Shame is present to a certain extent in most of our lives. It's an integral part of being human, of being social entities striving to belong to the group. If our behaviour steps outside of what we think the group wants us to think, see, or feel, then our automatic reaction is shame. In most cases, we learn from these experiences, talk about them with other people, and move on with our lives having learnt a lesson. But there are certain situations that cause shame to bury deep out of sight, affecting how we think about ourselves, and how we live in the world.
Communication is so important in a relationship, but for many, we have only the training we have received in our lives to guide us - and it's often wrong! Take empathy for example. We all know that it's the best way to listen, especially with a partner who needs us. But how is it done? And why is it so hard?
It's amazing how changing your perspective can completely change your world. We so often get stuck in the rut of the way we look at things that we stagnate, repeat the same mistakes, and gradually become more and more disillusioned. But just how do you set about changing your perspective?
"Coming out" is generally how the process of letting people know you are same-sex attracted has come to be known. This process - and indeed it is a process - is different for everybody. It's also something that all same-sex attracted people have in common, having gone through their own "coming out" process. People often find taking that step to be one of the scariest things they'll ever do. An alternate way is the concept of "inviting in." It's a version of coming out that is increasingly being seen as a way to tailor the process to make it more manageable, and to be less daunting.
A study by the Black Dog institute has identified the leading causes of suicide in males in Australia, and at the same time identified some key ways to become involved in the process to help short circuit it.
In 2013, intentional self harm ranked 10th overall in the causes of death for males in Australia, and is the leading cause of death for males aged between 15 and 44. That fact is made even more alarming by the low rate at which men seek help - mirroring the reluctance of men to seek help for depression, or to seek help from a trained professional.
What are the signs, and how can you help?
People often come to therapy feeling completely overwhelmed by depression and anxiety, by anger or disappointment, confused as to what to do next. People often only come because someone they love has given them an ultimatum - get help or else. The despair that comes into the therapy space is very real, as is the person's belief that they are simply a broken down loser, with no hope, and no right to be. What if you could be separated from that belief, could see that belief is a choice, and begin to build for yourself a different way to be?
Language is an extraordinary thing. It enables communication, the transmission of ideas, the teaching of skills and knowledge, and enables, some would argue, our ability to strive. Language is also the transmitter of prejudice and misunderstanding, the very things that perpetuate both pain and privilege. It's also the most powerful and useful tool for therapists. That's why I believe the inclusion of cisgender in the Oxford English Dictionary is such an important event.
Chris is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist at Engage Counselling, Sydney