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  • CANCELLED! Defenses Against Shame and How to Work with Them

CANCELLED! Defenses Against Shame and How to Work with Them

  • Saturday, October 29, 2022
  • 9:00 AM - 12:15 PM


Presented by Joseph Burgo, PhD

includes 3 CEUs for LMFTs, LPCCs, LEPs and/or LCSWs

The de-stigmatization of mental health disorders in recent decades has been a positive development, allowing people who might otherwise feel too ashamed of their depression, for example, to seek professional help; on the other hand, our age is characterized by an anti-shame zeitgeist where the trend is to make shame an enemy, to see it as a uniformly malignant force imposed from without. Toxic shame (John Bradshaw) and the kind of social shame described by Brené Brown exemplify this view.

In this presentation, I’ll begin by introducing audience members to the concept of shame as a family of emotions that are part of our everyday emotional experience, all sharing a “painful awareness of self.” I’ll provide easily recognized examples from our daily lives and also illustrate the positive influence of healthy shame in childhood development. I’ll then describe a concept that is central to my work – core shame: the felt awareness that one has been damaged by one’s early life, often experienced as being ugly, deformed, or defective. Core shame is usually unconscious, and I’ll describe the ways clients might bring it into therapy through dreams and other material.

I’ll then describe the three common strategies for defending against unconscious shame, linking them to familiar psychological disorders such as social anxiety, narcissism, and masochism. I’ll offer clinical examples and describe ways to approach unconscious shame in clinical practice. In the final section, I’ll discuss how gender transition may offer, for some people, an idealized escape route from core shame.

The goal of this presentation is for participants to recognize shame as a family of emotions that are part of everyday life, and to understand the importance of healthy shame in developing authentic price. Participants will also learn to identify common psychological defenses against more profound types of shame, often unconscious, and how to work with them in clinical practice.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this presentation, attendees will be able to:

  • Understand the three common coping strategies for defending against shame.
  • Recognize the role of unconscious shame in common psychological disorders.
  • Learn how to address unconscious shame in clinical practice and thereby help clients to build authentic pride.

About the Presenter

Joseph Burgo holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is a graduate psychoanalyst who has been in private practice for 45 years. His articles and commentary have appeared in major publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and many major online publications; he’s regularly quoted in the media as an expert on narcissism and other mental health issues. In addition to his personal blog After Psychotherapy and his blog on the topic of Shame for Psychology Today, he has published three books in the realm of popular psychology: Why Do I Do That? The Narcissist You Know and, most recently, Building Self Esteem: How Learning from Shame Helps Us to Grow. 


  • Intro – Welcome
  • Current perspectives on shame in popular culture; shame vs. guilt
  • The Shame Family of Emotions
  • The positive role of shame in child rearing; learning from shame and the development of authentic pride
  • Introduction to the concept of core shame with case material.
  • Three Defensive Strategies: avoiding, denying, and controlling shame
  • Avoiding shame and anxiety disorders (clinical illustrations)
  • Denying shame and narcissistic behaviors (clinical illustrations)
  • Controlling shame in masochism and self-hatred (clinical illustrations)
  • The concept of narcissistic flight into an idealized false self as applied to gender transition, including video interviews with young men and women who have de-transitioned.
  • Closing and questions


SCV-CAMFT is a CAMFT-approved Continuing Education Provider (CEPA 052466). This course meets the qualifications of 3 continuing education credit for LMFTs, LPCCs, LEPs and/or LCSWs. SCV-CAMFT maintains responsibility for this program/course and its content.

Event Policy Information

SCV-CAMFT               P.O. Box 60814, Palo Alto, CA 94306               mail@scv-camft.org             408-721-2010

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