shame as a defense mechanism
the role of shame in drug and alcohol addiction
exploring the shadows of the psyche counseling for shame and grief in sonoma county
Gudrun Zomerland, MFT, CCPS
Licensed Marriage
and Family Therapist
MFC #27617
405 Chinn Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Email Gudrun

Client Resources:

addiction self-tests Addiction Self Tests
sonoma county area addiction support groups 12-Step Fellowship Links
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Articles by
Gudrun Zomerland:

Addiction and

shame as a defense mechanism Shame as Self-Care
internet pornography addiction The Dangers of
Internet Porn
teen drug alcohol addiction Non-Violent Communication and its Relevance for Codependents
teen drug alcohol additction Teen Addiction:
An Open Letter
prescription drug abuse Prescription Drug Abuse
windsor alcohol and chemical dependency treatment The Core of Co-Dependency
santa rosa counselor for depression and anxiety Co-Dependent Characteristics
childhood trauma and post traumatic stress support H.A.L.T.: A Self-Care Tool
family and couples counseling in sonoma county The Family Member in Denial


treatment for trauma from domestic violence and spousal abuse Non-Violent Communication and its Relevance for Codependents
attachment disorders in adult relationships Attachment in Adult Relationships
healthy communication skills in adult relationships and marriage Getting to Know Your Emotions
sonoma county marriage counselor Communication Skills for Couples - 101
treatment options for alcoholism and drug addiction in marin county Differentiation, or What Makes Relationships Work
santa rosa psychotherapist treating depression and anxiety John Gottman's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

General Topics:

narcissism Rapunzel, Daughter of a
Closet Narcissist
psychotherapy for trauma Trauma: The Shaking Of A Soul
shame as a defense mechanism Shame as Self-Care
narcissistic parents and conarcissistic children Narcissism and Co-Narcissism
counseling for sexual abuse trauma in northern california Sexual Abuse Guidelines
rohnert park PTSD post traumatic stress disorder therapy Book Review:
"Stop Gaining Weight"
The Body Never Lies by Alice Miller and Hidden in Plain Sight by Barry Grosskopf Is Forgiving Our Parents Necessary for Mental Health?
overcoming fear and phobia through psychotherapy Fear of Fear
counseling for gay and lesbian couples in sonoma and marin county Living with the Light and Dark Sides of Life




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Shame as Self-Care

Gudrun Zomerland, MFT

The implication of this title is an odd and seemingly unbridgeable contradiction. I recently heard the phrase at a professional workshop given by a Jungian analyst. I don't know who originated it; otherwise I would gladly attribute it to the owner. I say "gladly", because the phrase has given me plenty to think about.

Shame as Self-Defense:

I had already started an article on shame before I went to the workshop. I was very well aware that shame sets in during childhood as a defense against parents who are failing us but whom we have to continue to look up to for our survival. If they think we are bad, we must be. If they think their needs are more important than ours, then they must be. If they let us know through their behavior that we are unimportant, we must be. If our physical and/or sexual boundaries are violated, it must mean that we are not worthy of having them. In that way we can keep our parents as the omnipotent beings we need when young.

Other causes of shame are less generational and more social in nature. If our family was exposed to disaster, poverty, war or other hardships and was left alone with these struggles without help from the rest of society or the world, we internalize messages that are similar to the ones above. We must not be worthy; we must be unimportant.

Shame is a Form of Fear:

At the core of shame is the fear that we are fundamentally not OK, that God (if we believe in God) made a mistake and left us wanting, that others seem to be able to cope with life but we can not. It is the sense that something is wrong with us, that we should not have particular feelings or thoughts. We are sure that other people would loath us if they really knew our inner world or some of the things we have done in life.

Shame and Consequent Coping Mechanisms:

As we grow into teenage years, shame leads to numerous coping mechanisms. We may identify with our parents and lead similar lives. We may become more successful than they are in order to hopefully make them proud and finally gain the approval we have been missing. Or we may rebel and make contrary choices in an attempt to distance ourselves from the poison we inherited. In all scenarios we most likely will employ some strategy that helps us numb the effects of shame.

If you have been around AA for a time you may have heard the saying that "alcohol saved me from suicide". Shame is so devastating to our soul that we try to avoid this demon at all costs. Any addiction will do. Any preoccupation helps. Busyness is a welcome relief.

Of course, these strategies, born out of the desire to survive, just continue to pile up more shame and therefore increase the need for more numbing. They ultimately hasten the death of our soul if not our actual body.

Taking the Shame out of Shame:

If we want to survive we must stop the run-away train of numbing at some point and face the demon shame. We have to realize that this demon was conceived as a helper, a crooked little angel that enabled us to survive. And here is where the phrase I heard at the workshop mentioned above really made sense. We developed shame as a way of caring for ourselves! At the time when we invented this way of self-care we were too young to have the resources to move away from our parents or from a world without support.

However, as adults we can move away from any generational dysfunction we inherited and we can get support in the world. When we do, we find that we can finally move into the realm this crooked little angel protected us from: GRIEF!

If we had known how devastating our lives really were we might not have gotten up out of bed, we might have folded, we might have given up, and we might not be. Wouldn't it be great if we who carry shame could come together and celebrate our shame thoughts, honor them for what they did for us, really delve into them, bring them out of the shadow of our psyche, compare them, and laugh about them? We could and can celebrate our innate human creativity that will do absolutely anything to survive. What a blessing.

The pain underneath shame is pure, unadulterated, and totally understandable. Yes, grieving hurts. Yes, it might be a bumpy road at times, but it is a road worth traveling.

Please give me a call if you need support on your journey of recovery or if you have questions: 707-575-8468.

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