In Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), shame attacking exercises are used to inoculate a client from embarrassment associated with social mishaps by repeatedly subjecting the individual to exposure of a feared stimulus so that the person grows accustomed to the experience of shame.
Because REBT focuses on one’s assumptions about a situation, and not the situation itself that is misunderstood as the cause of embarrassment, shame attacking challenges irrational beliefs which result in low frustration tolerance (LFT)—the perception of a person’s inability to endure distressing events.
Recently, I took a trip to my hometown and didn’t remember to cover my bald head when exposed to sunshine. At some point, I realized that I messed up.
After prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, my head transitioned from feeling hot to going numb altogether. Not the first time this has happened, as I’ve previously sustained significant burns on my head, my dome began oozing thick yellow puss the day after sun exposure.
I thought to myself, “I’ve been down this road before and I should’ve known better than to go outdoors without a hat.” However, I quickly disputed my self-disturbing belief and practiced unconditional self-acceptance, because I’m a fallible human being who makes mistakes.
The damage was done and there was no use in beating myself up over a mishap. Still, I had a social event scheduled for the day after receiving what I now understand to have been sun poisoning.
Not understanding the full ramifications of my judgement, I decided to wear a hat the next day. Apparently, this trapped heat within my head. Flying home after the event, I again wore a hat and disallowed my head the ability to cool.
Once home, I realized the error of my ways. My head became so swollen with liquid that the sides of my scalp bulged outward.
Once again, an irrational belief made its way into my conscious mind. I thought, “I look awful and can’t stand to be seen like this!” If LFT had a mantra it would be, “I can’t stand it.”
Neither my awfulizing nor LFT narratives served me well. Had I remained convinced that I couldn’t be seen by others, I would have been unable to attend previously scheduled client sessions.
Therefore, I pushed through the discomfort by challenging myself to a shame attacking exercise. Was it true that I couldn’t stand to be seen? Of course not!
At the onset of our sessions, I notified each client of my fallibility and this allowed an opportunity for me to confront my unproductive LFT narrative. All the same, the following day presented with its own unique challenges.
As I slept, moisture within my cranium accumulated around my forehead and eyes. Though it may appear as though the previous photo was edited, I assure the read that it wasn’t.
Again, an irrational belief manifested as I thought, “I look hideous! There’s no way I’m going to attend sessions today!” Noteworthy, my appearance wasn’t what led to shame.
Rather, my unfavorable narrative was the component that caused an unhealthy consequence in my avoidance-seeking plan. Once again, I denounced the nonsense I told myself and presented before clients, as scheduled.
I didn’t die. I didn’t melt into a puddle of despair. No one laughed at me. Not a single person terminated a session and withdrew from the mental health treatment and life coaching services I provided.
Even if people would’ve outright mocked my appearance, I could have tolerated their behavior. Through the shame attacking exercises to which I subjected myself, I was able to build frustration tolerance by practicing unconditional acceptance.
Today, for the most part, the appearance of my face and head has returned to usual. More importantly, I’ve strengthened my resilience enough to post photos of my experience within the current blogpost.
What shame is there in making the mistake of not having worn a hat or by subsequently trapping heat in my head following sun poisoning? What shame is necessary with presenting before others when my appearance isn’t what I’d prefer it to be?
What shame exists when posting images of my mishap for the world to see? Shame? What shame?
Dear reader, if you experience irrational beliefs, LFT, and self-shame, you aren’t alone. Even I, an REBT practitioner and faulty individual, endure similar circumstances.
In the interest of hope, there is a method to deal with shame that isn’t particularly difficult to learn, though can be somewhat uncomfortable and challenging to employ. Would you like to know more about how to use shame attacking exercises to improve your quality of life?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
Health Essentials. (2022, March 15). What you should know about sun poisoning symptoms. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-you-have-sun-poisoning-4-less-known-facts/
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Hollings, D. (2023, June 12). Touching grass in the Texas panhandle. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/touching-grass-in-the-texas-panhandle
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