Tag Archives: relationships

Shame

Thank you for this post to a parent who wishes to remain anonymous.

“I will be back on Monday, you see, I just need a loan to get a van on the road” I happened to be a spectator as a man vented his rage . I gathered that he had been ordered to attend a basic skills course as part of the jumping hoops that goes hand in hand with claiming job seekers allowance.

At one time I would have just dismissed this man as bad tempered and full of pride. Today I recognise the primary driver of his rage as shame. In part of his diatribe he announced he was a time served painter and decorator, he had plenty of work just waiting for him.

Shame is the brother of guilt and the two are often confused. Put simply guilt tells us that we have done something bad whereas shame informs us that we are bad. Guilt can be a positive emotion, it regulates our behaviour. Shame tends to escalate behaviour, rage, irrationality, increase of mental health problems, even suicidal thoughts can all arise out of shame.

We are all guilty of using shame to control others, it increases our power and diminishes theirs. It is also a useful short cut when we are lacking time or stressed ourselves. It is wrong though. Shame eats away at pride, self esteem and dignity of the victim. It isolates and makes any chance of a fruitful relationship almost impossible.

So back to our decorator, the trainer was a woman in her thirties, he was certainly nearer sixty. Of the generation when a school leaver could finish school without any formal qualifications on a Friday and walk into an apprenticeship on a Monday. He  was now being faced with having his literacy and maths  assessed after years of employment, he would have felt humilated. It was not the trainer’s fault, but nevertheless he reacted out of shame.

The Care Crisis Review http://childprotectionresource.online/care-crisis-review/identified a culture of blame and shame within child protection. Shame is dishonouring, it tells a person that they are less than, not good enough, it shatters  self esteem and sets up a cycle of conflict.

It can be intentional, just as matter of unfortunate circumstances or it can be intentionally built into a system. I would suggest that  in some Government schemes such as benefit sanctions shame is embedded into system. I can also see that within the child protection system ,children can exhibit shame based behaviours after intervention and family members certainly do.

Certainly some shaming is deliberate, it is one of the prime tools of bullying, as it gives power . When used personally , it is also a sign of immaturity, small children use it to regulate each others behaviour. Shaming is also widely used in social media, probably more so than in “real life”.

Families often come into child protection because of problems of domestic violence, addiction or mental health impairments; all of which are to some extent shame based. Domestic violence certainly can be fuelled by shame, a perpetrators  need to control and shame their victim may arise out of their own feelings of inadequacy. The victim in turn, feels too ashamed to get help. Addiction and mental illness, which are often intertwined can often be traced back to childhood trauma, sometimes inter generational trauma, which is shame based.

Those of us who live with shame on a daily basis learn the shame game, we react rather than act. Interventions in our lives our perceived as personal threats whether they are or not and we defend ourselves, by shaming back and/ or avoidance.  In other words the classic fight or flight response. Parents aggressively  shame social workers and judges on social media and withdraw from working with professionals. There seems to be too much at stake as any intervention seems targeted at undermining the very person we perceive ourselves to be, making us feel small.

It’s ugly. What encourages me though it is certainly no more gross than the apartheid in South Africa which came peacefully to an end through reconciliation. To some extent , the regular contributors on this forum have demonstrated this willingness to listen and respect each others viewpoint and it has worked , we have found common ground despite our diverse backgrounds. We have said ” I hear you” , even if I don’t like what you do I will see you as a human being with something valuable to contribute to the debate. Not always, but for a very good percentage of the time.

As I  said, it happened in South Africa, it was not about forgiveness, though that sometimes was the outcome, it was about having space and safety to have the injured parties story told. If you think I have gone off on a tangent , I haven’t; people were imprisoned , killed and segregated for being non white. They were shamed for being born the wrong colour. As Helen Sparkles says parents are mainly sad not bad, they may have been brought up in care themselves or have a combination of the problems already mentioned. They can be shamed through the system, for a variety of reasons, some of which relate to lack of resources. I am not saying they are all victims , but some are. The power imbalance is enormous and shaming is related to power.

When working with parents displaying shame based behaviours, I would suggest trying to build them up rather than taking them apart. Assertion training is excellent and gives woman in particular options other than passive /aggressive behaviour.  She can then model these learned skills to her children. I am not being condescending, just writing from experience. When I was treated with respect by a social worker, I relaxed, he relaxed and we formed a working relationship. I do recognise that social workers themselves are often working in shame based environments, for instance is not disrespectful to expect them to hot desk, what does this actually say about what their employer thinks about them?

I would like all those involved in what ever capacity in the child protection system to consider the following:

  1. Become aware of how and why you shame people in your relationships.
  2. Notice your payback through shaming
  3. Work through the implications of the damage that occurs to others and yourself through shaming.
  4. If you do need to confront someone, try and accomplish this with respect.

This is a huge subject, I have in this blog post just tackled the tip of the iceberg. It is important as it is such a negative feeling, endemic on all sides in child protection and never leads to a positive outcome.

Response to Commentators #2

You are apologists for a multi billion pound industry

This is a response by Sarah Phillimore, a family law barrister

I confess that I did not think the post Establishing Good Relationships would provoke much by way of comment either good or bad. But ‘Outraged’ lived up to his or her name.

Outraged said:

This doesn’t mean that either the parent or the social worker has to be 100% well behaved 100% of the time; this probably isn’t possible.”
Twaddle…absolute twaddle…a social worker is supposed to be a “professional”, they have standards and codes of practice to adhere to, which includes the social worker being professional, not being “well behaved” completely contravenes that. In that instance any social worker who does not behave well 100% for 100% of the time is in contravention of their professional ethics. Hence they should be hauled in front of the HCPC “fitness to practice” hearing and if serious enough prosecuted for Misconduct or Misfeasance in Public Office. The fact that this is happening, Social workers ARE being struck off and being prosecuted undermines the whole toadying drivel written on this website.

The point of this post was NOT to suggest that we ought to expect social workers to behave badly to the point that they fail to adhere to professional standards and ethical codes. The point being made was that the social work/parent relationship is one between two humans, working in often stressful and difficult situations.

It is not difficult to see how both participants in that relationship might at times be guilty of failing to listen carefully or failing to respond authentically. What is important is that people can recognize when they are behaving in ways that don’t promote healthy working relationships and take active steps to improve the situation.

I accept that I probably need to change the wording of this post because if anyone is reading thinks we advocate anything less than professionalism from social workers, this is not our intent at all and I am sorry if my post was clumsily worded.

The simple point I was trying to make is that social workers are human too. And respect and good working relationships are a two way street. But of course if you think you have been badly treated or a social worker has acted unprofessionally you must complain and take action as this is not acceptable.

The issue of standards of professional conduct and proper routes of complaint is an important one and hopefully we will soon be able to provide more detailed information about this in another post. [Edit – this has now been done, see our post on making a complaint]

For now I will edit the Relationships post to reflect Outrage’s concern.

Anyone who thinks this site is ‘toadying drivel’ either hasn’t read it or has a very different definition of ‘toadying drivel’ than most.

 

This site should be taken down instantly, you are disinformation agents, there is a mass of evidence out there for the abuse of parents and children by the social services of this country, illegal actions by social workers, solicitors, the courts. There are no conspiracy theories here, the Social Services are stealing children, it is a multi-billion pound industry that cares little for child protection and is focused on profits.

Again, a comment that refers to the ‘mass of evidence out there’ but strangely, refers or links to none of it.  We would particularly like to see evidence that the child protection system is a ‘multi billion pound industry’ that is ‘focused on profits’. The evidence we have found – see our Mythbusters section – does not support this assertion.

 

What I feel is irrelevant, as clearly shown in your response, what would be interesting is for you to actually respond to the points raised…do you seriously believe it is ok for Social workers not to be “well-behaved” 100% of the time?

I think I have answered that point above. Of course professonals with professional training should reflect that in their behavior and dealings with others. But it is also important to recognize that social workers are still humans and if their clients are persistently rude or aggressive, then it may be that the social worker responds in a less than patient and calm manner

 

Do you deny that the Child protection fiction is a multi-billion pound industry?

I am not sure what is meant by this. Do I agree that vast sums of money are spent in investigating harm done to children? In trying to work to keep families together? To pay for experts and foster care and lawyers at final hearings? Well yes of course.

But do I agree that it is an ‘industry’ make ‘mulit-billion’ pounds worth of profits? Absolutely not. I would like to see some evidence about this. I have been asking for a number of years now and I am still waiting. But of course it is easier to make astonishing claims than it is to prove them.

 

Have no social workers been struck off, prosecuted or had their fitness to practice questioned?
How does your line “This doesn’t mean that either the parent or the social worker has to be 100% well behaved 100% of the time; this probably isn’t possible.” fit in with the codes of conduct and professionalism social workers have to adhere to?

Yes social workers have been struck off for misconduct. So too have barristers, doctors, solicitors – in fact any professional body that operates according to a code of conduct will have had to act against some of its members some of the time.

 

If you are genuinely anything other than a disinformation agent would you have not entered into the debate rather than simply telling me to take my leave? I don’t wish to take my leave as I would happily enjoy commenting on every aspect of the disinformation you have all over this site and provide evidence that contradicts your fairy tale of social services in this country. Of course I know that would not happen as you “moderate” ie censor comments and replies to your site, not something that an objective, balanced and genuinely “resource” site would have to do. The site reads like propaganda, and clearly comes from an “authority” perspective. It’s not a resource site, it is a poorly hidden agent for the child stealers.

I hope that by entering into the debate I can reassure ‘Outraged’ that we are not ‘disinformation agents’ and nor do we censor or moderate with a heavy hand.

But to enter into and continue a debate requires that the participants are prepared to treat each other and their arguments with a basic level of courtesy and respect and to keep the number of sensationalized and unsupported allegations to a minimum.

If Outraged truly believes we are  a ‘poorly hidden agent for child stealers’ then by this comment alone he/she puts himself very firmly in the Conspiracy Theory camp and I doubt that any further engagement is going to produce anything positive.

But as ever, I will be delighted to be proved wrong.

 

Establishing Good Relationships

Establishing a good working relationship with your social worker is, of course, a two way street. It is the responsibility of both of you to try to make it  work, for the good of your child. If either of you is rude, dismissive or doesn’t seem to be listening, the relationship will struggle.

This doesn’t mean that either the parent or the social worker has to be 100% well behaved 100% of the time; this probably isn’t possible. We are all human and the parent/social work relationship has the potential to be difficult even at the best of times.

But if either person is aware that they haven’t behaved well then they need to apologise sincerely and take action to make things better.

Here is a helpful short video explaining the 3 necessary things to establish a good relationship of ANY kind.

Those 3 things are:

Commitment

you have to commit to any relationship for it to grow

Authenticity

don’t be insincere, people will notice and it harms the relationship

Communication

if you are not talking opening and listening carefully to one another, the relationship can’t work.

Edit  – the point of this post was NOT to suggest that we ought to expect social workers to behave badly to the point that they fail to adhere to professional standards and ethical codes. The point being made was that the social work/parent relationship is one between two humans, working in often stressful and difficult situations. But if anyone feels their social worker has acted unprofessionally then they must complain about this kind of behaviour, it is not acceptable.

To read more about making a complaint about a professional, see our post here.