Get curious with shameful thoughts

I recently had a client open up a session with “I am embarrassed to tell you this, but I am going to say it anyway.”

First of all, kudos to her for being vulnerable. The more vulnerable you allow yourself to be, the more robust will be your results.

She proceeded to tell me about how she thinks about other people having sex.

This causes shame because she doesn’t think she should be thinking about that.

So I asked her if she thinks about other people decorating their houses, or parenting their kids. Do you think about how other people eat? Do you think about how other people spend their money?

Yes to all of it. But these thoughts didn’t cause her shame.

The problem wasn’t that she was thinking about other people.

The problem was that she was judging her own thoughts as “bad.”

woman peeking out from under covers
Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

Your brain doesn’t compartmentalize things. It just keeps trying to keep you safe, seek pleasure and do both of those things spending the least amount of energy. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a thought about time versus a thought about sex.

And then when our brains do what they naturally will do around something we think is bad, we feel shame. Our thoughts are such a part of us, that we feel like we are bad if we think about something bad.

I told her to get curious. I mean, she already was curious about sex, just direct the curiosity to her own brain. Why would my brain go there? How does it serve me as protection or pleasure in some way? What am I making it mean that I have these thoughts?

When we start becoming aware of our thoughts, it is normal to then judge them. But this just brings up guilt and/or shame, which is never useful. Shame and guilt keep you away from your goals.

So instead, just get curious. Try to understand what is going on in the way your brain functions. This can be difficult without an unbiased outside party, but give it a try if you are feeling shame around what you think about.