Shame about shame can lead to more intense deeper feelings of shame turning it into toxic shame. Nobody likes to feel shame! The attempt to avoid shame feelings, when turned inside out and cast upon others, is at the root of many interpersonal relationship problems. Toxic shame is coupled with the drive to avoid and are the seeds of low self-esteem, abuse, violence, self-harm, suicide and crimes against society.
Let’s talk about the difference between everyday shame and toxic shame. You can help me out by letting me know about your experience with shame. Hence, I am inviting you to shine the light of a clear voice which helps to put shame in perspective.
I am going to call everyday shame “clean” shame. It is uncomfortable and fleeting. The feeling is clearly connected to the present moment. Kind of like being embarrassed when you are caught with your pants down or your hand in the cookie jar expect more painful. I don’t think the details are as important as the depth and the duration of self-loathing that one experiences . “Clean” shame is short lived. Toxic shame, on the other hand, has an enduring dark and heavy quality to it as it becomes part of the fabric of the personality. The self-loathing is more permanent and manifests as a hunger that eats from the inside out through the your flesh and into the flesh of others nearby.
The seeds of toxic shame are often born in childhood experiences of neglect and abuse. It taints how we relate to our inner and outer world as being broken, bad, not-good enough, unlovable and unworthy. My experience of toxic shame can be summed up as feeling “God forsaken.” What words describe your feelings of toxic shame? Furthermore, holding secrets from childhood trauma and shame makes it worse.
What to do? Compassion and self-forgiveness are a couple of things you can do. If you were abused or neglected know it was not your fault. I am going to repeat this, “IT’S WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.” Find someone you can trust and talk with them about your experience. This means being vulnerable. It takes courage. It is worth it. It is possible to cross the bridge to a lighter life. Shine your voice on the darkness of toxic shame with appropriate people. If you are not sure who is appropriate contact a professional helper to sort this out with you.
I am going to leave you with a few resources for further reading and listening:
- Self Compassion blog with Kristin Neff
- Mindfulness Self Compassion with Christopher Germer
- Ordinary Courage with Brene Brown
We often think of peace as the absence of war;
that if the powerful countries would
reduce their arsenals, we could have peace.
But if we look deeply into the weapons,
we see our own minds, our prejudices, fears, and ignorance.
Even if we transported all the bombs to the moon,
the roots of war and the reasons for bombs would still be here,
in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we would make new bombs.
Seek to become more aware of what causes anger and separation,
and what overcomes them.
Root out the violence in your life,
and learn to live compassionately and mindfully.
–Thich Nhat Hanh