Life In a Reality Shaped by Fearfulness, Disconnection, and Shame

If our childhood is emotionally wounding, survival systems are activated in both our minds and bodies. As a result, we live our lives from inside a reality which is different to the one we would have inhabited had we not been wounded. This parallel reality is embodied in the biological systems that mediate both our emotions and our perceptions of ourselves and other people.

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Catastrophic Shame and the Reorganization of Self

Some years ago I sat with other attending clinicians in the tiny, one-window office of Joan Turkus, then medical director of “The Center” at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, lamenting the density and intractability of shame in our chronically traumatized patients. The gist was, in essence, a plea: “How in the world can we make any headway with shame that seems more like solidified glue than a feeling?” And it wasn’t that our patients didn’t know about the hardened molasses …

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