Feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness: From the viewpoint of a psychotherapy group of psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists

Neri, C. (2012), Feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness: From the viewpoint of a psychotherapy group of psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists, European Journal of Psychotherapy Counselling & Health, 14 (2), 189-200.  ISSN: 1364-2537


This article is an account of the work the author did with a psychotherapy group which lasted over 20 years. The participants were psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists, and educational staff who were working in various sectors of the Italian National Health Services. The group was ‘slow open’ therefore, when someone was ready to leave, others were able to join. The group’s life came to include five generations of participants. Over and over again, the participants found themselves engaged in mainly two kinds of problems: feelings of guilt and, shame and unworthiness. Both of these were partially related to choices of profession and the difficulties of working in the public service. They were able to deal quite successfully with the feelings of guilt and the related moods of depression. On the other hand, alleviating the sense of shame and unworthiness was more difficult. The author succeeded with all but three participants. In those three cases – which are presented in the article – the childhood feelings of shame and unworthiness had produced extreme socio-syntonic defenses (defenses which are very well attuned to the current social values). Those defenses had helped and kept on helping the three patients a great deal in forcing their way through life and their work places; they felt they had the right to behave this way. However successful those defenses were, they prevented those patients from having a complete and satisfactory affective life, rooted in the belief that they have a right to be loved simply because they exist.


About the Author

Claudio Neri

È membro ordinario con funzioni didattiche della Società Psicoanalitica Italiana (SPI) e della International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA). È membro di The International Association of Group Psychotherapy (IAGP), del London Institute of Group Analysis e del Group Analytic Society (GAS). È membro onorario della Confederazione delle Organizzazioni Italiane per la Ricerca Analitica sui Gruppi ( COIRAG) e della Associazione per la Ricerca sul Gruppo Omogeneo (ARGO). È membro del comitato scientifico del “Clínica y Análisis Grupal”. È membro del comitato di controllo del Master in “Psicoanalisi e Psicopatologia” dell'Università di Losanna. È direttore della collana Prospettive della ricerca psicoanalitica dell'editore Borla (Roma) e della rivista telematica Funzione Gamma dedicata alla psicoterapia di gruppo. É inoltre membro del comitato scientifico della Revue de Psychothérapie Psychanalytique de Groupe , del European Journal of Family and Couple Therapy , della Revista de Psicoànalisis de las Configuraciones Vinculares e di The European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling . È inoltre membro del comitato dei lettori della Rivista di Psicoanalisi. È membro del comitato dei lettori del “Segretariato europeo per le pubblicazioni scientifiche” (SEPS).