How shame kills positive change.

Build your relationships first….then your dentistry. ~ Bob Barkley

How shame kills positive change.

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Many of our patients come to us feeling inadequate, feeling less-than, feeling like they should have done more, feeling like they are in an un-recoverable situation, and therefore feeling ashamed.

Shame represents the most powerful of our negative emotions. So much so in fact, that it can shape our entire life and our daily behavior. Shame is so painful to experience that most of us will avoid it at all cost, and as a result, we will fail to learn that our shame is almost always based on a distorted perspective, and it therefore does not represent reality.

Most patients come to us with an expectation of being judged, and of therefore feeling flawed and inadequate. These feelings often trigger shame, and shame shuts down their ability to learn and make better decisions – values-based decisions, instead of fear-based decisions.

Shame is driven by memories, which are linked to powerful feelings – feelings which are quite painful. Most of these memories are held in the left hemisphere of the brain, and are stored there out of context, recalled, and then linked to new experiences. In other words, our new experiences trigger old feelings based on old memories. And these are unproductive feelings -feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Feelings which imply that the same negative things are going to happen over and over again, so why even try to change anything? Why not just surrender? What not just “have them all taken out”?

This is how the brain works, because the brain’s primary job is not to make us happy, rather it is to protect us so that we can live for another day. So, you can see here that often times the brain’s attempt to help us -hurts us, particularly when we need to be making significant, more health-centered course corrections in our life.

Helping others make complex decisions with regard to dentistry, therefore requires us to first and foremost move people past their current level of understanding and perception, and toward a vision of something new and better. And on a neuroscience level, this means moving them out of their left hemisphere where all of the negative emotions and memories are stored, and which are holding them back.

Bob Barkley designed CoDiscovery to do just that – to move people away from “deductive thinking,” to “inductive thinking.” And inductive thinking happens in the right hemisphere, and is narrative-driven…more specifically self-narrative driven.

What’s an inductive self-narrative? Today, we commonly call that a “vision.“ Bob liked to call it ”future focusing,” a term he learned from Ben Singer.

So, the game if you will, is to move people past their shame, past their distorted perceptions, past their incomplete version of reality and into a mindset which envisions something better – something they can co-create, something which is congruent with their values-driven self-narrative, and based on reality.

How to do that is exactly what we will be talking about at the next BBSC meeting in DC.

Paul A. Henny, DDS

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