Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 53, Issue 6, pp 535–540 | Cite as

Social Phobia and the Experience of Shame: Childhood Origins and Pastoral Implications

  • Philip Browning HelselEmail author


While social phobia is typically diagnosed in adolescence, the roots of social phobia are found in childhood experiences of shame. When shame occurs because of a failure to meet a child’s need this creates a fundamental uncertainty which can become internalized in the form of self-contempt. Emotions such as sadness are sometimes forbidden by caregivers, and the expression of natural sexual drives are sometimes prohibited. Such experiences create shame and may keep the person from feeling emotions and drives because shame has displaced the real emotion. The fractures in early relationships can be restored through the healing presence of another. The pastor has access to persons with social phobia who may not be willing to seek psychiatric care and is in a unique position to bring the resources of the church to bear in the lives of persons with social phobia. To do so, she moves away from the extroverted frame of reference within which the church frequently operates.


social phobia shame pastoral care 


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  1. Capps, D. (1999). Social phobia: Alleviating anxiety in an age of self-promotion. St. Louis: Chalice Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ciarrochi, J. (1993). A minister’s handbook of mental illness. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.Google Scholar
  3. Kaufmann, G. (1980). Shame: The power of caring. Rochester: Schneckman Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yuma Regional Medical CenterYuma

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