abandonment is a journey that often feels frustratingly
Sisyphean. It is a labor of self-love and a self-nurturing process of the highest order,
but it can feel like an ordeal replete with unspectacular redundancy - with countless,
menial experiences of noticing, naming and disidentifying from the unhelpful
internal overreactions that depression triggers in us.

A relational approach to healing abandonment

I am a relational therapist, because I believe this journey requires reparative
relational experience. Healing Complex PTSD and the attachment disorder that
typically accompanies it is an interpersonal journey which needs to be initiated and
shepherded by a therapist, partner or trusted friend who has the capacity to stay
unreactively present to their own depression and the various affects that attach to
it. When a therapist has this level of emotional intelligence, she can guide the client
to gradually release the learned habit of automatic affect-rejection and
overreaction. A key operation here appears to depend on the eye and ear contact of
a bi-hemispheric brain process Daniel Siegel calls "the co-regulation of affect". Safe
and empathic eye and voice connection with an individual with "good enough"
emotional intelligence provides a working model and a "limbic resonance" to help
her stay unreactively present to her depression and the fear that attaches to it.
This, in turn, promotes the integration of right and left brain functioning - helping
the client to feel and think simultaneously and egosyntonically. Moreover, as Susan
Vaughan's book: The Talking Cure avers, such work appears to promote the
development of the inner neural circuitry necessary to healthily manage and
integrate depression and its attenuated affects.

Guiding the client into somatic mindfulness

Therapists can teach clients the practice of "paying" non-reactive, self-accepting

attention to their own affects. Behaviorally, this entails staying aware of, focused on
and present to the somatic experience of the abandonment depression. Typically,
this process is indirect at first because depression so commonly and instantly
morphs into the hyperaroused sensations of fear. Early work then primarily involves
staying present to the kinesthetic sensations of fear and noticing the psyche's
penchant to dissociate or distract from them. Dissociation can be either the classical
right brain distraction of spacing out into reverie, fantasy, TV/computer trance,
fogginess or sleep - or it can be the left brain, cognitive dissociation of becoming
distracted in obsessive thinking. Particularly nefarious here is the inner critic's
penchant for dissociating from and reacting to depression and fear with toxic
cognitions and reveries of endangerment and perfectionism. Over and over, the
client needs to be guided to rescue himself from dissociation (left and/or right), and
to gently bring his awareness back into fully feeling and experiencing the sensations
of his fear and noticing his reactions to it. Sensations of fear may range from simple
tension and muscular tightness anywhere in the body, especially the alimentary
canal - to nauseous, jumpy, wired feelings and shocks of electrification - to
shortness of breath, hyperventilation and diarrhea, when it is at its worst. Although
these sensations typically feel unbearable at first, persistent focusing on them with
non-judgmental, non-eschewing awareness eventually lessens and quiets them.
Held non-reactively enough, they are seemingly dissolved, digested and integrated
by awareness itself.
It is important to note here that this type of kinesthetic focusing often triggers
memories and unworked through feelings of grief about the client's abuse and
neglect in his original abandonment. This provides many invaluable opportunities to
ameliorate PTSD by more fully grieving the losses of childhood. Therapists can also
use the results of such explorations to foster the creation of an egosyntonic and
self-compassionate narrative that deconstructs the shame and self-blame the PTSD
client typically assigns to her suffering. I describe a safe, efficacious process for this
type of grief work in my book: The Tao Of Fully Feeling: Harvesting Forgiveness Out
of Blame. With considerable practice, the client eventually begins to exhume, from
his fear, an awareness of the more elemental, underlying sensations of depression sensations exceedingly subtle and barely perceptible at first. These sensations are
initially as difficult to stay present to as they are to find. With guided ongoing
practice however, focused attending also digests them as they are integrated into
consciousness. As practice becomes more proficient, these feelings and sensations
of depression sometimes morph into a sense of peace, relaxation and ease. Such
relaxation can even, over time, open into a continuum of inner peace that may
stretch from profound equanimity to that place of unsurpassable peace that various
Eastern pundits describe as the Great Void or Sublime Nothingness.

Inner Somatic Work

Therapeutic gains in diminishing automatic self-abandonment in the face of fear or

depression are augmented by individual introspective work. In my personal
discovery of this skill, I spent over an hour a day in meditation with my awareness
yo-yo vacillating between my body and my mind - between tense sensations of fear
and the myriad disturbing mentations of my inner critic. These drasticizing thoughts
and visualizations were my critic's outmoded historical interpretations that my
feelings and sensations meant that I was in imminent danger of the abandonment
of attack or neglect. My critic excoriated me incessantly to strive for safety through
productivity and perfection. In the first year of this practice I frequently had to
white-knuckle the handles on my chair to stay somatically present to my feelings to break my adrenalin addiction, to stop myself from launching into my preferred 4F
flight response. I had survived my childhood with ADHD-like busyness - with
marathons of activity that kept me one step ahead of my fear- and shame-stained
depression. Gradually as I used my focused awareness to digest my fear, I
experientially discovered the rock bottom underlying core sensations of my
abandonment depression itself. Over and over I focused on sensations of heaviness,
swollenness, exhaustion, emptiness, hunger, longing, soreness, ache-iness,
deadness. Sometimes these sensations were intense, but more often they were very
subtle. With time I noticed how instantly my depression scared me and lead me to
echo my parents' toxic shaming: "You're bad, worthless, useless, defective, ugly,
despicable". Blessedly, with ongoing practice, I gradually learned to disidentify from
the toxic vocabulary of the critic. I found myself more accurately naming these
revisited childhood feelings: "Small, helpless, lonely, unsupported, unloved, needy"
(as in profoundly unsuccessful in getting my needs for emotional comfort met).

Camouflaged Depression
Feelings of depression sometimes mimic gnawings of hunger, especially the
emotions of abandonment which commonly masquerade as physiological
sensations. Feeling very hungry a hour or two after a big meal is an almost certain
signal of abandonment feelings and not real hunger. As much as this hunger
appears to be about food, it is actually an emotional hunger - an emotional longing
for safe, nurturing connection and for the satiation of abandonment. Even after a
decade of practice, I still find it difficult to differentiate this type of attachment
hunger from physical hunger. One, often, reliable clue is that the sensation of
longing for the nourishment of attachment is usually in my small intestine, while
physical hunger's locus is a little higher up in my stomach. (I believe the extreme
longing for sex and/or love typical of sex and love addiction can similarly be an
encounter with our abandonment depression, especially when no amount of
affection or sexual attention from another seems to fill the void of longing).

On a parallel with false hunger, feeling tired is sometimes an emotional experience

of the abandonment depression, and entirely unrelated to sleep deprivation although over time the two can easily become confusingly intertwined. The
emotional tiredness of not resting enough in the comfort of safe attachment and
belonging, often masquerades as physiological tiredness. When our abandonment
depression is unremediated, any kind of tiredness - emotional or physical commonly triggers us into fear, which the inner critic translates into endangerment
and imperfection, and the accompanying adrenalization launches us into one of the
4F responses.

It is a sad irony that reacting to emotional tiredness in this way can eventually
exacerbate it into real physical exhaustion via a process I call the The Cyclothymic
Two-Step. PTSD sufferers with a primary or secondary flight response frequently
overreact to their tiredness with workaholic or busyholic action. They run so
compulsively from their depression, that they eventually exhaust themselves
physically, and at times become too depleted or sick to continue running. When this
occurs, they collapse into an experience of abandonment so painful, that they relaunch desperately into "flight" speed at the first sign of replenished adrenalin. I
have witnessed a number of such clients misdiagnose themselves as bipolar
because of the extremes that ensue from desperately pursuing the adrenalin high
and eschewing the abandonment low.

Adrenalization often becomes addictive because it self-medicates and counteracts

the emotional tiredness that emanates from undigested and unworked through
abandonment feelings. Especially noteworthy here is the endless and expensive
journey that many survivors undergo trying to remedy emotional tiredness with
physiologically-based medical treatments. Even worse, the short-lived (if any)
improvements of such an approach increasingly augments the shame and self-hate
of the sufferer over time: "What's wrong with me. I've changed everything in my
diet and in my sleep and exercise schedule. I've seen every type of practitioner
imaginable and I am still waking up feeling dead tired." It is a subtle, hard acquired
skill, but learning to self-compassionately focus on the inexorable somatic
experiences of sometimes feeling tired, bad, lonely, or depressed is the only way
out of this cul-de-sac of self-destructive and unwarranted efforting. In this regard,
the notable AA 12 Step acronym, HALT - Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired - can remind
us to stop and pause introspectively to determine whether our abandonment
depression has been triggered and needs the quiet, internal, self-compassionate
attention described above.

We can sometimes gain motivation for this difficult work by seeing our depressed
feelings as messages from our developmentally arrested child who is flashing back
to his abandonment in hopes that his adult self will respond to him in a more
comforting, compassionate and appropriate way.

Through such practice, clients can gradually achieve the healing that the Buddhists
call separating necessary suffering (normal depression) from unnecessary suffering
(the internal hopelessness, shame and fear, and the life-constricting acting out that
ensues from unnecessary engagements with the critic and the 4F's).
Understanding Childrens Emotions: Pride and Shame
Children need to know that we are proud of them.
Published on May 14, 2012 by Kenneth Barish, Ph.D. in Pride and Joy

Discussions of childrens motivations and behavior too often overlook the
importance of feelings of pride and shame. A childs need to feel proud, and to
avoid feelings of shame, is a fundamental motivation, and remains fundamental,
throughout her life. It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of these
emotions in the psychological development - and emotional health - of our children.

Shame is our instinctive response to personal failure or inadequacy, especially the

public exposure of inadequacy. Embarrassment is a temporary and mild form of
shame; humiliation, aloneness, and self-hatred are severe forms of shame.

Children experience feelings of shame when they suffer any social rejection; when
they are unable to learn; when they are defeated in competition; when they are
bullied, insulted, or taunted; and when they seek acceptance and approval from

admired adults but are, instead, subjected to criticism or derogation. When children
tell us that they are anxious, they are often anxious about the possibility of feeling

Related Links
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Children with difficulties in motor coordination or delays in language development

experience shame early in childhood. Somewhat later, difficulties in learning,
especially in learning to read, always evoke in children a deep feeling of shame. In
childhood, shame leads to avoidance and withdrawal and then, in adolescence, to
desperate attempts to alleviate, or get rid of, this painful state of mind. Many
experiences that evoke a feeling of shame (for example, experiences of exclusion or
ridicule) are uniquely painful, and the feeling of shame, perhaps more than any
other emotion, stays with us.

I can still recall, more vividly and poignantly than I would like, moments of shame
from many years ago when, as a son (and as a father), I let my parents (and my
children) down. Although I have long since been forgiven for these personal failures,
my memories are still painful. Thankfully, I am able to put these moments in
perspective; they are now more than balanced by moments of pride. In this way, we
should also help our children put in perspective their own moments of
embarrassment and failure.

When children are successful and feel proud, they instinctively look to others. When
they fail and feel ashamed, they look away. This is in the nature of pride and shame.
The universal behavior associated with the emotion of shame is concealment; we all
attempt to hide or cover up what we are ashamed of. Pride is the antithesis of
shame. The feeling of pride is accompanied by an outward movement and a desire
to show and tell others, to exhibit or show off. Pride is expansive, both in action and
in our imagination. Shame contracts, in our posture (our shoulders fall in and we
look downward and away) and in our thoughts and imaginationin our setting of
goals and in what we consider possible for ourselves.

A childs expectation of feeling proud or ashamed therefore decisively influences

her choices - those situations she actively seeks and those she avoids. Shame - our
emotional response to exclusion and failure - lowers aspirations. Pride our
emotional response to acceptance and success raises aspirations. The
evolutionary psychologist Glenn Weisfeld succinctly explains, We anticipate pride
and shame at every turn and shape our behavior accordingly.

Especially, children want their parents to share in their pride and to be proud of
them. Our childrens feeling - their inner certainty - that we are proud of them is an
essential good feeling, an anchor that sustains them in moments of
discouragement, aloneness, and defeat. Our feeling that our parents are proud of us
is a motivating and sustaining force throughout our lives, and a protective factor in
the emotional lives of our children. The opposite is also true. Parental scorn is
among the most deeply destructive forces in the psychological development of any

When, as parents, we fail to express pride in our children, when we are frequently
dismissive, critical, or disapproving, our children will be more vulnerable to
emotional and behavioral problems of all kinds. They will live, more than they
should, with discouragement and resentment. These feelings will then come to be

expressed in some way, perhaps as defiance and rebellion, or as a failure of

initiative, or as an inability to sustain effort toward long-term goals.

We therefore need to let our children know, as often as we can, that we are proud of
them for their effort and for their accomplishments. And we should not be afraid
to spoil them with this form of praise.

Copyright Ken Barish, Ph.D.