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"Big Boys Don't Cry" Diagnosis & Treatment of Male Shame and Depression
Male Depression continuing education addiction counselor CEUs

Section 1
Track #1 - Ten Rules that Sustain Shame

CEU Question 1 | CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Introduction | Depression
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On this track, we'll look at ten rules that sustain shame in your depressed male clients.

For the male, depression carries so much of a burden of shame that it is hidden--sometimes so well it foolsno talk  Big boys dont cry social work continuing ed those who have it. Depression and the resulting shame often masquerade as drinking and lashing out at others, and subverts relationships.

Ten Rules that Sustain Shame
These rules, compiled by Everingham, surface again and again in the lives of depressed men because shame is a major factor in many cases of depression. Basically, these rules are habitual shaming acts that evoke natural, but often shielded, feelings of shame. This will sound familiar to you, but we'll also look at particular ways to break these rules and, consequently, stop the cycle of shame. Now let's look at the ten rules the sustain shame and depression in your male client.

Share on Facebook Rule 1: Control
I have found oftentimes males who feel shame feel the need to be in control of all behavior, interactions, and feelings. Understanding this underlying desire for control is key to understanding each rule on Everingham's list. Power struggles result from a man needing to control his emotions and the situation in general. I feel most male clients can never fully eliminate power struggles, and exercising control is perhaps part of the vitality and masculinity within a man. But if a man feels ashamed of competing for control, which can lead to depression, he can help by being honest and open about his feelings of needing control.

Share on Facebook Rule 2: Blame
Another rule that shaming men follow is to blame somebody, including themselves, if something goes wrong. They never blame the shame-generating system or their rules, although that would be more appropriate. Either taking on too much or too little can cause shame, either through feelings of inadequacy or feelings of "innocence."

Often, men will blame themselves for war, crime, "patriarchy," or sexism. Whenever you hear this, consider pointing it out to your client, thus helping your client to explore whether that blame is warranted. In cases where my male client seems to blame others, I ask him to use more "I-messages," rather than "you-messages" or "they-messages."

Share on Facebook Rule 3: Perfectionism
Shame is generated when men always are, do and "feel" right. They don't try if it means they might make a mistake, and they justify everything. They are often over-competitive and are either trying to cover up a perceived deficiency or believe that a mistake will mean the "end of the world." It may be that men who are perfectionists withhold feelings, especially in men's groups. When I see this in my depressed shame-based clients, I like to tell the client,"You don't have to be right. You just have to be honest." Are there some clients that you can say this to?

Share on Facebook Rule 4: Incompleteness
I find depressed shame-based male clients are easily shamed if they feel incomplete in some way, like if they haven't resolved disagreements with others, especially their partners. When they keep feuds and resentments going, not daring to confront the problem, I tell my clients to again start with being honest. It may take awhile to completely resolve the issue because more superficial problems may first divert attention from the real issues. I find clients experience a sense of relief when they realize they don't have to give up themselves in order to be loved.

Share on Facebook Rule 5: Denial
As we've discussed, many men easily deny feelings, needs and desires, both their own and those of others. They especially deny feelings they consider "inappropriate," like sadness or fear, and they'll deny even the obvious. They may feel the only "acceptable" emotion is anger. But when they dissociate from their feelings in this way, an inherent shame sets in. Just letting them know that their feelings are legitimate can help them open up and explore all of their feelings.

Share on Facebook Rule 6: No Talk.
In addition to control, blame, perfectionism, incompleteness and denial is Rule 6. No Talk.
Related to the concept of denial, men might bottle up their feelings and hide secrets with a strict code of silence. So you agree your clients keep quiet on personal secrets, taboo subjects, and resentments. Particularly, men are often too humiliated to talk about money, insecurities about their body, anger towards women, feelings of superiority or, conversely, intimidation, addictions, or disappointments. Do you agree? I find the best way to crack the shell is to let them know their feelings are "okay" and "acceptable."

Share on Facebook Rule 7: Disqualification
I have found shame is generated when men deny their feelings by disguising them. They'll "spin" the shameful incident around and distort it in the process. They try to avert their focus from the shameful part and focus attention instead on the positive part. While to an extent, this is a healthy practice, it's important for men to truly recognize when they feel shamed.

Otherwise, as you are aware, disqualification will only maintain the status quo so he doesn't have to confront the serious, shameful content. In our society, men are so accustomed to disqualification in the media, politics, the law, and so on, that we forget something is being disguised. Once again, honesty is the most effective way to begin breaking down this shame-perpetuating rule.

Share on Facebook Rule 8: Unreliability
Sometimes, male clients create shame by being unreliable or untrustworthy. They don't act in a predictable way, keeping the people they love guessing about their actions. Consequently, they begin to expect the same unreliability from others. And others begin to distance themselves, afraid of his reactions to certain mistakes. He feels shame because he isn't close to anyone, when what he really needs is intimacy. Often, he is unreliable even to himself and doesn't view himself as a good friend. If have found client confrontation seems to help in many of these cases. Hopefully, if he perceives someone else or himself as unreliable, he can call it out and begin to change it.

Share on Facebook Rule 9: Not Allowing the Five Freedoms
The five freedoms I'm referring to are the power to perceive, to think and interpret, to feel, to want and choose, and the power to imagine. Shamed men don't allow their children, or often their partners these freedoms. And just as important, they often don't allow them for themselves. Often, the rule of perfectionism prevents these freedoms from being fully expressed. Personal confrontation, independent of control, is the best way to introduce the freedoms back into depressed men's lives. If they stop feeling the shame of being themselves and of causing hurt to other people, they can feel these freedoms again.

Share on Facebook Rule 10: Moral Intimidation
Too often, men shame by assuming the right to decide what and who are right, appropriate, enlightened, professional, mature, humane, or politically correct. They might enforce moral authority with shaming threats, rhetorical questions, or name-calling. And depressed men can either be the perpetrators or the object of this shame-reinforcing rule. They'll either judge other people's values and drive them away or feel naturally shamed by having their own values frowned upon.

As you know, everyone follows these shaming rules from time to time. The trick is to recognize when shamed, depressed male clients are following these rules. They can then begin to break them.

Think of a male client you are currently treating who feels shame. Does he exhibit the shaming rules of control, blame, perfectionism, incompleteness, denial, no talk, disqualification, unreliability, not allowing the five freedoms, and moral intimidation? Would it be beneficial to talk about any of these with him? Would it be beneficial to play this portion of track one in a session with this client?

In the next track, we will discuss the "Shame Release" technique.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 1
What are the ten shaming rules? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Answer Booklet.

 
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