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Unpacking Shame and On the Internet, Part 2 (New Section)

1 Aug 2019 6:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

A new section by Sheila Rubin, LMFT, RDT/BCT

Role Development

Role development p 396 In a chapter about Psychodrama by Antonia Garcia and Dale Richard Buchanan in Current Approaches in Drama Therapy by David Johnson and Renee Emunah, “Moreno believed that the self emerges from the roles we play. He postulated that when people learn a new role, they follow a particular pattern of role development. The arc of the learning curve begins with role taking and proceeds to role playing and role creating.” “Dysfunction occurs when a person has a lack of either social roles or pschodramatic roles and function is seen as having a balance of both.” First a person can’t imagine a certain role, so I tell them a story about someone who had that role. Then I may suggest a conversation that that person may have. P, 43- Moreno wrote that “In orer to develop functionally moreno believed that each of us must first be doubled as newborns.” So much of the work I do in the therapy session is about mirroring the client.(p. 43)

From my chapter “Self In Performance” I write:

“Each story in our lives is like a pebble splashing into the pond of our inner worlds and the water that ripples naturally outward. When there has been trauma, the stories that would naturally flow outward can get truncated, withheld, or lost.”

This list is from my chapter “Almost Magic…” I wrote a series of therapeutic processes to work with shame. This can happen over the internet as well, as I describe in the case that follows,

Working with shame

• Counter-shaming- Help the client experience a series of successes. Focus on strengths.

• Grounding

• Some personal sharing to join and show humanity, join in imperfection

• Provide psycho-education about shame

• Mindfulness or observing ego

• Use objects or symbols to externalize shame and process current shame

• Separate shame from other emotions- objects or scarves or pillows can provide symbols

• Use projective or embodied to explore where the shame came from

• Introduce a protector

• Find aesthetic distance for the client to work with the shame

• Using projective or expressive processes to work with the shame

• Find a person’s true voice

• Give back the shame to where it came from- giving the shame back

• Witness the powerful healing taking place

• Embody the new role the new voice- try a posture or movement

A teen aged client complained of feeling “a presence watching me sometimes”. As we worked, I wanted to understand about the presence she felt sometimes while undressing an also when she got home from school. I wondered if it was perhaps an externalized voice of her inner critic, so I asked general questions about how she felt at school, at home, and listened for something that said she might feel judged or criticized. I asked when she felt the presence most strongly. She felt it most strongly in school when even though she knew the answer, she felt shy to raise her hand because the other person would be thinking that she would give the wrong answer that maybe wasn’t smart. She had fears of letting herself down and letting down her family. Over time I would normalize her concerns by telling her some of the developmental jobs of this particular time in her life is about comparison and finding her way socially as well as academically. I shared briefly about my shyness in highschool and ways that I over came it. This helped to normalize what she was going through and model that it is possible to get through, I helped her begin to feel inside her body by grounding exercises and stomping her feet.

At some point she could feel inside her body near the end of the session and she began to feel lighter and more hopeful. The presence was on a trip and she was able to use coping skills to put her attention on other things. During one skpe session we used symbolic imagery symbols to represent the part of her that was afraid that if she showed up as her real self in school, and people still didn’t like her then, she would feel destroyed. The imagery to protect this tender part of herself that she was maybe protecting by listening to the presence. I had empathy for this part that needed protection.

A session I asked her to imagine a movie or play with similar characters, say a waitress and a customer. Let’s say the waitress made a mistake with the order. And in the first seen, let’s say the customer is a mom who used to work as a waitress. How would the girl who was a waitress feel- terrible, just terrible. And if the customer left a big tip then the girl would realize that she must have gone through the whole dinner remembering her mistake and thinking about it the whole time. I asked. Would she have compassion for the young waitress because she know how that is a hard job and just learning. Yes, she said, but you know, if she gave a big tip it is because she probably thought she is a looser. Wow, I said, pretty critical. And let’s change the seen, same seen, different movie. Let’s say it’s the same waitress and the customer is someone her same age. Let’s say he’s a guy this time, let’s say a cute guy. So how would the waitress feel if she made a mistake at his table? Even worse, she said. So much worse, because he’s someone she wants to impress. That would be horrible!!! She probably would just feel like she’s wrong for even thinking he was cute if she made a mistake. And what about the tip? What if he left a big tip? That would be the worst, she said. Why I asked? She sighed and said, if it was someone her own age and she made a mistake that would be horrible. Why, I asked. Because he would know how awful she really was. As we discussed feelings of being embarrassment getting more and less depending on the situation.

So is there something you could tell the waitress about each of those scenes? I said something about it being a new job and a high leaning process. I asked her what she would tell the waitress if she could, to reassure her? And I asked to replay the scene one more time and said if you could go back and change one thing after the mistake, what would it be? In the first scene she had the waitress tell the female customer how sorry she was, and that she was just learning this new waitress job. And imagine how she would respond? She might laugh in a kind way and say that she remembers that. How does it feel? She paused and said – not so bad when we talk about it. I had her go back into the other scene with the cute guy and she imagined telling him later that it was her first day so of course the job was new. She imagined the waitress then joking with the guy and both of them laughing! How does that feel? So much better, she said. So how does your body feel? Lighter…A little more space. Where is the space? She points to her chest.

As we unpack the scene in our talking she admits surprise at how easy it was to imagine the waitress talking about her mistake and saying what was happening for her instead of keeping it all inside! I asked about the feelings of embarrassment. Much less. She said she couldn’t wait to practice this next week.

I explained that we were working on several levels. One level was giving her tools to cope with the experience of the presence and the shyness. On another level we were working with symbols to understand the role that the presence has for her and other ways to relate to it. Another level we are working developmentally about what it is to be female in high school and all the issues of dating, finding her place with the other kids socially and intellectually. She began to understand that the presence was something she could gain more control over, by shifting her focus away from it by talking to family, friends, getting busy with schoolwork. Eventually she realized gained a different relationship to it and it bothered her less and less. As she became more comfortable with saying what was going on with her instead of hiding behind her shyness, friends started to reach out to her more and she didn’t feel as alone.

The power of somatic imagery helped. Role plays that we did over skype helped. The eye contact we had over skype helped her feel normal and part of her life journey.

She reported learning to begin to laugh at herself, something that had been very hard, in a way that was countershaming for herself and the other person. She reported that it took the pressure off of herself and the other person when in an uncomfortable moment. She said that sometimes she wasn’t worried what the other person was thinking anymore.

Along the way we found things to say in her new role of power taking her locus of control back , “ I’m commited, I’m ready, I’m in control” In sessions she would feel a calmness in her body and a relaxedness. That’s how I would track.

Imagination Activated via Drama Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapy

From our workshops and from an unpublished paper on “Healing Shame in the Imaginal

Realm” Bret Lyon, Ph.D., and I present that:

When a person gets stuck in shame, the most powerful way to get unstuck may be to activate his or her imagination. In the imaginal realm, logic and time are fluid and flexible. What actually happened can be explored and changed. What was stuck can be reexamined and shifted. Shaming situations from the past can be revisited, excavated through writing and expressive exercises, and thereby shifted.

There are ways to give back the shame to where it belongs—through drawing, writing, and imagining past shaming experiences and saying now what you wish you had said then. Structured writing and expressive processes can symbolically give back the shame. This is where to find resilience. This work can be done with extra care when the session is over the internet because the person can quietly slip into the shame vortex. I develop exercises to help them have something to hold on to during and after the session.”

Renee Emunah in her book Acting For Real (1992) writes about “Drama Therapy as the intentional and systematic use of drama and theater processes to achieve psychological growth and change” (p.3). Drama therapy can include play, role play, psychodrama, dramatic ritual, and psychotherapy. We are helping the client to develop an observing self, an inner director that can reflect on our life (p.32). “A dramatic enactment can include both reality and fantasy (p.27). Eva Leveton from A Clinician’s Guide to Psychodrama wrote about the therapist becoming the client’s double, and talking for the client as an emotional double or a counselor double, or an exaggerated double. Adam Blatner expounded that psychodrama offers a place for replaying scenes of the past, expressing feelings now that have not been expressed, and for opening new possibilities for the future. “Individuals are invited to engage more authentically in activities that increase their sense of being alive” (Blatner, 1988, p. 85).

Working with Counter-shaming Metaphors

There is much to be explored in this new world of online therapy. As I was writing this chapter I received an email and was invited to possibly set up some online groups for an eating disorder program. That would be an interesting population to work with online because when I work with them in person, many tended to dissociate. There is much to be discovered. There is much to be explored. There is much to be created. I am excited about being able to reach people who don’t live near me and do work online. I am excited about developing ways to work through shyness and awkwardness and shame that many clients present using combination of drama therapy, expressive arts and attachment work/psychotherapy.

Adam Blattner writes in Foundations of Psychodrama, p. 79

Activity in Psychotherapy

Blatner writes “The process of psychotherapy should not be thought of as a passive treatment in the sense of the medical model typified by receiving penicillin shots for pneumonia. Rather, it is a form of experiential learning, requiring a significant degree of courage and active partipation on the part of the patient” As a way to move beyond the typical tendency to lapse into passivity he suggested including elements of imagination, emotion, plysical, movement, and cognition and including play in therapy sessions. P.79


Blatner writes about the value of metaphore in psychotherapy (p.155)

Surplus Reality

Blatner writes in Foundations of Psychodrama. That one can enact not only scenes that involve real events in a person’s life, but also scenes that have never happened. The scenes can represent hopes and fears or other psychological concerns.(p178)

Homework I often suggest after online sessions dealing with shame: Draw or write in your journal, play music that is soothing or exciting, move dance, meditate, get it all out to writing and writing, and then close the book! Now begin your life!


Sheila Rubin, LMFT, RDT/BCT is a leading authority on Healing Shame. She co-created the Healing Shame Lyon-Rubin therapy method and has delivered talks, presentations and

workshops across the country and around the world at conferences from Canada to Romania for over 20 years. Sheila is a registered drama therapist and a board certified trainer through NADTA, adjunct faculty at John F. Kennedy University’s Somatic Psychology Department. She is an alumnus and has taught for California Institute of Integral Studies’ Drama Therapy Program.

Her expertise, teaching and writing contributions have been featured in numerous publications, including six books. Sheila is a president emeritus of San Francisco CAMFT and the Northern

California chapter of NADTA. For more information on Healing Shame workshops, certification and private therapist consultations visit or She

integrates somatic, expressive and attachment modalities in her work with couples, families, and children who have shame and trauma. Her private practice is in San Francisco and Berkeley, CA. Sheila has trained with attachment theorists Diana Fosha and Sue Johnson, and Hakomi somatic pioneer Ron Kurtz.

Sheila and her husband, Bret Lyon, have created and co-lead "Healing Shame Workshops” for therapists in Berkeley, CA and throughout the U.S. and Canada. Sheila has written about her work in several publications. She authored the chapter "Women, Food and Feelings" in The Creative Therapies and Eating Disorders, edited by Stephanie Brooke, addressing her work incorporating drama therapy modalities into a hospital-based eating disorders program she developed. She wrote the chapter “Myth, Mask and Movement: Ritual Theater in a Community Setting” in Ritual Theater, edited by Claire Schrader. She authored a chapter on “Self-Revelatory Performance” in Interactive and Improvisational Drama; Varieties of Applied Theatre and Performance, edited by Adam Blatner. And she wrote the chapters “Almost Magic: Working with the Shame that Underlies Depression” in The Use of the Creative Therapies in Treating

Depression, edited by Charles Meyers and Stephanie Brooke, and “Embodied Life-Stories: Directing Self-Revelatory Performance to Transform Shame” in The Self in Performance, edited by Susana Pendzik, Renée Emunah and David Read Johnson, to be published in 2016.

Sheila can be reached at and


Amadeo, J. (2001) The Authentic Heart; An Eightfold Path to Midlife Love,Canada, John Wiley and Sons

Blatner, A. (1988). Foundations of psychodrama: History, theory, and practice. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.

Emunah, R. (1994). Acting for real: Drama therapy process, technique, and performance. New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel.

Fosha, D. (2000). The transforming power of affect: A model for accelerated change. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Garcia, A. and Buchanan, R. (2009) Psychodrama in Johnson, D and Emunah, R. (2009), Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas Publishers.

Graham, Linda. (2013). Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-being. Novato, Ca.: New World Library.

Hughes, D. A. (2007). Attachment-focused family therapy. New York, NY: Norton & Company.

Johnson, S. (2005). Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors; Strengthening Attachment Bonds, NY, NY. The Guilford Press.

Kaufman, G. (1974). On shame, identity and the dynamic of change. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, New Orleans,

LA. Retrieved from

Kaufman, G. (1992). Shame: The power of caring (3rd ed.). Rochester, NY: Schenkman


Nathanson, D. L. (1992). Shame and pride; Affect, sex, and the birth of the self. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

Rubin, S. (2007) Self revelatory performance in Intercalative and Improvisational

Drama; Varieties of applied theatre and performance, ed. Blatner, A. Universe

Schore, Allen N. Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: the Neurobiology of

Emotional Development. 1994 New Jersey, Laqrence Eribaum Assoc. Publishers.

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