Since seeing you I have wanted to write something on the basis of what you said about your long-term friend. You talked about him hurting you by not telling you of the death of another friend. You talked about how you have come to be more and more unable to tolerate his behavior in the world such as not paying rent and staying until evicted. You feel hurt by his actions and by the waste of such talent.

These thoughts, as with thinking of many of my relationships, made me sad. At the same time it amazes me how much clarity I feel I have about such actions as you described since comming upon some ideas.

As I have already sent you a lot of material I hope that you have spent some time with it, as you say you have. That said I seem to keep seeing the nub of human interaction in simpler and simpler terms.

I guess, rock bottom, I am saying we should always keep it simple and understand psychic pain as no different then physical pain and indeed psychic pain is indeed in the tissues of the brain. The cause, too, is in the brain, in the form of memory.

Interest is an emotion and is, too, physical. We can’t help but be interested in the world form the time we pop out into the world.

Interest is always, however, getting interrupted. That interruption is minor and we change our focus, and hardly notice, or it can be very large in which case we might feel very very bad.

It seems that our daily task might be to, then, simply, say that if the ratio of positive interest to negative memory, crap or whatever comes at us from the world, if it is weighted to the negative we will often have learned , from childhood, to "script" our response to that negative in four characteristic ways. A psychiatrist, Donald Nathanson , contributed to our knowledge of ourselves by neatly packaging those negative scripts in the "Compass Of Shame."


I am interested -------------------à ß ------------------ Something gets in my way


I feel: hurt, confused, "bad," "shamed"


I then :

    1. Withdraw
    2. Blame myself
    3. Avoid: sex, drugs and rock and roll, TV , etc
    4. or/ and Attack Others.


So withdrawal can be breaking off a friendship, getting a divorce or not asking someone on a date that you are interested in.

Blame or Attack Self: "it’s my fault," "I am an idiot," "I deserve to go to hell."

Avoid: Surfing the net, drinking, anything that can take us away from the pain.

Attack other: yelling at someone, being ‘passive-aggressive’, shooting someone.

Now the deal is, what is causing the pain, is often hidden and often it is not. Most of the people, that I talk to , know exactly why they do what they do but it is also "too difficult to talk about," or "it hurts too much." Whether it is hidden or not may have little meaning. The point is that it is causing pain that I want to treat in whatever way I can. People say exactly what they mean if you just let them talk and listen closely. "I do it because…" "I was hurt…" "I do it because I hurt…" "I do not know what to do…" " feel guilty about it… I do it because I feel guilty…." "I do it again."

What we do may be using heroin or watching TV. We all have scripts that take us away form pain.

Someone I work with, identified that shame, hurt and confusion were the source of her pain and understands at one leave that she simply DOES NOT KNOW any other way to deal with it, that is we have to learn how to deal with pain, parents have to teach us how to deal with it or we have to work very hard and think very hard about ourselves and how we got in the mess we are in. Most importantly, though, we cannot and should not blame ourselves or for that matter we should not blame anyone.

Who knows what your friend was hurt by early on? I guarantee he has been hurt and feels much pain. Although highly intelligent he has withdrawn from life, many do. It just gets worse as, as time goes by and others are seen, "in the world," as he might see you in your now "high" position, the more shame he feels, the more he withdraws.

You in turn are hurt by his withdrawal. So Withdrawal can be just as hurtful as an attack. Why should they feel different? What has engendered both is the same thing: psychic pain in the withdrawing or attacking other.

As I have seen there is nothing you can do but be infinitely patient, take care of oneself, thereby being a model and wait. Our inclination, however, often is to attack back. Why? Because we feel shame!.

Well the way I see it anyway and a start, I hope.


Dr. Brian Lynch c 2000

An online discussion on this paper can be found at:

    This is a version of the famous '12 Steps' that summarizes the main ideas of the theory that is suggested in the letter:


    © 1997

    Comments sought and appreciated, positive or constructive.