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"Big Boys Don't Cry" Diagnosis & Treatment of Male Shame and Depression
6 CEUs Big Boys Don't Cry Diagnosis & Treatment of Male Shame and Depression

Section 2
Shame-Related Response

CEU Question 2 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Depression CEU Courses
Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we looked at rules that maintain shame in your depressed male client. As you know, shame is behind typical "male" actions such as vengeance, blaming, violence, power struggles, compulsive overachievement, and denial. Shame is extremely influential in causing and perpetuating depression in males.

You already know that depressed men dissociate from their feelings. Many depressed men have a shame-based identity that is maintained by the societal construction of masculinity. Let's discuss the "Shame Release Technique," which helps men begin to heal their shame.

Cliff, a 50 year old electrician I treated for depression tried to open up to one of his buddies. At a cookout, he talked to his neighbor, Barry, about his feelings of uncertainty regarding his job as an electrician. Barry, his friend, appeared to be listening. But when Cliff was finished with his emotional rant, Barry walked away, calling over his shoulder, "How about another hamburger?" Cliff told me in a later session that he had suddenly felt confused and humiliated. The feeling Cliff said he felt was shame. He felt shame generated by a specific situation, and he said it nearly immobilized him at the cookout. He was so ashamed that it became extremely difficult for him to associate with anyone else at the cookout.

Shame Release
I gave Cliff a strategy for getting over shame generated in the present. This technique, called the "Shame Release Technique," first required that Cliff recognize his dominant emotion as that of shame. Cliff readily identified his feelings as humiliation and embarrassment. As you know, the eyes are very powerful in directing our emotions toward ourselves.

I told him that the next time he felt similar feelings of shame, whatever the situation, he should refocus his eyes back outside. Cliff had been focusing his eyes or self-talk inward, watching himself and letting his shame grow. I told him to try and immerse himself in some external sensory experience, especially a visual or physical experience.

He could even talk to himself about what he was seeing or hearing. The important thing was to interrupt the shame and get his attention on something other than himself, some external stimulus. For example, I suggested to Cliff that he could count the number of people in the room or take a walk outside and become immersed in the environment. If he had access to music, that was another easy way to refocus his attention.

I told Cliff there was an alternate method of refocusing his attention in this "Shame Release Technique." He could close his eyes, unless, of course, he was walking or had to perform some task. Closing his eyes could possibly help him relax, without having to watch himself in his surroundings.

As you know, simple techniques such as the "Shame Release Technique" are helpful in gradually breaking the continuum of humiliation and depression. We've all seen instances where primary shame turns into other feelings, like fear or anger. Not only does this transition make it difficult to recognize shame as the root problem, but it causes men to inflict shame in others or engage in generally destructive behavior. An example of this can be found in men who physically and emotionally abuse their significant others. Do you have a client who is abusive towards others who could benefit from this "Shame Release" technique? You might replay this track during the session or telling him about it in your next session.

Vocalizing Shame
I also find it helpful to have depressed male clients actually vocalize the word "shame." Often, we'll discuss feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, or narcissism. But this may not capture it. If a man says aloud, "I feel ashamed," it is as if the words themselves lift the shame from his body. This, in turn, lightens his burden and allows him to experience the emotion in its pure form.

On this track we've discussed disassociation from feelings the Shame Release Technique to help depressed and shamed men begin to overcome their shame. Next, we will look at sources of shame.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Eterović, M. (2020). Recognizing the role of defensive processes in empirical assessment of shame. Psychoanalytic Psychology. Advance online publication.

Garcia, A. F., Acosta, M., Pirani, S., Edwards, D., & Osman, A. (2017). Factor structure, factorial invariance, and validity of the Multidimensional Shame-Related Response Inventory-21 (MSRI-21). Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64(2), 233–246.

Gebhard, K. T., Cattaneo, L. B., Tangney, J. P., Hargrove, S., & Shor, R. (2019). Threatened-masculinity shame-related responses among straight men: Measurement and relationship to aggression. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, 20(3), 429–444.

Sherman, N. (2014). Recovering lost goodness: Shame, guilt, and self-empathy. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 31(2), 217–235.

Young, I. F., Razavi, P., Cohen, T. R., Yang, Q., Alabèrnia-Segura, M., & Sullivan, D. (2019). A multidimensional approach to the relationship between individualism-collectivism and guilt and shame. Emotion.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 2
What is one technique men can use to get over shame generated in the present? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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