Actually, the best thing to help heal your toxic shame - aside from knowing and understanding about toxic shame as I mentioned a couple of paragraphs above - is to 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 the mirroring eyes of another person or persons to show that we are okay. We learn that we are not bad; we learn that we are lovable and acceptable. And thus, we begin to change our beliefs about ourselves.
I just wanted to say, my experience of therapy has kind of born this out. I've been in therapy for nearly a year and a half now, and over the last month I've finally started to believe that maybe she doesn't utterly hate me. I just found it hard to believe she could keep up an act for so long.
For instance, the times I've tried talking to houseplants, I always feel like they hate me and are judging me. That is a pretty sure sign of projection there, and I do the same thing with people.
But being able to develop a relationship with her has been really helpful. I'm starting to feel partially human now, or like I'm allowed to be human - it's okay to have emotions. People are less intimidating and alien to me now - they're just other humans, and I can relate to them more on an emotional level (including body language), instead of just an intellectual or verbal one. And I think only being able to relate to people on an intellectual level contributed to a lot of social anxiety, because I always came off as so stiff and formal with people.
I always felt like other people had something inside of them that I was missing, and I never knew what it was, or why I didn't have it. I thought the only way I could get it was through a really close relationship. And I suppose that was true. But most people aren't willing to develop a close relationship with such a screwed up person, so I wound up having to get it through therapy. Believe me, I tried to get it through romantic relationships, but it never worked - it would just drive them away.
I have Healing the Shame That Binds Us, and it has a lot of exercises to do in the last third of the book, but so far I've avoided doing any of them. In part because this stuff can be pretty difficult to deal with, and I've been reading a lot of other books as well.
One I got recently is The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment and the Developing Social Brain by Louis Cozolino, 2006. I like what it says about shame -
At its heart, shame is the visceral experience of being shunned and expelled from social connectedness. Social exclusion is painful and even stimulates the same areas of our brains that become active when we experience physical pain. In small doses, shame can be useful in the development of conscience and a sense of social responsibility. Because shame is powerful, preverbal, and physiologically based, the overuse of shame can predispose children to problems with affective regulation and self-identity.
Guilt is a more complex, language-based, and less visceral reaction that exists in a broader psychosocial context. Guilt is more closely related to unacceptable behaviors whereas shame is an emotion about the self that is internalized before the ability to distinguish between the action and the self is possible. You can take action to alleviate guilt, but shame offers no redemption. At its core, shame is the emotional reaction to the loss of attunement with the caretaker. The power of shame comes from the experience of attunement as life sustaining, in part, because, for young primates, separation and rejection equal death. Prolonged and repeated shame states result in a physiological dysregulation that negatively impacts the development of networks of affective regulation and attachment circuitry.
And in No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover, 2003 (great book, btw), he says "If a Nice Guy was called on to take care of a critical, needy, or dependent parent, he received a double dose of toxic shame. A child believes he should be able to please a critical parent, fix the problems of a depressed parent, and meet the needs of a smothering parent. Unfortunately he can't. As a result of their inability to fix, please, or take care of one or more parents, many Nice Guys developed a deep-seated sense of inadequacy. This internalized sense of inadequacy and defectiveness is carried into adulthood."