Shame for the Person You Used to Be

W.R. Bion, a British psychoanalyst who worked with psychotic and schizophrenic patients, identified a difficult transition point in their treatment. As psychotic process gradually gave way to the reality principle — that is, as his clients became more sane — they would have to confront the pain of how ill they had been before. This involved facing guilt for the hurt inflicted upon other people around them and shame for the destructive ways they had behaved. Sometimes the guilt and shame were so unbearable that his clients would retreat into psychosis.

I’ve encountered a similar challenge in my long-term work with borderline clients. There comes a time when they realize how ill they’ve been and sometimes the shame they feel is unbearable. They will retreat for a time to borderline ways of relating, where relationships and self-image are highly unstable, shifting between ideals and devaluation. It takes many months and even years before they can learn to bear the shame for the person they used to be; only then can they move on and continue growing. I actually think that anyone with a serious mental illness who spends years in therapy and changes dramatically must deal with the same issue.

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The Father’s Gaze

Father Holding Infant 2002

I have a memory of my father from when I was about seven years old. Whether it is factually accurate, it is emotionally true.

My mother was in Texas at the time following the death of her mother. My other grandmother, my father’s mother, had come to stay with us because he didn’t cook, clean, or involve himself with the daily routines of his children. My father was a self-employed builder and worked long hours.

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Snow White at the Dwarf Colony

Now that the release of The Narcissist You Know is behind me, I’ve turned my attention back to fiction. I’m pleased to announce the release of a new work on the Kindle platform, a novella-length retelling of Snow White in the same psychological vein as my earlier Cinderella. Both novellas explore the themes I write about here on my website as well as in both of my non-fiction books: shame, narcissism, envy, the failure of empathy, etc. They’re both meant to be enjoyed primarily as works of fiction but they also go deeply into the felt experience of characters who struggle with those issues. I think fiction can often be more instructive than the most insightful work of non-fiction.

U.K. Edition of The Narcissist You Know

TNYK Cover

For readers in the United Kingdom and continental Europe who can’t purchase the Touchstone edition of The Narcissist You Know, I’ve brought out a different version under my New Rise Press imprint. This edition, identical to the one released by Pan Macmillan in Australia, can be purchased via by clicking on the links below. As always, Amazon reviews are greatly appreciated.

Print-on-Demand Edition

Kindle Edition