Trauma can leave clients with deep, debilitating feelings of shame.
And for clients who experienced trauma in early childhood, those feelings may have shaped their self-narrative for years.
So in the video below, Bessel van der Kolk, MD shares how he approaches trauma-induced shame that stems from childhood trauma.
Have a look.
So that internal struggle becomes a very core part of people’s internal reality. And the more you get down to things, the most hurtful thing is not what was done to them, but how ashamed they feel about their own reactions.
“I saw my sister getting molested and I didn’t do anything. I was too scared,” or “I saw my mom being beaten up and I didn’t hit my dad to stand up for her” or whatever. Kids make causal connections. As an adult, you feel like you should have done something and not until you get to deeply experience what that one-, two-, three- or five-year-old kid went through and you really get to know, “Oh, that kid was too scared to stand up for themselves,” or “that kid was too small” or “that kid didn’t have a chance.” You need to revisit the situation and really get a feeling of, “Man, that kid didn’t have a chance. But if I had known then what I know now, I would’ve stopped it. But I’m 54 years old. I’m a karate instructor.
Of course today I could stop it. But when I was four, I couldn’t.”
Kids always blame themselves and are very deeply ashamed about continuing to love their perpetrator and about not having done the right thing. It is always very much part of it. There’s a lot of focus on that stuff out there, but the issue is that it all starts living inside of you. The trauma is not a story about something that happened in the past. The trauma is how the past is alive and well and living in your body in 2022. It’s happening right now. How do you deal with these parts of you that are getting stirred up continuously right now?
For expert ways to transform shame with self-compassion, see our short course Cultivating Self-Compassion to Help Your Client Heal from Shame.
Now we’d like to hear from you. How do you work with clients who suffer from trauma-induced shame? Please share by leaving a comment below.
But now we’d like to hear from you. What are your main takeaways from this video? How would you carry this into your work with clients? Let us know in the comments.
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