This episode is the third in a series of podcasts that I have been recording on the subject of shame. I think it’s a really important area of investigation because, as the neurologist Stephen Porges points out, the strong emotions that human beings contain drive our actions, our thoughts, our behaviors, and our decision-making. There was a huge shift in the classic notion of mind over matter when, around the turn of the last century, there was an emphasis on investigating how emotions influence human beings’ behaviors. 


What I’d like to focus on today, since I’ve previously gone into the elements of shame and what it looks like, is to give some insights from my clinical practice on how shame can be addressed. I’m reminded in thinking about this of the late Jaak Panksepp, who wrote a seminal book called The Archaeology of Mind. Jaak was once quoted as saying that he could not develop any pharmaceutical solutions for depression and other forms of mental illness that could replicate human connection. He could never synthetically create a solution that is as powerful as the way that another human being can affect you. Of course, he was referring to that in the positive sense as in the comfort and solace and soothing that we receive when things go well in human interactions. 


That is a segue to basically articulate that what inevitably helps soothe views of self that are based in shame, such as I am not deserving of affection, comfort, love, or validation, in simple terms is the opposite. If a human being can allow in a view of themselves that can temper or begin to shift some of these hard and deeply established negative views of self, that can start to create change. 


Now of course, if it was that easy to simply hear that we are different than what we believe, then we would just have a very quick mechanism to fix some of these more intransigent emotional states. So obviously, it’s not as simple as just hearing this. 


In this episode, I open up with you and give you some insight into what this looks like in my office. Often this happens in couples therapy because we can leverage the affection and desire that someone has for the other to get into some of these more difficult emotional places that people guard. The process in individual therapy is somewhat different. There needs to be a very strong alliance. The relationship that a therapist has to their patient or client obviously has different psychodynamics and emotional reverberations than a couple.


I hope you enjoy some of my musings around the landscape of healing from shame and injuries. Don’t be disheartened if, when you make the decision to heal or find yourself exposed, you start to feel different (either softer or you have anxiety for the first time in your life) because you’ve been working so hard to keep these things at bay. Unfortunately, as is the case, we must go through. There’s no real way to circumvent or shortcut the strong emotions that one has been keeping hidden.

Show Highlights:

  • Why safe containers and “good enough parenting” are so important.
  • What the dragons of shame are.
  • The fear of humiliation and shame that drives many successful people.
  • What leads to midlife crises.
  • Why we build veils around our personalities.
  • How unrepresented emotion shows up in our body.
  • Different examples of what healing can look like.
  • Why relationships should go through challenging times.
  • Why healing needs to start with validating and having empathy with ourselves. 

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Mitchell Smolkin is a sought-after clinician, speaker, and author. For media and interview requests please contact his publicist Randy Phipps at For all other inquiries, please send mail to


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