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

Section 3

CEU Question 3 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Depression
Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track we discussed the "Shame Release technique" as a way to reduce shameful feelings in depressed male clients. Along with depression, shame comes from many sources. As you know, there are many ways that men come to feel shame and, consequently, depression.

Let's look at seven sources in particular related to male shame, developed by Robert Bly. As you hear these, think of which ones you can see as real causes of shame in clients of yours. Understanding where the shame comes from, as you know, is one of the first steps in deciding how to overcome it.

7 Sources of Shame

1. Intentional Shaming
Sometimes, the male's parents may have flat-out told him, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself." This kind of deliberate shaming causes male and female children as well to be overcome with humiliation and guilt. Often a child who has been shamed in this way will turn around and shame someone else, like a peer or a sibling.

2. Shame through Silent Response
Another way males begin to feel ashamed is by being ignored. For instance, a child might bring a drawing up to his father and say, "What do you think of this?" If he does not reply, then the child is hurt in two ways. First, he thinks "If I were an adequate person, I wouldn't have to ask for a response." Then he thinks, "If I were an adequate person, he would have given it." The child may then feel abandonment in addition to self-hate.

3. Inherited Shame
This kind of shame is often built up over years and generations. It is the shame caused by silence about a crazy uncle or about an aunt who was in prison. The way your male client can free himself from this cycle of inheritance is to talk openly about family problems. I tell my clients, "Let your children hear about your own embarrassments and invite discussion on the failures of your relatives."

4. Shaming Through Events
As you know, external events in your life can easily cause shame. The following examples show how broad the range is. For instance, I tell my clients, "you can be shamed by being picked last for the kickball game. You can be deeply shamed by being sexually abused as a child."

5. Bodily Shame
While this is more prevalent in women, it seems most people are dissatisfied with their bodies in some way. Partly due to society's high standards for body shape, men can focus on any tiny imperfection and feel shame from it.

6. Internalized Shame
At a certain point, after being shamed by others, many men can easily shame themselves. Unfortunately, some men become addicted to shame, just as they might become addicted to alcohol. Often the intensity of the shame makes men feel alive, or they feel comfortable in shame because they have known it all their life. For this reason, men might seek women who may shame them in the same way their parents did.

7. Shame of the False Self
Men especially may have come into this world vibrant, excitable, and noisy. But from the beginning, their parents wanted a "nice boy" instead. So a little boy was rejected by his parents and forced to adopt a false persona. That false self helped him some in getting by, but the grown man now cannot forgive himself. I remind myself to reassure this type of client that by creating a false self, he did the right thing for themselves at the time. It was necessary to have a false self for survival purposes, and after he realizes this, he can begin to move on, as his true self.

As we discussed earlier, shame that stems from particular events can often be handled on a case-by-case basis. However, what many depressed men have to deal with is continuous, maintained shame. The healing process for such a deeply-ingrained emotion is certainly gradual.

Are you currently treating a client who exhibits these sources of shame? Would it be beneficial to talk about these with him?

One way to overcome internalized shame is to redefine your present relationships. Another way is to try to heal childhood scenes and the original cause of the shame. In the next few tracks, we'll look more closely at these methods of conquering shame and eventually conquering masculine depression. Specifically, in the next track we'll discuss the strategies of "Redefining Relationships" and the "Reparenting Technique."

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Dyer, K. F. W., Dorahy, M. J., Corry, M., Black, R., Matheson, L., Coles, H., Curran, D., Seager, L., & Middleton, W. (2017). Comparing shame in clinical and nonclinical populations: Preliminary findings. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 9(2), 173–180. 

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.

Reilly, E. D., Rochlen, A. B., & Awad, G. H. (2014). Men’s self-compassion and self-esteem: The moderating roles of shame and masculine norm adherence. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 15(1), 22–28. 

Sullivan, R., Green-Demers, I., & Lauzon, A. (2020). When do self-conscious emotions distress teenagers? Interrelations between dispositional shame and guilt, depressive and anxious symptoms, and life satisfaction. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 52(3), 210–219.

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. Advance online publication.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 3
What seven sources of shame? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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