Psychological Self-Help

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51
interested. Indeed, nothing interested them very much. They seemed
mildly depressed. But there had been no losses, no big stresses. Yet,
one experience was common: loss of respect for their fathers. They
had once idolized their fathers, but now could not accept their fathers'
values. Middle-class materialism, money, and the country club weren't
for them. They felt lost, unsure of what they wanted, and a little bored
with it all. Thousands dropped out of school and traditional society
during the 1960's and early 70's. This condition has been called
"existential neurosis." Existential therapy aims to restore the person's
sense of freedom and responsibility for his/her choices now and in the
future. To do this, life must have meaning and purpose. (Note: the
dropping out stopped in 1973-74 when we had a recession causing
people to start worrying about making a living. The drop outs would be
45 to 50 years old now and have 20-year-old children.) 
Shame: feeling ashamed of yourself has to be depressing
A critical problem with several previous theories is that the origin
of the depression is not clear, i.e. where exactly does the helplessness,
the negative views, the irrational ideas, the faulty thinking, the self-
criticism, the low self-esteem, etc., come from? The shame theory can
not be faulted in this way; it identifies the origin as early childhood
experiences. Shame is feeling you are inadequate, inferior, lacking, not
good enough, "ashamed of myself." In contrast with fear which
involves external threats, shame is when we feel disappointed about
something inside us, our basic nature. Shame is an inner torment:
feeling cowardice, stupid, unloved, worthless, "a bad person." We hide
in shame, i.e. we "hang," turn, or cover our heads, we lower our eyes,
we isolate ourselves. (There is a related dimension--shyness or
bashfulness--but here we are dealing with self-loathing or feeling
ashamed of oneself.) 
The great concern with addictions in the last 15-20 years has
resulted in a new body of literature about the dysfunctional family,
toxic parents, the inner child, codependency, adult children of
alcoholics, support groups, etc. There are 100's of relevant books:
Kaufman (1989, 1992), Bradshaw (1988, 1989), and Beattie (1989). 
The origin of shame is usually assumed to be in our infancy or
childhood. Shaming is used for control by parents, by friends, by
society. Some of the most hurtful discipline consists of shaming
comments: "shame on you," "you embarrass me," "you really
disappoint me when...." We say insulting things to children that we
would never say to an adult: "stupid," "clumsy," "selfish," "sissy,"
"fatty," "it's all your fault," "you're terrible," "you're hateful," "stuck
up," etc. Many adults vividly remember the sting of these comments.
Siblings and peers are cruel: mocking, laughing at, teasing, calling
names, etc. Children are slapped and whipped, overpowered and
humiliated, their "will" broken. All of this may make a child feel
ashamed (depressed) of him/herself. 
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