Social Anxiety Forum - View Single Post - The Toxic Shame thread (the cause of SA for most)
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 08-22-2010, 06:02 PM Thread Starter
SAS Member
Join Date: May 2004
Gender: Male
Posts: 614
The healing of our Toxic Shame

Okay, so now you have an idea of what toxic shame is, how it is tightly interwoven into SA for the majority of us, and how you may have come to acquire it. Now realize that this post may now be one of the most important posts you will read in this forum. I will summarize here a few important steps it will take to cure your Toxic Shame & SA. However, for even more steps and detailed info to take in overcoming this condition, you need to get John Bradshaw’s 2 books: “Healing The Shame That Binds You” (Revised Edition, October 2005) and “Bradshaw On: The Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem”.

The first step in solving any problem is to identify it, because for you to win the battle you've first got to know what you're fighting.

In another thread here at this forum, someone had asked how knowing about toxic shame can cure our anxiety. A forum member named LostPancake made an excellent point when he replied ..."Just knowing about toxic shame, and seeing how it operates in your life, and seeing your experiences through that light, takes away at least some of that feeling of being so worthless." This is very true. In fact, I will take it a step further and say that knowing about it will not only take away some of that feeling of being worthless, but it can actually take away a HUGE part of that feeling of worthlessness. I think it is the biggest and most important step of all - in just knowing and understanding toxic shame and how it has deeply affected your life. And with this understanding of it you will begin to realize you are not a worthless person, but instead you will realize that you are a person that unfortunately became afflicted with this crippling condition. Know that it's not your fault! It is about what happened to you and not about you. Once you understand what toxic shame is all about … and how you acquired it … and how it caused you to see yourself and the world with the wrong lens, you will begin to truly realize that you are just as worthy as anyone else and that no other person on this planet is intrinsically better than you are. You will begin to see yourself and other people differently and your fear & anxiety will begin to melt away.

Know this: We didn't get toxic shame overnight; we didn't get it because a person told us once that we were worthless. We acquired it because of repeated things that happened to us. Or because of repeated thoughts we've had about ourselves because of external events or circumstances. One such example is that of a person born with a birth defect. In the following example I will use the word "he", but obviously this can apply to females as well. If a person is born with an external birth defect he will get stares (as well as comments by others about his defect). And the more severe the defect, the more stares and/or comments he will get, and this circumstance can easily lead the afflicted individual to believe he is not "normal". All this can lead to toxic shame and the cycle of fear & hiding and feeling less than a normal human being.

Having a birth defect is just one example of a source of the condition. There are many other sources and many other ways to get it, such as through our parents, peers, society, media, etc. BTW, our parents tend to be the most common source of one's toxic shame. However, my point is: acquiring toxic shame is a gradual process, and therefore it will take a gradual process of getting rid of it. You can't read a book, wake up the next morning and poof!... your toxic shame is gone! It doesn't work that way. (But, having said that, you need to know that it is very important to read John Bradshaw's books about it so you can fully understand what it is and how it has affected your life). It will take time for the healing to work. Actually, the best thing to help heal your toxic shame - aside from knowing and understanding about it as I mentioned above - is to, as Bradshaw says, "experience the mirroring eyes of others". It obviously needs to be the mirroring eyes of a non-shaming person and not from anyone who is putting shame on us. We need to get in front of the mirroring eyes of another person or persons, to reflect back to us that we are okay – that we are accepted as a person. By doing this we re-establish an “interpersonal bridge.” And an equally crucial action is that we need to come out of hiding. Please go back to the first post of this thread to read of the details of how we go into hiding. Below is a passage from Bradshaw’s book in which he talks of coming out of hiding:

"In order to be healed we must come out of isolation and hiding. This means finding a person, or ideally a group of significant others, whom we are willing to trust. This is tough for shame-based people.

Shame becomes toxic because of premature exposure. We are exposed either unexpectedly or before we are ready to be exposed. We feel helpless and powerless. No wonder then that we fear the scrutinizing eyes of others. However, the only way out of toxic shame is to embrace the shame – we must come out of hiding.

The best way to come out of hiding is to find a nonshaming intimate person or social network. Toxic shame masks our deepest secrets about ourselves; it embodies our belief that we are essentially defective. We feel so awful. We dare not look at it ourselves, much less tell anyone. The only way we can find out we were wrong about ourselves is to risk exposing ourselves to someone else’s scrutiny. When we trust someone else and experience their love and acceptance, we begin to change our beliefs about ourselves. We learn that we are not bad; we learn that we are lovable and acceptable.

Since it was personal relationships that set up our toxic shame, we need personal relationships to heal our shame. This is crucial. We must risk reaching out and looking for nonshaming relationships if we are to heal our shame. There is no other way. Once we are in dialogue and community, we will have further work to do. But we can’t even begin that work until affiliative relationships are established."

NOW, having said all the above, it is important that you go about your healing in the correct way. The best way to work on your healing is in the correct order. This way you will progress properly from one step to the next step. This is what I have learned is the best way:

1. The first thing you need to do is to get the books I recommend. Those books will help you understand what toxic shame is and how you acquired it. That is important for you to understand. And, of course, the books will also give you ideas to help in your healing.

2. The next thing you need to do is to "get your mind right". You need to do your inner work. It is critical that your thinking and your beliefs are correct. You have to learn the truth about yourself and the world, instead of the false beliefs that your toxic shame has caused inside of you. (Edit: My post #152 of this thread will help you in that regard. Another great source that has helped me to get my thinking right, and will help you too, is the best selling book "You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise L. Hay.) To correct your thinking it is going to take LOTS of study, practice, and repetition! There just is no way around it!

3. Once you have your thinking sufficiently corrected, you are ready to focus more on interacting with others and experiencing their mirroring eyes. Having your thinking corrected will make it easier for you to come out of hiding and not fear people seeing you as you are - that of a perfectly imperfect human being, just like anyone else.

As I said, please get those books by John Bradshaw that has been mentioned in this thread. He will explain things more fully and better than I can in these few posts. Obviously, summarized points made in a thread cannot fully compare to that of 2 books. I think the eye-opening discovery that you experience, regarding toxic shame, will be life-changing for so many here if everyone here will just open their mind and give it a chance.

For more info in this forum regarding toxic shame, visit the 2 threads listed below:

All comments are welcomed. Also, if anyone has any questions I will do my best to answer them here in this thread.

EDIT: Aside from these first 3 posts, be sure to read my other posts throughout this thread for more info about toxic shame and how to heal it. The first 3 posts in this thread are a very condensed lesson of toxic shame. I have made many other significant posts throughout this thread that explains things more clearly and in more detail.

ALSO: I have created a detailed plan to heal toxic shame. Click this link for an explanation and to access the plan:


"Shyness can be a serious problem when it is rooted in toxic shame." - John Bradshaw, toxic shame expert

Visit this thread link to find out the cause of SA for most of us and what to do about it:
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