One of the toughest parts of talking to people about sex is how often shame comes up. Shame is such a complicated thing because it is a part of all of us and yet as humans we inherently don’t want to go near it. As a therapist, this is a big challenge because I might need to hear about that part of someone to help them out of it and yet I never want to push someone further in to it. So what to do? Tread lightly and mostly importantly remind them that they are “worthy of love.” I love Brene Brown’s TED talk on shame because she clearly highlights that the way out of shame is vulnerability. I would also add that the way out of shame is to not feel alone with it. Brown has done a great deal of research on shame and vulnerability. She believes the main difference between those that carry around a lot of shame, and those that do not, is that the ones who embrace their vulnerability carry around a lot less. They can tolerate their imperfections and still feel lovable. They can tolerate uncertainty and not go in to despair.
So how do I help those that have a lot of shame and very little sense of deserving love and belonging? Slowly. I think it is an experience, if unfamiliar, that one has to learn to tolerate. The beauty of working with a couple is I can help facilitate more love right there in the room. If one is single, I can explore the ways in which that person can create having that experience in their lives. Not all of us are born into conditions that foster love and belonging; but all of us need it, and I think with some work all of us can have it.
Click here to watch Brene Brown’s TED talk.