The burning look of contempt, the cutting remarks of sarcasm and demanding need for perfection can show up in relationships with your partner, children, parents and yourself. The effects of toxic shame get played out in relationships and can destroy a person’s life.These behaviors are symptoms of the excruciating pain of toxic shame and the natural desire to avoid feeling the pain. When I say natural – I mean none of us likes pain whether if is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. We are hardwired for escape behavior when we experience pain as a survival mechanism.
Think about the last time you touched a hot stove or pan. OUCH! What did you do? Pull your hand back? What about the last time you wore a pair of shoes that hurt your feet? I couldn’t wait until tI could get my feet out of those shoes.
Here lies the problem with trying to get away from pain that is under the skin in our body, in our thoughts and in our hearts. We can’t get away from internal pain. We have to figure out how to be with pain. In my life and with clients I believe we have to feel the pain to heal the pain. Hence, TOXIC SHAME is painful and is avoided by mean spirited behavior often projected onto others we know. You feel it from others and I’ll bet you might recognize it in yourself. Not something I like to admit or talk about.
If you find yourself engaging in self-loathing behaviors which flow over into how you treat others try being curious about the experience. Do you feel self-righteous? Entitled? I suggest you let theses feeling be there for a moment like a monster in the dark. You can observe the pain like watching a scary movie with your eyes half open/half closed. Take a peek at the seeds of the origin of the consuming pain of TOXIC SHAME. Be quiet with it while taking a look from a distance. Try to stay with it before launching into expressions of contempt, sarcasm, demanding perfection or mean spirited behavior.
Try it. I am curious how this works for you? Just observe the shame and the pain. I find it challenging to be with shame, embarrassment, badness, worthlessness and feelings of not good enough. We all experience moments of guilt and shame and if it taking over your life and if it is becoming toxic you can takes steps to help yourself. I will talk more about this in my next post.
Take a moment to read the list of words which describe toxic:
How is it read the list? Have you experienced this as the giver or reciever?
PART ONE: Darker Than a Steven King Novel: Toxic Shame
- What To Do With Feelings of Shame (workingwithact.com)
- 6 Steps to Help Heal Your Inner Child (psychcentral.com)
Tamara G. Suttle, M.Ed., LPC says
Brenda, love this little exercise! Especially your question – Did I give it or receive it . . . or both. Thank you for sharing it.
I’m giving thanks for you this Thanksgiving for being in my life! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!
Brenda Bomgardner says
Tamara, I am glad you liked the exercise and the question. It’s easy to look at what the other person does anad more difficult to examine our own behavior. Thank you for visiting.