PAIN AND THE UNSPOKEN EMOTION: SHAME

  • Howard Bath Allambi Care
Keywords: shame, child protection, child welfare, trauma, compass of shame, residential care

Abstract

Anger, fear, and sadness are frequently described emotions that are experienced by many young people in care, but there is another common emotion that is less often named and understood. Shame — the deep sense of not belonging, of being defective or deficient in some way, of feeling unlovable — is a painful and pervasive social emotion that also involves our thinking processes and sense of self-worth. It has been described as a “pit of despair” that “envelops” many young people in care, a toxic force that drives behaviours we struggle to understand including some aggression and self-harm. Referencing Nathanson’s  Compass of Shame, this article looks at some common coping strategies as well as masks or proxies of shame including the so-called “impostor” phenomenon – even the “drive for normality” described by James Anglin in 2002 could be seen as an attempt to escape from shame’s isolating clutches. Strategies for helping young people understand and cope with shame, including the fostering of healthy connections and the judicious use of words, are then explored.

Author Biography

Howard Bath, Allambi Care
Consultant for child protection and youth justice services
Published
2019-04-08