Shame , The S Word

By Bennie Naude

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Shame is something that is not talked about much in our society in the true sense of the word.  We use language like ‘Shame on you’ when someone does something ‘bad’ and e.g. in South Africa ‘Ag shame’ is meant as ‘Poor you’, as in pitying someone.

Seemingly a taboo subject in many ways, I hope that this article will help shine some light on what shame is, where it comes from, how to identify it and most importantly, effective ways of healing it.
If you’re wondering if shame can be healed then, quoting Leo Buscaglia totally out of context, ‘Yes you can!’

Whether you work with people that experience shame or you are working through your own, the main purpose of this article is to convey the message that with appropriate awareness and skill and using energy psychology techniques, even toxic shame can be lifted to allow people to freely express themselves and their creativity.
How do I know?  Because I’ve done it and I’ve helped clients to do it.  Everything I present in this document is based on my own experience except where indicated otherwise.  Shame has played a significant part in my life thus far and despite having shifted metaphorical tons of it, it is something that I remain passionate and vigilant about as it still trips me up and shuts me down from time to time.


Shame is a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.  Not that most of us need a dictionary definition to remind us of the unmistakable experience of shame!

Let’s start by differentiating between shame and guilt:  guilt is a feeling we get when we think that we did something bad, whereas shame is a feeling we get that we simply are bad; that is, before we’ve even said or done anything we just are bad; inherently bad to the core.  Fact of life.  Fait accomplis.  Just the way it is and nothing to be done about it.

Have you ever wondered how it possible that fairly intelligent people, even those with ample proof that they are loved and liked, even those who are successful and with a true sense of passion and purpose in life, even people that must know deep down that they are inherently good people, can drop into shame and shut down in an instant - with a single thought or memory, or a word or a look from someone else?

How can shame, ranked by numerous models as a ‘low energy’ feeling, stop mature and emotionally literate people dead in their tracks and shut their creativity and self-expression down in the blink of an eye?

John Bradshaw writes in Healing the Shame that Binds You ‘I used to drink to solve the problems caused by drinking.  The more I drank to relieve my shame-based loneliness and hurt the more I felt ashamed.  Shame begets shame … I came to see that shame is one of the major destructive forces in human life.’

When I first read this book in 2007 it touched me deeply; it felt that finally someone understood my internal world and life experience - through the lens of shame. He articulated with one hundred percent accuracy the difficulties in my day-to-day activities that others seemed to perform with ease and comfort – like walking into a room full of people, going on a date or even asking a friend for a favour (all of which could be torture for shame based people.)
Bradshaw differentiates between healthy and toxic shame and suggests that healthy shame is there to keeps us humble, to remind us that we’re human and that we sometimes need help and to keep us open to learning (as opposed to arrogantly thinking that we should be able to do everything by ourselves and that we know it all).

He postulates that unless healthy shame gets processed or released it turns to toxic shame which becomes a self-perpetuating downwards shame spiral; see diagram on next page.

Drawing from my own experience I agree with Bradshaw that unhealthy thinking is the biggest causes of shame-bound spirals.  Unhealthy thinking causes shame, which causes more unhealthy thinking which causes more shame, and so on.  It is therefore also in the area of changing our thoughts that we find the most effective solutions to heal shame; more about that later.

It seems to me that Bradshaw suggests that the journey to heal shame is by default a painful and long one, and if my interpretation is correct in this regard I speculate that Emotional Freedom Techniques would change his views.

1.  Shame leads to distorted thinking – as distorted thinking keeps people shame bound (no-one could love me as I am)
2. …which begs for mood alteration to get away from the pain (acting out, addictions, rituals)
3. …which leads to consequences (health issues, relationships ending, losing job, run-ins with the law)
4. …which fuels more shame
5. …and on and on.

I think this book is essential reading for all practitioners for two reasons: 
• if you are someone who experiences severe shame I believe this book will provide valuable context for your life experience and a much deeper understanding of the shame dynamic; I believe that we absolutely have to continue clearing our own issues when we work with clients.
• it will help you get inside the heads and worlds of those who do and who may come to you for help and enable you to meet them where they are, in their model of the world.


The reason shame is a problem is because it kills; it kills relationships, spontaneity, creativity and it kills through suicides, depression and addictions.
It’s a problem because unless the cycle is broken it gets passed on from generation to generation.
It’s a problem because it’s all-pervasive yet often sublimely subtle.
It’s a problem because unless you deal with it, it will deal with you.


I believe that toxic shame as Bradshaw defines it results from (well-intended or not well intended) authority figures like parents, teachers, older siblings or the church that do not allow the child to express and reframe shaming experiences.  If a child is allowed to express shame (because they believe that the way they perceive, think, feel, imagine or desire is wrong) and they are helped to reframe the experience (e.g. a parent apologising for losing their temper and shouting at them or a teacher explaining that the child had misunderstood them and that they did not mean to suggest that the way the child thought was wrong) then the child has the opportunity to learn from the event and release the shame, and life goes on.

If however, during and after shameful experiences children are not assured and allowed to release and reframe the situation then they are likely to internalise those feelings where it often turns into toxic shame and severe self-limiting beliefs of the I’m bad variety.
[Side note:  I do not subscribe to theories that suggest we can shame someone or make someone angry, or sad; I find it more empowering to believe that people simply experience certain emotions when others act in a certain way.  When Person A does something, Person B may experience the event as funny, Person C may feel severe shame and Person D may feel sad;  it does seem accurate to me to suggest then that Person A made the other parties laugh, feel ashamed or sad respectively.  I choose therefore to stay clear from blaming and victim language and in this case would argue that Person B interpreted the event as funny, Person C as shaming and person D as sad.]

Bradshaw lists seven dysfunctional family rules and a host of other causes of shame with numerous practical, real life examples.  The one that stands for to me is one he labels the denial of five freedoms:  suggesting that the way children perceive, think, feel, desire or imagine is wrong will almost certainly lead to them taking on shame; if this is perpetuated over time it is likely to turn into toxic shame and they will almost inevitably start believing that they are bad.

Children who are abandoned or abused usually start believing that they somehow caused and/or deserved the abuse and that they do not deserve anything other than the abuse or abandonment; the painful memories also often becomes their only connection with their abuser and unconsciously they may not want to let it go because it would be disloyal to the abuser and/or they’d rather have some connection than no connection with the perpetrator.  
Unless they resolve this dynamic they will very likely carry this into adulthood and continue to re-enact the same program.

Cliff Barry, the founder of ShadowWork© (www.shadowwork.com) says that we are hotwired to love our parents; we really have no choice!   So the only way we can make sense of our own abuse or neglect as children is by justifying our parent’s actions in some way and blaming ourselves.


Clients don’t usually come to us saying “I’d like to work on shame”.  Instead they ask us to help them with the symptoms of shame without necessarily attributing those symptoms to shame as the cause.  These symptoms could literally be anything, ranging from being depressed, being unable to get ahead in their careers or nail biting.

Let’s take a look at some common road signs (or flags) that may point towards shame; remember that these presenting ‘issues’ may also be caused by something other than shame (although I’m beginning to think that the vast majority of presenting problems can be boiled down to shame, preventing self-acceptance).

• Bradshaw talks about striving for power and control and quotes Terry Kellogg as saying that he had always lived on-guard so that he’d not be caught off guard; power hungry clients or clients who are constantly fending off threats, rejections and failures, who have strong tendencies to want to control (including your sessions with them!) are often driven by shame.  Control equates to power and they need power to compensate for their lack of self-worth and to make sure that no-one finds out about their badness.
• Bradshaw also states that ‘rage is probably the most naturally occurring cover-up for shame’ and  it protects in two ways
o It keeps others (the world) away in an attempt to keep the shame based person safe
o It allows the shame based person to transfers shame to others, which brings (temporary) relief from the exhaustion of having to constantly hide their ‘badness’ from the world
• Addictions – drugs, sex, television, work (although this is often rewarded in our society), alchohol etc
• Clients who self-harm – often a very visible external manifestation of their self-loathing and punishing themselves for their badness
• Body/language:  usually unable to meet your eyes, limp handshake, tone of voice and general apologetic demeanour, acting like they are in the way, which is how shame based people feel; they’d even feel in the way of close friends and cannot access the possibility that anyone would want to spend time with them. 
• Deeply shamed based clients are often very intelligent; feeling shame has nothing to do with reason, logic, intelligence or willpower.  It’s also not something that someone can just snap (or reason) out of or get over.
• Perfectionism is often the presenting problem, as is procrastination (which is usually underpinned by perfectionism).
• Overachievers – the only way they can justify their existence is by DOING, and doing LOTS.  Even if it kills them.
• They are often rescuers – in addition to DOING, helping others also helps to justify their existence.
• They love telling their story (again and again) and often argue for their limitations, effectively trying to convince anyone who is willing to listen (that would include us as practitioners) how bad they are.
• The often have a sense of absolute identification with the worthless/non-deserving state; it is how they ARE, not a problem they have.
• They often talk in absolutes (NOBODY loves me, I ALWAYS get rejected).
• Arrogance – they often use arrogance and boasting to cover up their deep seated sense of unworthiness and shame.
• Paradoxical arrogance – they often believe that they are SO bad (it is, after all, who they ARE) that NO-ONE and NO-THING can help them.  This understandably often leads to hopelessness and despair.
• Their ‘core issue’ does not seem to shift or if it does it usually doesn’t last; one step forwards and it seems, two steps back.
It is crucial that we recognise these signs so that we don’t get hooked by them as practitioners, like start making it about us and starting to doubt ourselves or EFT.  We have to understand that some of these clients will find it very difficult to ask for what they want, disagree with us or correct us to help us to help them. 
As responsible practitioners we already have to be aware of the power differential we have with our clients and I believe that this is especially important with shame based clients.  Notwithstanding my earlier stated beliefs that no-one has the power to make anyone feel any particular way, we have to be very careful of how our actions and words impact our clients.



Although popular belief has it that we cannot love and support others unless we love and support ourselves, in my experience and from a shaming perspective this is simply not true; the only redemption for a person with toxic shame, the very thing that justifies their existence on the planet and the only way they can reasonably expect other to tolerate them is by offering service to others and to make other’s needs more important than their own.
One of the reasons this can become an obsession or compulsion is because it is so effective.  Helping others can take a shame based person out of themselves and away from their unhealthy thinking leaving them to feel good for a while.
The problem is that unless the underlying shame is addressed, it will always be there, waiting, whenever the person stops doing for others.


A large percentage of people have body shame and it’s not really all that surprising; the world seems obsessed with the perfect breast size or penis size and for some reason we don’t call some body parts by their true names.  We call a nose a nose and an ear an ear but we teach children that breasts are ‘boobies’ and a penis a ‘wee-wee’.  In Afrikaans the word for private parts translate directly as ‘shame’ or ‘shy’ parts. 
Body functions get the same treatment; it’s ok to see, and taste, and sweat, but urinating is a ‘number 1’ and bowel movements a ‘number 2’!

If children are (inadvertently) taught from a young ages that there is something shameful about their bodies (especially some body parts) and their bodily functions, are we really surprised that body shame is so rife in our society?
I was recently told that schools are now doing away with communal showers, as are gyms and health clubs, perpetuating our sense of body shame.
Many African tribes view fat women as gorgeous whereas in our Western culture it’s usually the opposite, meaning that the only thing standing between body shame and body acceptance are thoughts and opinions, which we all know can change.


Given that body shame is prevalent as it is it makes total sense for it to carry into shame about our sexual desires and performance, despite that it is the very act that assures the survival of our race! 
It also goes deeper - some gay or lesbian people experience shame simply because their sexual desires are different from the majority of the world. 


People who experience deep shame find it very difficult or impossible to ask for what they want and they will therefore find it difficult to even know what they want.  This can make life challenging for their partners or friends.

Shame based people may be unable to ask for minor things like the heat to be turned up when they’re cold, for a glass of water or even to borrow money to buy a cup of coffee - even from close friends.
And here’s an interesting double bind for people carrying toxic shame:  the possibility of actually getting what they want is often more stressful than being refused.  As an example:  someone who carries a lot of shame may have a tendency to withdraw and isolate (see next paragraph).  To ask a friend to meet up for a coffee takes enormous courage because if the friend actually agrees to meeting them if often triggers even more shame and here’s why:  since they believe that they are bad and they do not deserve love, companionship, compassion or care they’ll often believe that the friend only agreed to spend time with them because they feel obliged to and not because they really wanted to.

Yet again we can see how unhealthy thinking produces a dilemma:  
• do I ask for what I want knowing that if I get it I may end up feeling worse (by either getting what I want and feeling even more ashamed or by not getting what I want, proving that I’m bad/unlovable etc)
• do I not ask for what I want (reject myself before I get rejected) in the first place and remain longing for company and connection with others?


People who live in shame often believe that they do not deserve the company and companionship of others.  They may even think that they are inconveniencing you as their practitioner even though they are paying you for session time.
To compensate, they are often busy people with little or no time to socialise, or they use alcohol or drugs to help them relax their inhibitions (temporarily dislodge their shame) so that they can connect. 

This is often effective as a short term strategy but in the long run produces various problems and can actually end up inducing even more shame if e.g. they act out and behave in ‘shameful’ ways during periods of intoxication. 
Mostly, however, it simply fuels a deeper sense of loneliness fuelled by unhealthy thinking (I can’t connect unless I’m intoxicated, no-body wants to connect with the real me, I cannot have healthy relationships etc).


Shame based people find conflict especially hard as they usually believe that they are in the wrong even if they know that they are not; even if there is evidence that the other party acted inappropriately, they are much more inclined to blame (and shame) themselves.

This is compounded by their inability to step outside of themselves and be objective about their own wants and needs; they often fear that what they deem as appropriate (e.g. asking a small favour) will be judged by the world as totally inappropriate and result in conflict; as such they will often deny their own needs to avoid conflict with others.


I’ve had occasional one-session wonders with deep seated shame, especially when the bulk of the shame originates from specific incidents like a particular sexual abuse event.

But for the most I found that ‘just’ using EFT did not bring the results that most of us have started taking for granted.  Some clients either remained stuck or seemingly made progress only to fall back into old ways of thinking, feeling, being and doing – which yet again added to their shame.

It was my frustration and constant questioning ‘what have I overlooked to resolve this’ that led me to consider shame from an archetypal perspective.

I realized that for me, shame is mostly caused by unhealthy thinking.  As much as EFT does sometimes change our thinking, it does not always.  I started hearing myself say ‘The most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do was change the way I think’ and then one day after a conversation with my friend John Kurk and I studied the four quarter ShadowWork© model at http://shadowwork.com/model.html that some more pennies dropped.

SHADOWORK (www.shadowwork.com)

Cliff Barry developed a very powerful set of tools called ShadowWork© based on Carl Jung’s work. I did some ShadowWork training with Cliff a few years ago and also worked with currently the only two certified ShadowWork practitioners in the UK, John and Nicola Kurk.

One of the many things I find extremely valuable from ShadowWork©  is the 4-quarter model of Archetypes mentioned above.


ShadowWork is based on four archetypes (Lover, Warrior, Magician and Sovereign) and it suggests that we all have these parts within ourselves.  What I especially love about ShadowWork© is its utterly respectful and inclusive approach (all parts of us are essential parts of us and all parts are welcome) and that it not only presents a model for human thinking, feeling and being, but also that it offers effective tools for each quadrant (archetype).

It takes many years of dedication to become a ShadowWork© facilitator; what follows is simply a very high level overview of some of the many aspects of the archetypes:

Lover:  The Lover is the part of you that loves chocolate, red wine and sex on the beach; the part that feels and that’s in touch with your body.  This is the part that has no boundaries, only ever wants to say ‘yes‘ to everything, the part that gives you that extra hour in bed; this is where addictions usually live.  An inflated lover is overwhelmed with emotion whilst a deflated lover is stoic.  The gateway emotion* to the lover is sadness or grief.

Warrior: This is the part of you that does, that says ‘no’, protects your boundaries, gets on with the job even if you’re tired, feeds the children and yourself even when you’re hurt.  The deflated warrior is a victim, the inflated warrior a savage or bully.  The gateway emotion* to the warrior is anger.

Magician:  this is the part of you that thinks, is intelligent, can reason, detach and be objective. This is the part of you that facilitate, your shaman.  This is the cheeky and humorous part of you, the trickster, and the manipulator.  The deflated Magician is confused and the inflated Magician thinks they know it all.  The gateway emotion* to the Magician is fear. 

Sovereign:  This is the part of you that sees and blesses; the part of you with vision and purpose that deeply and truly knows what you need to be happy and fulfilled, that bless yourself and others; the archetype of true internal leadership.  The deflated Sovereign says that it’s too hard and the inflated Sovereign thinks it can do it all.  The gateway emotion* to the Sovereign is joy.

*Gateway emotion:  This does not mean that you have to experience that feeling all the time to access the given archetype.  It does mean that the way towards a more balanced archetype is by working through that feeling, e.g. to have access to a more balanced Lover archetype you have to working through your unresolved grief, to have access to a more balanced Warrior archetype you have to working through your unresolved anger.



Cliff also found that every archetype has a shaming message and that the shaming message of the Magician is “I am bad”.  This caught my attention because if the message of the magician was the message of shame (I am bad), then maybe the strengths and tools of the magician was also the way out of shame. 

Shame based people remind me of the anorexic:  standing in front of a mirror with barely enough flesh on their bones to survive yet they still see a fat person – driving the compulsion to lose more weight.  I believe that deep shame is at least as dangerous is any other life threatening disease or condition and maybe even more so because we often do not recognize how the shame dynamic contracts their worlds around them until it seems that there is no way out.
The magician is about using our objectivity, our intelligence and our ability to detach.  Here are some ways to use these qualities in the EFT and healing realms.



The shame based person cannot be objective about who they are; they cannot reason with their shame based thoughts from a place of shame just like someone cannot easily get out of quicksand without resources outside the quicksand.

The reason for this is simple:  one of the functions of the unconscious mind is to delete, distort and generalize; basically the unconscious mind will only pass on information to them consistent with their limiting view of themselves.  Read more here about how deletion, distortion and generalization:

Since their shame-reality is as real to them as your reality to your, we need to pull them out of their shame-world, a world they totally identify with, to bring perspective and healing.  Sometimes this happens by default when we use standard EFT, and here are additional ways to help:

NOTE:  These notes are intended for practitioners already familiar with EFT; it is not intended as a training manual and you are strongly encouraged to find professional help if you experience deep shame or are not familiar with these techniques.


Basic EFT rounds go ‘Even though I feel this shame I love and accept myself anyway…’

Our challenge as practitioners is to pull our shamed based clients out of themselves to create perspective:
• Dissociate them; ask them to imagine themselves on a screen behind you, on a wall over there or on a TV or cinema screen; let them imagine they have a remote control so they can turn it off at any time.  If the presenting shame is about something that happened when they were younger, get them to imagine the younger version of them on the screen.
• Do tapping on the person on the screen as if they were someone else and creatively alternate through 1st, 2nd and 3rd person tapping
o Even though he feels ashamed about xyz I love and accept him anyway… / I’d like him to love and accept himself anyway
o Even though [person’s first name] feels ashamed about xyz I love and accept him/her anyway / I’d like him/her to accept himself anyway
o After a few rounds ask them how the picture changes; sometimes even the events change
o I often ask them to look at the person on the screen and ask questions like
 What do you think they’re thinking now?
 How do you think they feel now?
 Zoom in and look into their eyes – what do you see?
 …and tap anything that’s getting in the way of healing.

o If they say that their younger self in the picture still feels angry, ashamed etc but that they (as their present, adult selves) feel ok and accepting of the event this is progress AND it points to something that still needs to be cleared; it often helps to associate them now (i.e. to get them to step into the younger self in the picture) and tap from that perspective.

Clients sometimes initially resist doing this as ‘tapping can’t change the past’ and I may move on during the session, make a note of it and either come back to it later or give it to them as homework; it ain’t done until their younger self in the picture sings!

o Once the suds come down from a dissociated perspective (them looking at themselves in a picture), gently probe the SUD level from an associated perspective (them being in the picture).  Keep them dissociated while the SUDS are still high and only associate them once they come down and continue with the basic ‘Even though I…’
• Ask them to imagine someone they care about or respect (dead or alive, real or imaginary) on the screen
o Ask them to imagine that person having just gone through the same shameful experience as them and/or to imagine that that person feels about themselves the same way the client feels about themselves (ashamed).  This will (often unconsciously) bring a radically new perspective/reframe (see point about compassion below.)
o Do some tapping for the other person in 2nd and 3rd person;  (even though they… and even though [first name])
o After a few rounds ask them how the picture changes and work with what shows up.
o Clients usually have a whole lot more compassion for the other person; point this out as it engages the mind (thinking, magician) to start reshaping their experience; expect huge grief at this point as they (sometimes for the first time) acknowledge their pain from the event as well a
o Once SUDS come down and compassion/forgiveness/love rises, associate them in the picture and/or do an integration visualization where they embrace and re-unite with the younger part of themselves in a loving way.


Lovingly challenge their language when they talk in absolutes (I ALWAYS fail, NOBODY loves me, I will NEVER get over this) by asking curiously ‘Really?  NOBODY loves you?’ or ‘How do you know that you will NEVER get over this?’
The more you do this the more you help them to consider the other side of the coin and to strengthen their neural pathways to think differently.  Absolute thinking ALWAYS () causes pain and if what we focus on expands (it does) then this is a sure way to create suffering for ourselves.


When clients are adamant that they can tell the future (usually that bad things will happen e.g. I WILL end up hurt, they WILL reject me, this WONT work) use humour during the tapping, e.g. ‘Even though I can tell the future…and I’ve never been wrong … ever ever ever ever in my life …  the truth is …. I don’t even know what my next thought is going to be … (think about it…)…so what if I’m wrong … what if this could change…I’ve been wrong before … and even though I’d rather be right than happy … I’d love to be wrong on this one...’


When clients tell long stories, get comfortable with interrupting them with volition and on purpose.  I often explain to new clients that EFT is unlike other therapy and ask them if it’s ok if I did everything I could to make sure they got the best out of our time together.  Then I explain that means that sometimes I’ll interrupt them and ask them if that’s ok.   They always say ‘yes’!

I think this is especially important with clients who have a history of not shifting ‘stuff’; if they’ve been to 23 therapists over 20 years and still have the same stuff then I’m not in the business of becoming therapist number 24 who can’t not help them.  I believe that I have a responsibility to do what I can to shift them and sometimes, in my experience, that involves interrupting them.

Interrupt them consciously and with intention:
• to tell them to start tapping (or that you will be tapping on them) while they tell the story
• if the story seems like a lot of detail without much emotion this may be their way to protect themselves from going there – especially true for shame based clients! - and you’ll do them a service by bringing them out of it
• as an intervention (provocative EFT) – get their energy levels up – more about this later
if you have ‘stuff’ about interrupting clients on purpose and with intention, clear it – you won’t serve them by letting them tell you the same story week after week that they’ve been telling themselves and others for years.


Whenever you sense that you’re getting close to a place of shame with your client:
• make sure to tell/remind them that they don’t have to tell you anything personal or private
• be very observant of their bodies and eyes and keep reminding them to ‘stay with me’ if you sense they’re disappearing down the rabbit hole of shame, pull them out of the event and back to the here and now
• if you’re not sure where your client is, ask them, ‘What are you thinking, how do you feel, where are you now, who are you, how old are you now etc.’


I credit Bandler with this one, it’s an NLP technique with a twist and I always have them tap while we do it.

Once they’ve got the movie (as per EFT), make sure that they have a place of safety before and after the movie, i.e. an actual memory of a time and place before and after the movie that they felt happy, or safe. 

While tapping, get them to play the movie backwards and forwards in different ways
• always let them start and end in a place of safety
• change modalities
o play it forwards faster and faster
o play it backwards in black & white
o play it forwards without sound
o play it backwards while you make funny noises
o alternate between then watching the movie and them looking at themselves looking at the movie
o use your own creativity here
• add the Bandler twist!  Get them to cut the movie up in shorter pieces and then get them to play it back in the wrong sequence.
And again… let them tap through all of this.
This technique has always helped my clients to totally or significantly reduce the hold of any past event.  [I just realized that I’ve never tried this on future events that clients may be anxious about…worth a tryl.]


Byron gifted us with one of the most phenomenal and profound processes I’ve ever come across.   Look her up on YouTube or her site www.thework.com.
I sometimes do The Four Questions with my clients and tap at every stage or sometimes just ask Byron’s all powerful question … IS IT TRUE?
I highly recommend getting familiar with this technique.


Lester Levinson, the founder of The Sedona Method asked himself once ‘When have I ever truly been happy?’  At first he thought that it was times that he was loved but then he realized that it was actually the times that he was loving that he was the happiest of all.  [This has nothing to do with shame but I love his insight.]

I find The Sedona Method fascinating and powerful in my personal life (a big thanks to my friend Gemma Keany from http://www.sedona-norway.no).  It releases shame effectively because it works with the mind, intellect and reason (magician realm) and often brings about profound objectivity (magician realm) and peace beyond mind.  And yes, I combine tapping with the method.

A very powerful tool in the magician quarter!  We are being told that healing is painful and takes a long time; I often say (with laughter) that healing is a serious business.  And it is … but then so is the power of laughter.
Allow laughter and humour to surface, use it respectfully, gently and laughingly to lead your client to a different perspective about themselves, about life and about possibility.  Anchor in these new insights and understandings and lighter way of being by tapping it in.

Point out with sensitivity where they are irrational, how they judge themselves so differently than they judge others, how they apply double standards, lie to themselves, insist on telling the future and expecting the worst from the future with statements like:

• ‘Even though no-one with my problem have EVER EVER EVER changed …’
• ‘…I’m definitely the worst/ugliest/fattest out of all the 7 billion people on the planet’
• ‘Even though other people deserve love and companionship I am so special that I don’t!’
If you have stuff around allowing humour in your sessions, tap on it.  Seriously.


A friend, Peter Shaw, once said something that I instinctively knew to be true – that the antidote for shame is dignity. 
Provocative techniques sometimes help clients to get into a higher energy (e.g. anger) and outside of themselves enough that they can provide the dignity to their shamed self that they cannot do from within the place of shame.

E.g. if a client is a lawyer, construct a court case where you are prosecuting his shamed self and they have to defend the same part.  Have them dissociate rather than associate, i.e. let them be the lawyer for a client rather than defending themselves.  Build a case using every bit of evidence you can remember from what they’ve told you (or make stuff up!) about why the client ‘should’ feel ashamed of themselves.  Put some energy into it, stand up, raise your voice, get angry – PROVOKE!  Absolutely have them tapping at this time.

If they interrupt you to defend their client (themselves!) – great!  If they get angry at you – great!  If they vent and rage – great! The more they can step into the energy of protecting and wanting to bring dignity to their ‘client’ the better;  you’re helping them to open up new neural pathways, to think differently (about themselves) and to get a different perspective.  Let them tap all the time.
If they cannot get into it, get them to pick someone they love and respect (e.g. a child).

Once the anger is vented and the ‘client’ defended, expect them to drop down into stillness and more acceptance; allow some space for that too and point out gently that they really were defending themselves (You know that was really you, don’t you?) – you may find them much more compassionate, forgiving and understanding of themselves now – ready to continue tapping into something new.  Also expect gushing tears at this point as they realize how hard they’d been on themselves.
For those not familiar with provocative techniques:  rapport and trust between client and practitioner is crucial or the technique could backfire and actually enforce the client’s desperation and shame spiral. 


Most shame based people have lost their sense of innocence.  
A quick intervention – mini-process, if you want – is to ask them to picture a baby … tap tap tap … ask them what they see … tap tap tap .. .ask them if they’re open to the possibility that all babies are born in innocence…tap tap tap … if they are then point out that must be true for them too…tap tap tap… and continue with the rest of the session.


Courtesy of Robert Smith (FasterEFT) -ask someone to imagine a  big tree.  Ask them ‘What would happen to the tree if you pulled it out by its roots?’  When they reply ‘It would die’ you just continue with the session as if that conversation never happened, allowing the unconscious minds to make all the necessary connections with the story and mainly, that no matter how deeply rooted a problem is, when you pull it out by the roots it dies!

I sometimes ask clients to adopt the TAT pose and have a conversation with the part of them that feels ashamed (especially if there was a specific event that caused the shame) or with a perpetrator.
This often brings up a lot of emotion and healing as well as EFT aspects to tap on.


When the client articulates their shame as a particular limiting belief (or decision) like I am not good enough, I sometimes use a particular NLP & Hypnosis visualization that allows them to

• visit the specific event where they took on this decision or belief (even if they don’t consciously know the contents of the event) to allow them to get the positive learnings from the event
• anchor those learnings
• go back to the time before they ever believed that thought
• splash forward in time the positive learnings – through their past, into their present and into their future
• …whilst tapping all the time.
There’s a lot more to this technique than these few paragraphs; I believe that NLP & Hypnosis training can help to make these types of processes more effective and like everything else, they require practice practice practice!


Forgiveness does not necessarily fall in the magician quarter but I find that it sometimes require magician skills (intellect, reason, objectivity) to help clients see that it is only in their best interest to forgive – others, God, the universe, themselves.
I often paraphrase Jack Kornfield’s definition of forgiveness as finally giving up all hope for a better yesterday.  I respect client’s unwillingness to forgive AND point out (with compassion, respect and patience) that it’s ok not to forgive as long as they realize that that’s the very thing that keeps them stuck. Sometimes it also helps to point out (while tapping):

• The perpetrator is not even aware of them holding on to the (righteous) anger and blame.
• It’s hurting them more than anyone else (they’re the one carrying the resentment).
• It does not in fact change the past nor does it prevent something like that happening again.
• It does not equate to ‘letting someone off the hook’; we can still take appropriate action if required like reporting the matter to the authorities, drawing our boundaries or leaving a relationship.


As a new practitioner I did not want to test my work because I was afraid that it would prove that EFT didn’t work, mostly because I’d not applied it skillfully enough.

It’s imperative that we test our work, especially with shame as clients (like most of us) simply wants to get away from painful feelings and we can all pretend for a while that everything is ok; Robert Smith (FasterEFT) says thoughts and feelings buried alive don’t die.

One of the ways I like to test our work is by asking the client to imagine that something they reported as feeling shame about was splashed all over the front pages of the newspapers – and tap on all the remaining aspects that comes up.

Testing fulfills another crucial role.  Those familiar with NLP will know about our internal ‘convincer’.   Testing the work provides powerful proof to the client that the technique has worked – convincing the convincer that it’s real will only help enforce the new learnings and understandings as clients (physically and metaphorically) reinvent themselves as they let go of the shame.


I love the power of language and find the following type statements very powerful to start loosening the iron grip of shame:

• Even though there is NO WAY this can ever change for me, and all the tapping in the world’s not going to make any difference and I’ve had this forever, I’d like to be open to the possibility that this could change… and then throw in some ‘what if it could change’ or ‘what if it was possible to change’ statements on the other points.
• Even though I hate myself I’d like to be able to like (or forgive, or love) myself
• Even though I’m a very bad person, rotten to the core and I can never forgive myself I’d like to able to forgive myself…


Chris Howard says that ‘Problems of imagination require solutions of imagination.’  Ask your clients (whilst tapping) to imagine what it would be like to be shame free – ask them to write about it before the next session and/or help them with a short visualization where they can step into that imaginary place of being shame free and ask them to describe it in detail – what do they see, hear, feel, think and do – while tapping.

This allows new neural pathways to form and allow for the possibility of change. If it’s true that what we focus on expands then starting to focus on what they want rather than what they have is a step in the right direction.


Sometimes tools from other quarters don’t work well with shame.  As example, one of the tools in the Sovereign quarter is blessing; with shame based people, blessing (complimenting or honouring them) often induces more shame as they simply cannot believe it to be true; since they know they are not what other people see (they are bad, remember?) they feel even worse that people are seemingly unable to see their ‘real’ bad selves.  ‘If only they knew how bad I really am…’ It is sometimes less stressful when they get rejected because even though it may hurt there is less inner tension as at least the other person’s behaviour (rejecting them) is consistent with their own inner beliefs and expectations.

As the shame gets released and the internal message shifts aspects from ‘I am bad’ to ‘I am not good enough’ (the shaming message in the Sovereign archetype) the client may respond better to tools from that quarter.


As always when we work with people rather than things, there are no hard and fast rules.  I love Gary Craig’s philosophy which I paraphrase as getting results is all that matters. 

If you’re currently able to help clients transform shame without even using the word, referring to the concept or using any of these suggestions – great.  If you have other tools, techniques and tips that get results please share them.  If you’ve tried everything else and your client is not moving ahead, consider the possibility that shame may be the glue that keeps them stuck, try some of these tools and see what happens; I’d love to hear back from you!


If you’re a practitioner then you know that the unexpected often happens:

• Clients sometimes get angry because when you challenge their thinking; they’re invested in it even though it is that very thinking that causes their pain.  Don’t expect them to always want to change it; meet them where they are and lead them somewhere more useful (as opposed to forcing them to change the way you want them to change).
• Things can get worse before they get better; starting to life the lid of shame may cause other stuff that’s been suppressed to come up; but then, you already know that!
• The specific presenting issue may not disappear quickly which could lead to you or them thinking that EFT didn’t work.  E.g. a client that presents procrastination; it may take a few sessions to clear up shame that happens to pop up during the sessions and the procrastination remains – because you’ve not tapped on it.


Shame is sublimely subtle yet profoundly powerful and left untreated it kills, metaphorically or physically.

Even though it often seems to the shame based person to be a lost cause or a hopeless case, I’ve never see a case where shame cannot be released.


John Bradshaw:  The Shame That Binds You
Practically Shameless: Alyce Barry
Gillette and Moore:  King, Warrior, Magician Lover by
ShadowWork©:  www.shadowwork.com
The Mankind Project:  www.mkp.org



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Author's Bio:

I was born and raised in South Africa and moved to the UK in 1996.  After a 20 year successful career in corporate IT traveling the world I decided to dedicate my life doing what I love – learning and teaching people how to become more of who they are really are.  Based in Surrey, I now specialise in helping people achieve their dreams, no matter what.
To this extent I designed two workshops Break Through the BS1 and 2 (affectionately known as BS1 and BS2) and offer EFT Level 1, 2 and 3 trainings.  I facilitate workshops internationally and offer private 1-2-1 sessions in person, on the phone and Skype incorporating EFT with a range of other skills.

Visit www.deepliving.com for client success stories, more information on upcoming workshop events and to register for my bi-weekly newsletter.
All my sessions, trainings and workshops come with a 100% money back guarantee; you either love it or you don’t pay!
For more information on the work I do and to receive your free 6 part email series The Four Pillars to Success email info@deepliving.com with ‘Four Pillars’ in the subject line.

I am a certified co-leader in The Mankind Project (see Resources at the end of this document) a not-for-profit organization that deliver high quality life leadership trainings for men called The New Warrior Training Adventure, often described as radical departure.




Kate Dale
Posted June 14, 2010 04:31 PM

Great article, with loads of useful information, references and ideas - thank you.


Posted June 15, 2010 06:25 PM

Hi Kate, thanks for your comment and glad you found it useful.

Happy tapping!


Rachel G.
Posted July 25, 2010 05:07 PM

great article, thank you so much for sharing. i paricularly like the provocative bit, and i'd love to know more about these archetypes.


Bennie Naude
Posted July 29, 2010 05:24 AM

HI Rachel

Thanks for your feedback and glad to hear you like it. The provocative work is really powerful when it's done well for sure!

Great reading on the archetypes is King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Moore and Gilette, or visit Cliff Barry's www.shadowwork.com - I love his model of the archetypes.

Best wishes


Posted September 03, 2010 07:05 PM

Thank you for this article. It opened my eyes about myself and issues that I am finally ready to work on. Your work is appreciated.


Bennie Naude
Posted September 10, 2010 06:53 AM

Hi Michelle, glad you enjoyed it (if that's a word for a topic like shame :-))

Best wishes


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