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Shame is an emotion that is often talked about in therapy. It is important to understand that someone who feels ashamed might not feel shame because they have done something wrong or something that is considered to be shameful by others. Guilt and shame are related, however they are different. Guilt is a feeling that we may experience after having done something wrong, whilst shame is a feeling that is felt even before we engage with others. It is the feeling that there might be something wrong with who we are, that we are not good enough, that we are inferior to others, that others are more attractive, intelligent and successful. People who feel shame might worry about others’ perception of them, might find it difficult to accept compliments and to allow others to get to know them. Shame develops very early on in life and is something which most people are burdened with throughout their whole lives. Perfectionism, insecurity and symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues might be linked to our shame-based personality. In psychotherapy, the therapist is able to work with the individual to explore this experience and possibly understand where it may be coming from. The person is supported to let go of negative core beliefs, to get in touch with their own true needs, to make contact, and to create new and more realistic beliefs.

– Claire is a gestalt psychotherapist at Willingness. She works with adolescents and adults. She has a special interest in mental health. She can be contacted on claire@willingness.com.mt.willingn