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Navigating Emotions After Divorce, Interview with Dr. Mary Lamia | Ep 38

What are the surprising upsides to feelings of shame? How can you respond to shame healthily and constructively? Why should you always try to sit and listen to your emotions? In this podcast episode, Dr. Susan Orenstein speaks about Navigating Emotions After Divorce with Dr. Mary Lamia.


Mary Lamia is a clinical psychologist, a professor in the doctoral program at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, and the author of five books involving emotional awareness and relationship issues.

She endeavors to convey an understanding of emotion and its significant role in who we become. This is exemplified through her books, media interviews, and contributions on Psychology Today, Thrive Global, and Psychwire websites, for whom she writes.

Her latest book, Grief Isn’t Something to Get Over, releases in May next year.

Visit her website, email her at, or phone her at (415) 302-8049.



  • The upside of shame
  • Four basic responses to shame
  • Navigating shame in dating after divorce
  • Listen to your emotions

The upside of shame

Shame is a very interesting emotion that most people do not understand. There is an aspect to shame where we are motivated to reconnect after there’s a disruption in a relationship or in a connection with somebody. (Dr. Mary Lamia)

Even though shame is a powerful emotion that can make people want to hide, or feel deeply embarrassed, it can be used as a tool.

Shame can motivate people to restore the connection that they had with someone before the disruption occurred that had spurred the feeling of shame. This motivation is also known as “saving face”.

Experiences of shame can also bring moments of insight and clarity about ourselves.

[Shame] is an emotion that teaches us something. What we can learn from experiences of shame is probably what we learn from any other emotion because it enables us to look inside [of ourselves]. (Dr. Mary Lamia)

Four basic responses to shame

1 – To attack the other person: this is the most common response to shame. Often people are fighting in a marriage, not because of anger only, but because they have an anger response to a feeling of shame.

2 – People attack themselves: people harm themselves either emotionally or sometimes physically when they have experienced feelings of shame. They bring the shame inward and let it thrash around instead of taking it outward.

3 – Avoidance: some people cope with shame by avoiding the feeling. They may develop addictions to keep them distracted from the feeling or the situation that creates the feeling.

4 – Withdrawal: people may hide or pull back and away from those around them, even themselves, to soothe or stop the shame.

Ultimately, the only healthy way to deal with shame is to take a look at it, look at what happened, and learn something from it. Ask yourself: what is this emotion trying to teach me? What can I learn about myself through this situation?

Navigating shame in dating after divorce

If you are getting back into the dating scene after your divorce, you may feel shy and nervous again, as if you were back in your teenage self.

This happens frequently to people who have gone through separations and it is completely normal.

There’s something about dating after divorce that taps into our adolescence … because that’s when we first started to date, and so whenever we do something in the present it activates all of our memories of where we felt those feelings before. (Dr. Mary Lamia)

However, they may come at odds with their children (if they have any) for a short time because, in essence, the parent is acting like a teenager themselves, which can be difficult for the child.

Listen to your emotions

It is important to seek out the meanings behind your emotions because they provide you with opportunities to learn about yourself in profound ways, which gives you a sense of security and control that you do not otherwise have.

If you’re just flooded with emotion … you’re not really informing yourself [because] you’re not looking at what your emotions are actually telling you … you’re responding and reacting, but you have to know what you’re reacting to. (Dr. Mary Lamia)

We connect thoughts to emotion to make sense of them but taking time to learn about your emotions is a gift that you can give yourself.

Be curious and steady and sit with your emotions, because on the other side of them you will learn more and more about yourself.


BOOK | Dr. Mary Lamia – The White Knight Syndrome: Rescuing Yourself from Your Need to Rescue Others

BOOK | Dr. Mary Lamia & Vernon Kelly – The Upside of Shame: Therapeutic Interventions Using the Positive Aspects of a “Negative” Emotion

BOOK | Dr. Mary Lamia – Emotions!: Making Sense of Your Feelings

BOOK | Dr. Mary Lamia – Understanding Myself (A Kid’s Guide to Intense Emotions and Strong Feelings)

BOOK | Dr. Mary Lamia – What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions, and Success


About your host:

Susan Orenstein, Ph.D.

Dr. Susan Orenstein is a licensed psychologist and relationship expert  with over twenty years of experience. In 2005, she founded Orenstein Solutions, a private counseling practice in North Carolina that serves children, teens, adults and couples. 

She created the After the First Marriage Podcast to support individuals through the significant life transition of divorce. She whole-heartedly believes that “happily ever after” is an option for everyone, and is dedicated to helping divorcées regain the confidence to pursue a fulfilling future after the first marriage. 

Whether you listen to the podcast, join the Facebook community, or follow along on Twitter,  you’re in the right place!

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