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In this episode of Two Therapists Talking, we discuss the problem of being “too nice.”
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Two Therapists Talking: Shame vs. Guilt – In this episode of Two Therapists Talking, we discuss the difference between shame and guilt. If you have questions or a topic you’d like to hear us discuss write us at:
This is a great short video on the best thing you can do to reduce stress… one hint (it has to do with thoughts/perception) by Dr. Mike Evans.
Recently, I saw a short documentary about a group of teenage girls that were ostracized by their classmates. The documentarian followed a few girls, focusing on two sisters specifically, that were outcasts at school. They were accused of not showering, dressing poorly, being stupid, crazy, and trying to get attention for attention sake. It was hard to watch as this world unfolded. Sisters who were speaking out about feminism, abuse, and standing up for what they believed in found that classmate after classmate would scathingly reproach them. They were the butt of jokes and treated with complete disdain.
There were a few things that struck me when watching this 17 minute documentary from the late 1990s. First was that these girls were living in a time before the internet was all encompassing. They were writing zines to pass out to others about their ideas and considered themselves riot grrls (term for young feminists at the time). This doesn’t seem that out of place now, however in the late 1990s if you were displaying a strong view point that went against the norm there wasn’t a way to really connect with others outside of your area. You were stuck feeling alone and isolated. Hence, these girls only had a few others to relate to and more often than not, they were ridiculed without any place to connect with others that shared their views.
The second notion that came to mind was that these girls had been through a recent family divorce, molestation, and bullying. Therefore, when their classmates made claims about them having a rough family life and having problems, it was true. Yet, there is something so damaging about attacks of the other classmates. There appeared to be no compassion, understanding, or context. While, it is long know that teenagers are cruel to one another, I couldn’t help but wonder if they were to interview those same classmates if they would wish they had treated the “dirty girls”, as they were called, differently? As the years passed, would they cringe at the way they treated these girls as the video has now gone viral? Would they sit in their homes more than 15 years later watching this video and feel any remorse. Perhaps that is me just wishing that some form of kindness and that time provides more experience and compassion… but the idea kept me curious.
Finally, the main point that hit home, was that these girls were shamed for being who they wanted to be. Sure they had some really rough challenges which creates some justifiable anger. Yes, they were teenagers and expressing themselves from a limited scope due to their age and life experience. Yet when you hear them interviewed they are passionate, articulate, and authentic. I know I’m not alone in feeling that these girls never should have been treated this way. I realize that high school can be brutal but it is worth repeating … shaming someone if it be in adolescence or adulthood can have lasting effects. It can take years and years to rebuild when you have been made to feel less than.
Now the beautiful thing is… I bet these two sisters are doing just fine. I presume that their strength of self conviction has gotten them through those very excruciating times. They were different, odd, didn’t fit into social norms, and they were vocal about it. They pushed the boundaries and the insular nature of their school pushed back.
The take away here is, that if you are shamed for being different, you can make it through. There are others that share your experience, values, and want to connect. You are not alone and with the internet there is an ability to find others. You don’t have to live your life isolated being told that who you are is wrong.
From that acceptance, I would hope that if for some reason you have a moment to consider speaking negatively about someone, you would decide not to shame them. You are welcome to respectfully voice a differing of opinion but realize that shaming another person can often breakdown the foundation of another. If you are confused by this, just ask yourself if you would like someone to treat you in the same way, and let that be your guide.
I encourage you to watch the short documentary and decide for yourself what you think. Side note — the director mentions seeing the main girl interviewed appeared to do well and he hopes to do an update on their lives soon
My book review of Solution Building in Couples Therapy by Elliott Connie was released within the Journal of Sexual and Relationship Therapy. I discover various aspects of Solution Focused Therapy, how this model works, plays into therapy, and the results. Please feel free to read the review. You can read it at the Routledge site linked below or pick up your copy of the Journal of Sexual and Relationship Therapy.
Check out the newest discussion between Two Therapists Talking. This round we talk about if you can control your emotions or not?
Starting this month Madison has a new group dedicated to education and study of sex and sexuality. Sex Geekdom Madison. “Sex geek” or “sex nerd” is an identification used by many people in the sex-positive community to describe their unusual, academic, and/or voracious interest in sexual knowledge. There are Sex Geekdom groups in Melbourne, Sidney and Los Angeles. And now in Madison!
Sex Geekdom’s mission is to create community for sex geeks. The hope is to feel happier, more productive, and connected by regularly interacting with other people who are passionate about sexuality, sexual health, and making the world a more sex-positive place. This interest extends well beyond that which would simply improve one’s own sex life. While clearly this kind of scholarship would likely lead to better sex for the individual, sex geeks like to learn about sex for the sake of learning about sex.
Anyone that has an interest in sex and sexuality is invited to attend (18 years of age and older). The meetings are informal events where you can meet other like minded individuals for conversation and discussion. If you are interested in knowing more you can find the group on MeetUp.com.
It often can seem like there is no chance of anything changing at all. You are totally stuck in the depths of sadness and loneliness. These negative thought patterns can feel insurmountable. I often consider these feelings like trying to run through molasses. This is what it can feel like to be depressed. You want to move and change, you want to feel happy, you want to engage in your life but you just can’t get there. It is hard and it really can seem like nothing you do matters.
However, there is an ever so small truth that often gets left out of the depression equation. That is that change happens one small step at a time. When you go in thinking that nothing you do matters or can change your situation, that is where the error occurs. You are not in control of your feelings they come up naturally as a response. However YOU ARE IN CONTROL of your thought and actions. When you have a strong emotional response, you have the ability to not follow it with negative thoughts and/or actions. Because if you do, it increases the negative feelings that make you feel stuck.
Hence, the smallest change of how you react to your emotional responses has a great impact on how bad (or not) you continue to feel. Because you can control your thoughts and actions you have the opportunity to make a change in your pattern. It may seem small but think about what happens when you feel bad and then add on it terrible thoughts about yourself and even take actions that harm you. It all just feeds into the negative pattern and you are stuck in a bad cycle of self-hatred. Instead, when you have a negative emotional response to someone, you can stop and decide to not follow it down with a negative thought.
You are having a bad work day and feel pretty sad. A co-worker comes in and is short with you about some paperwork she can’t find. You might respond thinking thoughts like: I am such a bad person, I can’t even get the files she needs, what is wrong with me? And then you feel worse, continue to pile on more negative thoughts, not take any steps towards finding the files, and then go home and isolate. All of this making you feel even more depressed.
Instead you can STOP this pattern and try something different so you can break the cycle.
In response to the same situation you can consider other alternatives like: Wow it seems like she is really stressed out, she has a lot of pressure right now I can understand why she might need help finding the file. You then decide to go help her find the necessary files and begin to feel good that you were able to keep perspective, help out, and go home in turn possibly even invite a friend over to talk and have dinner.
It seems so small but that little change in thought leads to action, which turns into a new pattern that is positive and productive. So just when you think there is nothing to do and that you are stuck. Remember that you are in control of your thoughts and actions and that you can take a negative pattern and turn it around. That small step is what starts to move you from a negative into a positive direction.
I’m pleased to note that my review of the documentary Daddy & Papa was recently published in AASECT’s February 2013 issue of “Contemporary Sexuality”. This is the monthly publication of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). You can read my review of the work focused on gay men who are looking to become parents, on page 11, as well as the rest of the publication by clicking here.