8. Sabotage Shame

Sophie a 25yrs old Eastern European woman emailed me over a period of weeks to start therapy. I would offer her a space: then she would cancel: disappear then recontact some time later. She asked to have the sessions on the phone. She started by talking about her friendship with a man she met at work: which she went on to sabotage. She wanted to know why.

She found herself at the pub on a Friday evening with a group of work colleagues including this man. The group was going well when the man asked her in front of the group whether she would want to go with him to his friend’s birthday party which other work colleagues were going to. She felt embarrassed, frightened, said no, excused herself to go to the toilet. And went home.

Over the weeks I learnt about Sophie’s abusive past: an alcoholic father, a depressed mother, and her escape to the UK from her family. Slowly she unpacked the sabotage. She came to the idea that for her to be in any relationship with a man is shameful. Her perception was that at work nobody knew about the friendship until it was exposed in front of her colleagues. To deal with the shame she sabotaged the friendship.

Sophie talked about the friendship with the man. In hindsight she recognised that the man felt very known to her. They spoke easily, & quickly together: which she thought in hindsight was over familiar. She was surprised that she didn’t see this at the time. A social transference.

Shame teaches to behave in social groups: to keep our darker sides in. So in perception if our vulnerabilities are exposed to others, judged negatively we are shamed. Early experiences can carry forward shame, which bursts out exposed to the social group.The possibility of shame was illustrated by Sophie’s reluctance to start the therapy, and the choice of no gaze on the phone.

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