Shame is triggered by hurt feelings

How do I improve my marital relationship?


Great improvements can be made to an intimate relationship by understanding what happens when positive emotions are disrupted. The disruption of positive emotion triggers a shame response, as do broken interpersonal connections.

Responses to the interruption of enjoyment or the loss of connection with another may involve attacking yourself (hurting oneself in an emotional or a physical way), attacking others (anger, domestic violence, aggressive responses), withdrawal (hiding your thoughts and feelings from others) and, avoidance (hiding your feelings from yourself).

Often we don’t recognize that hurt feelings are caused by the emotion of shame. Further, the activation of an emotion triggers memories of that same emotion, and thus if your partner hurts your feelings you will remember other times that occurred (and you may even be accused of bringing up the past”).

Throughout life and in every relationship we are bound to experience shame. How we deal with shame when we experience it, and the ways in which we respond to others who experience shame in relation to us, is critical to our ability to interact intimately. The ability of partners to discuss their relationship, the disruptions that occur, and to restore connection is the only real antidote to shame.

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© Copyright 2014 Mary LamiaPh.D., All rights Reserved.
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Dr. Mary Lamia is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who works with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens in her Marin County private practice. She is a professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. Extending psychological knowledge to the public has been her endeavor for thirty years. Dr. Lamia’s opinion has been sought in hundreds of television, radio, and print media interviews and discussions, and for nearly a decade she hosted a weekly call-in talk show, KidTalk with Dr. Mary, on Radio Disney stations. Her books include: Emotions! Making Sense of Your Feelings; Understanding Myself: A Kid’s Guide to Intense Emotions and Strong Feelings: and, The White Knight Syndrome: Rescuing Yourself From Your Need to Rescue Others.