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the last few tracks, we discussed sources of male shame and ways to interrupt
shame generated in the present.
you know, many men stay in relationships that sustain their shame: relationships
that feed their depression. Even with therapy, it might be nearly impossible to
truly overcome the shame and depression if their close relationships perpetuate
hurtful and humiliating feelings.
After that session, Jeff bought a sofa and his father asked Jeff what he had paid for it. Jeff said, "I think we'd be better off if we didn't discuss how much I pay for things." Jeff said his dad was very surprised to hear his son defy him like that. But from then on, Jeff stated that his relationship with his father was much better and that he didn't feel shamed so much anymore.
had, in a way, redefined his relationship with his father. In the next session,
Ted, the therapist, asked Jeff what he felt he owed his family. Jeff stated, "I
know what I owe to my family is to go home if a family member were dying. Beyond
that, I'm not sure." Ted then asked Jeff what he would freely give. Jeff
anaswered, "I would give my father continued contact. By that I mean I would
keep in touch with my father in some way."
"Relax the muscles in your body... and make yourself comfortable in your chair. Now, breathe very slowly in and out. As you exhale, concentrate on draining the tension from your body. I'm going to share with you some images. If you think of an image that works better for you, go with it. Anything you experience will be helpful. Imagine you are descending a staircase. Really feel the sensation of walking, of putting your foot on each step. When you reach the bottom, you're in long a hallway. At the end of the hallway, there's a light. Walk toward the light. You'll see that it's coming from your room.
"Walk into the room and take it all in... It's your bedroom from when you were five or 10 years old. Choose whatever age comes to your mind first, whatever age is easiest for you to picture. Or, if you did not have a bedroom, the room you're seeing is a safe place you would go to be alone or feel safe. Walk around the room and touch everything you see. Notice how the furniture is placed, what color the walls are, whether there's a window, where the closet is, what shape the furniture is. Notice the smell of the room. Think of your memories from this room. What games did you play? What was it like to wake up in this room? Where did you draw pictures or just doodle? Pick up a toy or a book and play with it. Become the child you used to be.
"Now lie down on your back on the floor... Try to take it all in. Try to feel as small as you once did. Now stand up again and look around the room one more time. Go to the doorway and look in on your childhood as an adult. You're an adult standing there, looking at the figure of yourself as a little boy. He's sitting in the corner. Go to him and take a closer look. Picture him as best you can. You may even want to think of an old photograph from that age to strengthen the image. Now sit down beside him. Put an arm around him. Tell him, 'I'm here now,' and ask him what he's feeling. Ask him what he needs. Give him what he needs. Say all the comforting things you wanted to hear when you were a child but never did. Now pick him up in your arms and give him a big hug. Hold him close and say, 'You're a good son, and I am proud of you.' Take him out of the room into the bright, sunny day.
"Sit together in the grass for a bit and feel the warmth of the sun... Now imagine that you are taking him to a new, safe place inside of you. Imagine a soft, warm bed, and tuck him into bed right beside you. Sit down with him, and again say to him what he needs to hear. Now kiss him one more time, and hug him again. Now, he has a special place inside of you, so whenever he needs you, you'll be back. Say to him, "I'll be with you always." Tiptoe away from him and walk back into the hallway, up the staircase. When you're ready, open your eyes and join me again."
Consider your male client experiencing depression and shame you are currently treating. Would he benefit from this reparenting guided visualization? Would it be beneficial to play that portion of this CD in a session? If the musical tones were inserted easily, mark start and stop points when fast forwarding through this track on your CD player.
After this "Reparenting" exercise, it's important to ask your client how he feels. It may take him a few tries in this exercise to clearly see his child self or to peacefully talk to himself as a boy. But gradually, he may be able to chip away at the anger and shame he felt as a youngster.
In the next track, we will discuss how to recognize shame.
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