Over the years of being a psychotherapist and running a practice, I've been no stranger to shame. There have been plenty of times when I've put myself out there in a new way and the inevitable and natural vulnerability didn't feel courageous, instead it devolved into a shame spiral. There have been sessions that have gone horribly awry, clients who chose to not work with me, and scheduling snafus that kicked up shame. In the early years of my practice, I had a good deal of shame about how I was handling (or more accurately, not handling) money.
Being in the therapist's chair does not make us immune to shame. Not by a long shot.
One of the best antidotes to shame I've yet to come across is the practice of self-compassion.
Practicing self-compassion is not the same as dealing with the reasons the session went poorly, or how the mix-up happened or dealing with the root of the money issues. But it is an important first step.
Why? Because when you are stuck in shame you are not really open to learning.
Self-compassion is basically being a kind and caring friend to yourself. I know a man who melted his wife's heart when, after she made a very upsetting mistake and was having a lot of self-judgment, he said in the most loving tone, "well you're just a human after all". This gets at a key aspect of self-compassion- recognizing your shared humanity. We all suffer. We all screw up. We all deserve compassion.
Below are a few of my favorite resources for self-compassion practices.
10 minute guided meditation by Tara Brach
Kristin Neff explains the three components of self-compassion
If you want to take it further, check out Neff's book on the subject:
Remember, whatever blunder you make as a therapist or as a business owner, someone else has probably done it too...and survived. We're just human beings, after all, needing care and acceptance, even when we've screwed up.
With great compassion,
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