How to deal with someone mired in shame

Mrs.Hinn asks: I’m in a very healthy and loving relationship, and I love my boyfriend more than anyone does. His childhood wasn’t as good as one would want it to be. He has faced tonnes of comparisons & embarrassments by his own family members. They have been straight out rude & ruthless towards him. Each time he talks about it, I listen & guarantee him that I’ll always have his back no matter what. I, myself, am a very short tempered person. I cannot identify the reason for my sadness sometimes & blast out on everybody for no reason. It has happened a couple of times with my boyfriend. He thinks it’s because of him, when it’s actually not. End of the day, he apologizes for no reason and complains about how much of a burden he is to his family and everyone else too. This just kindles my anger even more, his convos regarding this are sadly narcissistic & always end up about him. I really don’t know how to react, I get migraines at times, unable to withstand his self-absorption. Please help!

Hi Mrs.Hinn –


You are touching on something very profound that most people – most psychologists even! – don’t realize.


This is that Shame (the quality humans have of believing the worst about themselves, usually worthlessness, unlovability, etc.) is closely related to Narcissism (seeing all issues in life as about oneself).  Now sure, we usually picture Narcissism as bragging, believing oneself is perfect or better than anyone else.  But it’s only a slight jump from that to believing that oneself is the worst, and less than anyone else.  Both are really part of the same problem.


You’re also seeing the cause – it sounds like your boyfriend’s family really did a number on him.  See, when that happens to us dogs, we just get frightened and untrusting.  We don’t have the same sense-of-self you humans do, so we never interpret these bad acts as being because something’s wrong with us; we just start thinking everyone’s mean!


And of course, when you get angry at, or push away, a person who thinks they’re unworthy of love, they’ll just interpret that as proof that they’re right!  So what can you do?!


Well… it takes patience!


While I’m a huge fan of psychotherapy, and think it would be GREAT for your boyfriend to find a good therapist and start digging through this junk, there’s one big thing you can do too.  And that’s to consistently remind him that you exist.


What?!  What did I say?!


You see, you are the living proof that these mean voices in his head are wrong!  You see him, you know him, and you love him (And, for crying out loud, you don’t consider him “a burden” to you!).  So he can’t  be unlovable, he can’t  be unworthy.  Which means that whoever told him he was is WRONG!


But again, those beliefs are very ingrained into him.  So you’ll need to do this literally hundreds of times.  Telling him over and over “The only thing about you that’s a burden is your belief that you’re a burden!  I love you and want and need you.  And I’m a real person!”


This can work especially well if your boyfriend thinks the world of you.  How do I know this?  Well I know of a book where a man talks about how he had lots of Shame issues, and eventually had to acknowledge that his beliefs were wrong, because the being he loved and respected most thought he was just fantastic.


And that being was ME!  (Maybe your boyfriend would even like the book, if he’s a big dog-lover.  He can check it out at


But even with that, you’ll still need to patiently remind him, over and over again, of that simple fact: you love him, and therefore he’s not unlovable.  He doesn’t fail by comparison, because he’s your favorite person.  And he’s not worthless, because he’s worth a lot to you.


And bit by bit, you’ll rewire his brain.  I know it sounds amazing, and it is.  That’s the Power of Love you’ve heard tell about.


It’s what we dogs understand perfectly, and you humans are using brilliant science to discover!


All my best,


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