Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in Edinburgh

This page is in preparation. The plan is to indicate some of the situations and conflicts that some may be struggling with. First though, think of this: find a way through in psychoanalytical psychotherapy.

As part of keeping this site alive (for me and for seekers like me), I am at present following up two subjects I find it impossible to ignore.

One of these is Shame
The other is Despair

At present I want only to try and understand these conditions and not jump to offering solutions, which is not in my power anyway.


As a hint to the issue and nature of shame, and its relation to guilt I'm inclined to quote a short passage from a powerful novel
‘Why must we live with our face perpetually turned towards some scene of shame. I noted down at the time [... ] all I read on the slips are my own observations [...] “That (in my childhood and hence ever since) everything that signified myself was always a sin whereas it was always a virtue if I acted in such a way as to deny and kill myself...”’ (Imre Kertesz, Kaddish for an Unborn Child p. 94f).

In this passage he makes a connection between shame and terror.


With despair the lie is given to the expression 'Hope springs eternal', but what that despair is rooted in may (or may not) defy understanding. Let it not be treated as a closed book. I think John Williams' novel Stoner sheds light on the subject or, should I say, plumbs the depths.

One thought is that despair may be a futile longing for a lost self (think of the meaning of the expression 'lost soul'). The mystery then is how come the loss of the will to be our true selves. This has been suggested to be the fear of freedom. This implies a shadow of cruel disapproval or neglect where being accepted hinges on doing what is expected of us by those who are afraid of being themselves. How far back in our history have the seeds of such despair been planted!

Despair signals the end of exploring who we really are.

So one approach to such a daunting task of being our true selves is to be able to gauge the consequences of opposing a dictator.

In both these states there appears a paradox:
In the case of shame, it surely is not absent when we are unashamed!

When it comes to despair the seeming incongruity is: in aspiring to reclaim my true self I espouse my false self. It is not the Herculean task of clearing out the Augean stables in a couple of days.


Some thoughts on the False Self

I might call the false self the subservient or submissive self even as and when it adopts a bitter or ferocious aspect. As defensive I might think of it as the pretend self. How close is it then in consciousness to the true self?

The false self does not supplant the true self, but reveals itself in various ways--by sulking, depression, rebellion, mockery. It mutters. Look how the despairing one may throw up his or her eyes (as though looking into his head) while acquiescing to a recalcitrant dissimulating bully.

The false self arouses extra carefulness in others who are aware of its suffering yet may feel contempt for the indulgence... and may in effect side with the bully.

The reactions of the falsified self are sign of having lost touch with its true emotional life. The language of dreams can point to this.

The need to love lies dormant as does the sorrow of loss.

    The false self is stuck between the child's unbearable loneliness of being outside of a perceived relationship between father and mother and the sense of discord and a forbidding sense of the poisonous implacable anger in the parents deriving from the grief and hate of the (little) lonely one who from the beginning has been unable to face the rites of passage in the parents' accompanying presence towards his or her maturity. *

At the root of the false self is a deadness, even though it be covered with laughter that mocks a submerged pain.

Donald Winnicott exposed this dynamic in his 1935 paper Manic Defence*


I am trying to think what the distinction is between ashamed and shamed. Ashamed as in I'm ashamed of myself (which of course could be a confession= I will try not to do it again. But to be ashamed of myself sounds very much like something between me and myself which can be thought to be a different matter from guilt which entails someone else suffering from my shameful act or behaviour.

So what about shamed that entails another person who has shamed me either by finding me out or blaming me for something they don't want to know about themselves. This might be what is going on in the statement, I'm ashamed of you! another form of You should be ashamed of yourself. An elder may say that to a child for not doing what he's told as if to say, the child is devoid of a natural way of discovering what is right for themselves, that is, not by being shamed, but rather understood which is far more likely to foster integrity . But going much deeper...

I grew up with two grandmothers close by one grandmother each lived just round the corner and their houses were back to back. One used the shaming approach to which I reacted with dislike, guilt and rebellion. It was she I saw most of. My other grandmother sensed my shamed behaviour that was making me unhappy and spent time with me. It was just that, despite my recalcitrant pig-headedness, gave me the immeasurable sense of being loved.

If we say that shame is between me and myself I seem to be implying that I am standing in the way of my aspirations I was born with. In a very primal way we hate when our natural needs are thwarted and can disappear in a sulk that is hard to get out of. It is that hatred that seeks vengeance and displays an unrewarding rebellion that shames us and stands firmly in the way of a capacity to love. We then may turn to substitutes to sooth ourselves and, instead of our instincts flourishing, we become addicts. This semi-conscious sense of being out of touch with our true selves may lead to despair.


While talking with someone plagued with not really knowing what he wanted from life, and tending to avoid opportunities as they arose on a pretext of ‘What’s the use!’ since small steps seemed futile—with the help of a dream recounted in a fairly flat tone of voice I became acutely aware of a thinly disguised apathetic state akin to despair which put me back in touch with an old sense of despair from the past. Knowing the family background to be strictly and punitively fundamentalist, it occurred to me that such a preference for the after-life is a gospel of suicide since to be alive is to desire. And last night’s terrorist attack clinched that idea for me.
This is a very different thing from facing the unknown. That I would call exploring and has to do with a keen appetite. But this cannot easily be embarked upon without an inner sense of being accompanied.
Written following the Westminster Bridge slaughter in March 2017


A very dear friend of mine said something to me that opened many doors. What she said was this:
I don’t recall what I said about shame but I often see it as the link between two poles of extreme feelings, that are swinging around the denial of shame or the feelings of shame. It’s the most difficult feeling, but, as I believe I have told you, when I finally surrendered and sunk into an all encompassing feeling of shame I experienced being loved in the deepest and most complete way possible.


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