When it comes to shame, it could be said that there is normal, or healthy, shame, and then there is abnormal, or unhealthy, shame. Another way of looking at this would be to say there is shame and there is toxic shame.
What this means is that shame is not bad per se; it is simply part of the human experience – for some people that is. It becomes a problem when there is too much of it, causing someone to be loaded up with the stuff.
Having the ability to experience healthy shame will allow someone to accept their own humanity; to realise that they are not perfect, the centre of the universe, better or worse than anyone else, or always right. This will allow them to get on with their fellow human beings and now to take advantage of them.
From this, it is easy to see how much damage someone could cause to others, and themselves, if they lacked the ability to experience shame. If someone experiences too much shame, and carries toxic shame, this is will also cause problems.
Unlike the person who can’t experience shame, the main harm that will take place here is likely to be the harm that one does to themselves. Now, if one was to go to the extreme and take their own life, they would probably end up causing a lot of harm to others.
Their friends and family would end up losing someone that they deeply care about and they could then be filled with guilt. Some of them could wonder why one didn’t say anything and if there was more that they themselves could have done.
If someone does carry a lot of shame, toxic shame, this is likely to be due to what took place during their early years. At this stage of their life, the interpersonal bridge between them and their caregivers would have been broken.
Then again, this bridge might not have even formed to begin with. So, if it was formed, certain things would have taken place that caused this bridge to disintegrate, and this would have caused their being to be filled with toxic shame.
When they were baby, they may have often been left and not given the care that they desperately needed. Alternatively, it could have been when they were slightly older, however, with this being a time when they were physically harmed and rejected.
Or, the main thing that played a part may have been verbal abuse, with them constantly being told how bad and worthless they were. Regardless of when it took place or what happened, the pain that they experienced would have caused them to disconnect from themselves and others.
Due to how they were being treated and how they felt, they would have lost touch with their true-self. Hiding behind a false-self would have been seen as the only way for them to be accepted and not be ostracised from their fellow human beings.
As they were egocentric at this stage of their life, they wouldn’t have been able to realise that how they were treated had nothing to do with them. Ultimately, how they were treated would have most likely come down to the fact that their caregiver/s were not in a good way.
The First Stage
Now that they are an adult, this false-self can then allow them to ‘fit in’ with their fellow human beings, but what it won’t do is allow them to feel truly connected to themselves or others. One will then be merely surviving and living on the surface of life; they won’t be able to truly thrive and deeply embrace life.
Although this false-self will allow them to fit in and to keep it together, they may find that there are still moments when their toxic shame seeps into their conscious mind. In general, pleasing others and consuming things may allow them to manage most of the shame that comes up.
The Second Stage
There could come a time, though, due to the loss of a loved one or a job loss, for instance, when more of their repressed toxic shame starts to enter their conscious awareness. When this takes place, they may find that it is a lot harder for them to avoid it.
This can be a time when they will feel really bad about themselves and struggle to see a way forward. Due to how they feel and their belief that they will be cast aside if they reveal what they are going through, they could keep everything to themselves.
Along with having moments when they feel deeply depressed, they could think about ending their life. They could believe that they have two options: either they tell others and this causes them to be ostracised or they put their misery to an end and take their life.
Telling others will then be seen as being the hardest option, while ending their life will be seen as being the easiest option. At this point, there is the chance that they will go through with the second option.
The Third Stage
If they don’t take this route and are able to reach out for support, it will give them the chance to change their life. A key part of this will be for them to open up about what they are going through to a caring and compassionate other/s.
Through opening up about what they are going through, the toxic shame that is inside them will start to dissipate. This because their toxic shame can only exist in the darkness; the light of consciousness will erode it.
The Fourth Stage
There is no fixed time when it comes to how long it will take to bring this shame down to a more bearable level, but it will happen providing the right steps are taken. As it does come down, there will still be moments when they will rough, but there will also be moments when they are able to feel good about themselves.
Revealing who they are will get easier and this will allow them to feel more connected to themselves and others. Further, they will find that it is less of a challenge for them to just be and to let go of their need to do things.
This is, of course, just a rough guide when it comes to the origin of toxic shame and the route out of this awful inner experience. What is clear is that it will take patience and persistence and the right support.
If one can relate to this, and they are ready to change their life, it might be a good idea for them to reach out for support. This is something that can be provided by the assistance of a therapist or healer.
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Oliver JR Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.