Don't miss Susan's Presentation at the

International IEDTA Conference

in Venice, Italy

Love is in the Air,  October 13-15, 2022


"It's never too late for love.”

   Shame sensitive skills applied to detachment and fragility

Is it possible to change entrenched patterns late in life? We will explore this question in the case of a neurosurgeon in his 80s who sought treatment after several unsatisfactory attempts to cure his chronic depression and anxiety. He had suffered weekly episodes of suicidal ideation for twenty-five years.

Therapists can fall victim to hopelessness just like those who seek our help, yet we will see that liberating the unconscious can mobilize healing forces at any age. The client had accumulated a crushing load of shame and guilt over many years of despising himself. In some instances, he harmed others. However, he unburdened himself during a remarkable process as he entrusted the therapist and himself with increasingly intimate details of his inner world and relationships.  

This presentation will demonstrate “shame sensitive” skills to avoid misattunement in working with detachment and fragility, repression, denial, projection, and acting out. As a sense of safety with the therapist grew, he became able to face profound shame and guilt related to sexual addiction, abandonment of his dying wife, cross-dressing, and pain inflicted on his children. In addition, unconscious memories surfaced that he had never discussed with anyone.

As therapy unfolded, the client owned his guilt and expressed deep remorse for the suffering he had caused his children and others. He experienced far greater closeness to his children after he initiated reparative conversations with them. He believed that greater self-awareness and acceptance made several life-altering changes possible. Within 4 months of therapy, the client reported significant satisfaction with his progress over anxiety and depression.