Inner Critic and Inner Coach: Talk about how we all have an “inner critic” and an “inner coach.” Our inner critic makes us feel bad about ourselves, while our inner coach encourages us, even when we make mistakes. Help your client visualize their inner critic and what they say. For younger children, this might involve drawing pictures of their inner critic while you record what they report their inner critic says. Adolescents may benefit from making a list of common phrases their inner critic says to them. For older children and adolescents, differentiate between guilt messages from their inner critic (“I did a bad thing”) versus shame messages (“I am a bad kid”).
For many kids, the first step in reducing shame may just be to name these messages and bring them out into the open. Some children may be ready for the next step of creating/drawing an “inner coach” with encouraging, shame-reducing messages (“I can try again tomorrow,” “I did my best,” “It’s okay to make mistakes”).
Sample progress note: The focus of this session was… The therapist helped the Ct identify messages of internalized shame and self-criticism that they internalize, and assisted in reducing feelings of shame by helping the Ct name these messages in a trusted, safe environment. The therapist and Ct then worked to identify replacement messages for shame. Ct responded by (sharing, not wanting to share) examples of positive and negative self-talk.
Couples strategy of the week:
Reducing Shame While Exploring Sexuality: It’s not uncommon for couples to avoid bringing up ideas about new activities to explore within their sexual relationship, due to feelings of shame or worry. One way to find new sexual activities while reducing feelings of shame is to try an online sex questionnaire (e.g., We Should Try It!) that only displays sexual activities that you are both into trying.
Sample progress note: The focus of this session was… The therapist helped the couple process the results of an online sex questionnaire to help them improve their communication skills and sexual satisfaction within the relationship. The couple reported that the questionnaire was (helpful/uncomfortable/different), and they (were able to discuss/had difficulty discussing) their emotions and values related to sexuality in a constructive way.
Adult strategy of the week:
Shame Shields: According to Brene Brown (2019), there are three common ways that we disconnect from the pain of shame. These are called Shame Shields:
Moving Toward – people pleasing, trying to win people over, kissing up
Moving Against – fighting with others, getting defensive
Which Shame Shields do you gravitate toward? Who are you most likely to use Shame Shields with? Are there certain situations that prompt you to use Shame Shields?
Sample progress note: The focus of this session was… The therapist helped the client process their emotional and relational patterns through the framework of shame. The client (identified which Shame Shields they use, when they are likely to use them, and triggers for shame), and they reported that discussing shame was (challenging/helpful/validating).
Sample progress note: The focus of this session was… The therapist led a meditation activity (i.e., Letting Go of Shame Meditation). Ct. (engaged/did not engage in the activity), and they reported that the activity was (helpful/difficult/not helpful).
A Guided Meditation to Let Go of Shame
Take a comfortable meditation posture, eyes closed if comfortable. Begin by bringing attention to the body sitting. Attending to the base of the body as it makes contact with the surface you are resting on. Allowing the jaw to soften, shoulder blades sliding down the back and hands at rest in the lap or on your thighs.
Turn your attention to the sensations of breathing at the level of the belly. Attending to the in breath and the out breath, the rising and falling of the abdomen. Perhaps letting the breath move in and out of the body naturally, as best you can.
And now, gently bringing to mind an experience or memory, a time in which you felt shame. Maybe it was something you did or something that someone else said about you or to you. Whatever it is, turning toward this memory, experience, or situation gently, as best you can, checking in with what thoughts are present, what emotions, and what body sensations.
Without needing to change or fix anything, beginning to explore what is arising or what is here right now.If there are specific thoughts, as best you can experiencing them as sensations of the mind, as events that come and go.If there are emotions, naming or labeling them as they make themselves known. Saying to yourself shame is here or fear, anxiety or guilt, whatever it is and staying with these for a few moments.
And now, shifting your attention to any associated sensations in the body. Investigate these with friendly interest, getting curious about them, even if they’re unwanted or intense……really getting to know them if this is possible in this moment.
If the sensations are particularly intense or strong, saying to yourself, “this is a moment of difficulty. I can be with this, it’s already here.” If it is helpful breathing into the sensations, expanding on the in breath and softening on the out breath, staying with these sensations as long as they are capturing your attention.
If this is too difficult or feels overwhelming there is always the choice to return your attention to the breath at the belly or to open your eyes, letting go of this practice. Otherwise, continuing with this attention to the sensations in the body…
And now, returning to the sensations of breathing in the abdomen to the rising and falling of the belly with each breath, breathing in and breathing out…
And when you’re ready, bringing attention to the entire body, to any and all sensations, resting here in a more spacious awareness if this is available…
Then gently with this shameful experience in the background now, asking yourself:Can I let this be as it is? (It’s already here, after all.) Can I let it go? (It’s already happened.) Does it need addressing? Do I have to take an action? If so, what? Can I shift my attitude, bringing a different perspective to this experience? And then gently opening the eyes if they have been closed and letting go of this practice.
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