There’s a big difference between believing you did something wrong/bad or that you are wrong/bad. I think healthy shame arises from within, toxic shame comes from outside and we can internalise it, thinking and feeling it defines who we are. Our organism knows how to ‘do’ emotions, they’re hardwired, so why is there such a clamour and rush to get children to know about shame in particular? Do we not trust that they’ll learn what’s right or wrong as they grow?
Toxic shame comes in many forms; the shame of being abused, the shame of being neglected, the shame of not being loved, the shame of not having enough to eat, the shame of not always being able to hide from others finding out … Toxic shame is compounded when it is a family member who does these things to us. If your own parent doesn’t love you or take care of you, what worth do you have? What’s more shaming than that? Many times children are shamed as being from a ‘bad’ family and who wants the shame of belonging to a bad family? This sets up a terrible conflict between a desperate and natural need to belong and the shame of belonging to the ‘wrong’ family.
A so-called harmless and extremely common way of shaming is using shame to discipline a child. Why? Because it works, like a toxic treat. Is there anything more effective than making someone believe that what they did is wrong and that they are wrong for doing it? Toxic shaming is the laziest form of discipline at best and at worst leaves a lasting imprint that makes a person collapse into a diminished, smaller and more compliant form of who they truly are.
One possible outcome of persistent toxic shaming is not being able to be wrong. Being wrong, or taking responsibility for doing/saying something wrong, is just not an option because you feel as if you’re being annihilated if you admit to any wrongdoing. This causes havoc in your life and particularly your relationships, because it’s impossible to be in a relationship with someone who can’t be wrong and doesn't take responsibility.
Shame, like all emotions, is felt in the body and its sensations can be extremely uncomfortable. It is felt as heat, constriction, collapse, diminishment, smallness, badness, wrongness and many more. Try tapping on how shame shows up for you and get in touch with any negative core beliefs about yourself around shame and tap until they don’t resonate with you anymore.
Listening to shame by Brené Brown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0
Healing the shame that binds you by John Bradshaw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q2tZa1gp8Q