The hidden paradox of shame: It is everywhere but nowhere to be seen. A psychotherapeutic exploration into the manifestation of shame in the therapeutic relationship

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Daly, Celia
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Though often hidden, shame is a powerful and painful emotion that underlies many of the issues that clients bring to psychotherapy. The focus of this study is on the manifestation of shame in the therapeutic relationship. Through a qualitative investigation with seven experienced therapists the study sought to uncover how shame presents and impacts the therapist client dyad. Using a thematic analysis approach to the findings, themes of attachment, embodiment, and the unconscious enactment of shame in the transferential and countertransferential relationship were identified. The rich data illustrated the difficulty in working with shame when clients are often highly defended and shamed about their shame. Amongst the findings, the study identified the body both as a container and source of shame, the defences used in shame, and how the expression of shame differs for men and women. Through an awareness of the presence and manifestation of shame, there exists the possibility for therapists to open up a space for it to be brought in and normalised.