November 24, 2014
Shame and guilt are quite buzzy words across the criminal justice sector at the moment. They have been the feelings/emotions that a few inspiring and innovative practitioners have been focussing on in their work with clients to accept the presence of, to understand, come to terms with, and move on with their lives in the knowledge that they possess such emotions and that it’s ok to have them.
When I first read about the work that inspired the film ‘Starred Up’ I was instantly lit up and gripped with such a connection to the reality of the truth that sprang out from the work to me. When I went to view the film, there were a number of guys in the audience that had clearly, from their comments, served time at Her Majesty’s pleasure. This was both comforting for me and served in a sense to reinforce the authenticity of what the film portrayed.
Shame and guilt are emotions that many of the young people that are engaged in the criminal justice system are taught to ignore, deny feeling and look upon as negative, weak and a sign that the person admitting to feeling these is vulnerable and potentially a target for bullying, ‘taxing’ and violating in some way.
More and more I’m seeing young people present these emotions in 1-2-1 and group sessions. Although there is an increasing number that are managing to understand these emotions and the way in which they have impacted their lives up to this point [when they realise they exist for them and acquire resources to cope with them] for every one young person that admits to feeling them and learns to cope with their shame and guilt, there are so many more that don’t. They live with these emotions being completely oblivious to them and therefore entirely at the mercy of the effect of these emotions on their thoughts, feelings[that they do recognise] and behaviours. This sometimes result in them incurring injury, harming others and ending up in contact with the criminal justice system for anything from minor to very serious offences. Underneath these behaviours are the feelings and beliefs of not being worthy, competing with others and low self-esteem – these alone can cause a myriad of negative outcomes.