Toxic Shame - the core of our social anxiety - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-23-2009, 06:00 PM Thread Starter
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Toxic Shame - the core of our social anxiety


When I found out a few years ago that social anxiety was the dark cloud that was destroying my life, that was a big moment for me. But just fairly recently I've found out something even BIGGER. I've found out that social anxiety is only a symptom of what is wrong with me (and most of you reading this). After reading the book "Healing The Shame That Binds You" by John Bradshaw, I come to realize that toxic shame is the true problem! I now know that toxic thame is the destructive force that has ruled - and ruined - my life.

I fully believe now that social anxiety (as well as many other emotional illnesses) is caused by toxic shame. Can I guarantee this in 100% of the cases? No, nobody can. However, I firmly believe that toxic shame is the culprit in the vast majority of the cases. Bradshaw says, "Toxic shame is the core of most forms of emotional illness." In his book he gives a quote from Gershen Kaufman, the author of the book "Shame". Here is the quote:

"Shame is the affect which is the source of many complex and disturbing inner states: depression, alienation, self-doubt, isolation, loneliness, paranoid and schizoid phenomena, compulsive disorders, splitting of the self, perfectionism, a deep sense of inferiority, inadequacy or failure, the so-called borderline conditions and disorders of narcissism."

Here is one more quote from Bradshaw's book. This is a quote from Bradshaw himself: "What I discovered was that shame as a healthy emotion can be transformed into shame as a state of being. As a state of being shame takes over one’s whole identity. To have shame as an identity is to believe that one’s being is flawed, that one is defective as a human being. Once shame is transformed into an identity, it becomes toxic and dehumanizing."

Everything I read in Bradshaw's book rang so true with me. Throughout his book, Bradshaw was describing my life and my inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions with regards to everything toxic shame was about. I've always known that I have identified with everything social anxiety encompassed; however, I think I identify with toxic shame even more. In fact, I now believe toxic shame is the cause of SA.

All the info about toxic shame is just too much to explain here. I suggest anyone with social anxiety or any other emotional illness to go buy the book.

After reading the book, I decided to condense it to leave out some of the fluff, to make it shorter and to make it easier to understand. I condensed the book to a summary of 20 document pages on a Microsoft Word document. I figured out that adds up to about 35 pages of the book. So basically I squeeze a 316 page book into 20 pages. However, even with this condensed version of the book, I will still go to the book to perform the exercises. The book explains the exercises better than I could have. For that reason, I didn't include all the exercises into the document that was in the book.

If anyone is interested in my document, email me and I will send you the 20 page document which summarizes the book. Even if you request my document, I still strongly urge you to get the book. It goes into much more detail and give more information than my condensed document can. The book also gives more detail about specific exercises to work on.

This document is totally free. I am not selling anything and I am not advertising anything. I am just trying to help those here, such as me, that have this awful condition. Please at least give it a look. It could possibly change your life.

Last edited by TX boy; 05-28-2009 at 05:21 PM. Reason: Corrected the number of pages in the document
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post #2 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-23-2009, 10:55 PM
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Sounds interesting, I looked at it on Amazon, thanks for the recommendation.

"Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic and fear, which is inherent in the human condition." ~ Graham Greene

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post #3 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-23-2009, 11:08 PM
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I don't see how shame is the underlying problem, i don't feel shame for my SA, depression or PTSD.
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post #4 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-24-2009, 09:51 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by UKPhobe View Post
I don't see how shame is the underlying problem, i don't feel shame for my SA, depression or PTSD.
My point was that toxic shame can cause things such as SA and depression (though, I don't know about PTSD). I did not say that one necessarily feels shame for having SA or depression.

Some of the ways a person can get toxic shame is through your parents, or society (such as through your peers and other people), or traumatic experiences. These are off the top of my head from what I remember from the book. You will have to read the book to get a better explanation of how people acquire toxic shame.

All shame isn't bad. Shame is a normal human emotion. In fact, it is necessary to feel shame if one is to be truly human. "Healthy" shame keeps you within healthy boundaries. A couple of examples: Healthy shame keeps you from walking around naked in public (well, I guess also the law keeps you from walking nude in public. lol). Healthy shame also makes sure you close the door when you go to the bathroom. Healthy shame helps us in many ways, not just in things involving us being naked. These are just examples.

However, when shame becomes toxic, then that's when it becames BAD. As Bradshaw says, "Shame was the unconscious demon I had never acknowledged. In becoming aware of the dynamics of shame, I came to see that shame is one of the most destructive forces in all human life." (The author, John Bradshaw, was a victim of toxic shame. He has sinced recovered from it.)

He also says, "Shyness can become a serious problem when it is rooted in toxic shame."

I am just saying do not take toxic shame lightly. Do research on it - whether through my documents or through the internet. Better yet, buy and read Bradshaw's book. You may be able to get it at the library. Just be sure it is the updated book... the 2005 revised edition.
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post #5 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-25-2009, 12:29 AM
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hey i'd like that 17 page document
send it to my email
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post #6 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-25-2009, 01:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TX boy View Post
Some of the ways a person can get toxic shame is through your parents, or society (such as through your peers and other people), or traumatic experiences. These are off the top of my head from what I remember from the book. You will have to read the book to get a better explanation of how people acquire toxic shame.
Sounds similar to the fear of humiliation that comes as standard for SA. It's an interesting way of looking at it certainly.

If it works for you then great.
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post #7 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-25-2009, 02:17 PM
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I always feel shame for my failures in life... normal people always ridicule those who fail, and for social phobics ridicule is the most terrible thing, worse then death.
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post #8 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-25-2009, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
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I have been having a bit of trouble with my Private Message box. I received a couple of PM's that somehow disappeared minutes later after I clicked on them! I don't know what happened; it may have been something I did. If you requested the document and you have not received it yet, please PM me again, or email me by clicking my username and then clicking the "Send email" link.

Also, anytime someone here PM's me and you don't get my response within 24 hrs, then please PM me again (or email me). It could be this site's PM feature is not working perfectly every time. Therefore after 24 hrs (if I haven't responded by that time) you may have to re-send your request to me.
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post #9 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-27-2009, 07:20 PM Thread Starter
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I really surprised this thread hasn't gotten much more views or responses than it has received so far. I'm also suprised only a handful of people have requested my documents concerning toxic shame. I would've thought if you had social anxiety then you would do anything to get rid of it. It seems as if many here at this forum are only interested in talking about how SA has ruined their lives, but they don't seem to care in taking the action that could help themselves. Maybe it's the title of my thread that is the problem. Maybe I should have titled it something like, "The Holy Grail of SA found" or "Possible cause of SA identified" or something like that.

I think a lot if it has to do with that most people don't understand what toxic shame is. The first time I seen a post about it (in another fourm) I did not think it pertained to me and I basically ignored it. But thankfully people kept posting about it and I finally looked into it. After researching it, I realized THAT was the source of my problem. Yes, I had SA, but toxic shame was the cause my SA. Everyone needs to understand that shame is, as John Bradshaw says, the master emotion. It is the master emotion because it binds all the other emotions. Why is this important? Because our emotions and our feelings are essentially our life. Without emotions and feelings we would not be human. When our thoughts, emotions, and feelings become toxic, then we basically cease to live as a normal human being.

Here is an excerpt from one of the documents I created. The document was created from a chapter in a book called "Without Embarrassment" by Michael Pilinski. Basically the entire chapter dealt with toxic shame. Here is the excerpt:

"...Knowing and understanding that your shame-bound emotions are something that was done to you, and is not really you (i.e. an unchangeable aspect of your personality) is an enormous revelation in itself that holds vast potential for jump starting your personal growth. No longer are you doomed to identify with an emotional characteristic…i.e., you aren’t shy – you were programmed with an emotional flaw that caused you to utilize shy behavior in order to correct the problem. You adopted shyness as a shield against your shame, to keep it boxed in where it couldn’t torment you. It was a pretty ingenious solution really. The drawback to using one type of emotion to fight another one is that the cure we create for ourselves produces its own unique set of problems that limit your ability to live life to its fullest expression. The cure ends up robbing you of the complete human experience. Not to mention the addictive behaviors they can lead to in our efforts to suppress them."

So, Pilinski talks in the above paragraph about how being "shy" is the result of toxic shame. And what is social anxiety? It is a very deep and acute case of SHYNESS. It is shyness taken to the extreme.

There are people here thinking, "This doesn't apply to me, I have nothing to be shameful for." Well, what you don't understand is that it is not necessarily about you being consciously shameful about anything in particular (though, it's certainly possible). Instead, it is about receiving shame - more on a subconscious level - from OTHER sources! For example: Your parents can shame you through their repeated words or actions of making you feel you are not quite smart enough, or attractive enough, or that you can't do things for yourself, etc. They might not do it on purpose and they probably don't realize they are doing it, but YOU realize it ... if only on a subconscious level. And all this usually happens at the most critical time in which you are forming your identity - as a young child.

Parents aren't the only ones that can cause you to get toxic shame. It can also be your peers (such as other children in school), or possibly society in general, or even a traumatic event. As Pilinski says in his book:

"Toxic shame can be insidious. It’s really a stealth form of abuse, so subtle that I suspect neither the abuser or “abusee” often know that it’s even happening! How could I have understood at the age of 4 that I was being programmed to feel ashamed of my most basic human emotional needs?"

I want to urge everyone here to get John Bradshaw's book, "Healing The Shame That Binds You". Pilinski's book is also excellent. However, the main theme of Pilinski's book is helping shy guys in their relationships with women. But that one chapter (chapter 4) that I made into a document is a great chapter in regards to toxic shame.

I will send both documents to anyone that requests them (PM me or email me). I highly suggest you read the Pilinski "Without Embarrassment" document FIRST before reading the Bradshaw document. I say this because the Pilinski document I created does a better job than the Bradshaw document in explaining what toxic shame is and how one gets toxic shame. Pilinski also gives better examples. The Bradshaw document has some "gaps" in explaining certain things about toxic shame. This is because I tried to make the document as condensed as possible, and I ended up leaving out some things. I originally made the Bradshaw document for my own use and therefore left out some things in order make it smaller. The Pilinski document fills in some of those "gaps". Also, the Pilinski document is only and 8 page document, so that means you can read it faster. This way, you will have a head start in knowing everything Bradshaw is talking about in the other document once you being reading it.

Whatever you do, don't assume toxic shame has nothing to do with you. Do your due dilligence research on it, and/or buy the Bradshaw book or the Pilinski book (though Pilinksi had only one chapter in his book devoted to toxic shame, it was very good). I will say right off-the-bat, my documents are good, but are not the best source. This is because I originally condensed them for my own use, and therefore left out info that others might need to know. To get full understanding and the total picture of toxic shame, you need to get Bradshaw's book!

Don't let toxic shame control the rest of your life. It has done enough to you already.

Last edited by TX boy; 05-28-2009 at 05:25 PM. Reason: Corrected spelling.
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post #10 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-27-2009, 08:23 PM
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I'd highly recommend the Pilinski book as well, though there's plenty of free information on the web I'd read first. The good thing about Pilinski is he starts from the assumption that you're shy and don't really know how to get with women at all. It's quite the opposite of Mystery Method, which is so complicated and demanding that it's only really useful for egomaniacs who can already get regular women, but want six-foot blondes.

More directly on the topic of "toxic shame," that chapter was definitely something totally new to me, which really resonated. It's kind of like this: let's say you're at a party, and there's this woman you're attracted to and would like to talk to, but you just don't do it. It's not that you're afraid of some specific outcome, like she'll say "no" or something specifically embarrassing will happen. What it really is is just this: by going up to that girl, you're effectively announcing to her (and anyone looking on) that you need affection. Because the very act of approaching exposes that "weakness," it really doesn't matter what happens afterward - the act in and of itself is embarrassing.

I don't know if I buy "toxic shame" as the one global cause of social anxiety, but I do think it's a key point in the area of approaching women.
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post #11 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-27-2009, 09:05 PM
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This is a very interesting theory. I would appreciate if you could end the documents to me. Thank you very much for your work on condensing the book. I agree that many people on here complain about their problems without attempting to try new strategies to improve their condition.
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post #12 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-27-2009, 09:45 PM
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I'd like to hear more about this. Could you email me the condensed version?

Thanks
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post #13 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-27-2009, 10:29 PM
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Oh boy, another buzzword thread.

Toxic shame! Master emotion! Bold and italic! And underlined!
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post #14 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-28-2009, 05:11 AM
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Black Dog,

You wrote "What it really is is just this: by going up to that girl, you're effectively announcing to her (and anyone looking on) that you need affection. Because the very act of approaching exposes that "weakness," it really doesn't matter what happens afterward - the act in and of itself is embarrassing."

Holy cow. Everything time I visit this board I get a new persective on SA and that is an example that really "nails it on the head". Finally I can explain to my friends why I don't approach women. While the outcome is always in the back of my mind... fear of exposing a "weakness" is probably the root reason for my ambivilance to dating and relationships.

I'm looking into the toxic shame theory...sounds interesting.

http://anxiousradiocat.blogspot.com/

Chronicling my SA, and thoughts of the deep issues of life.


Back in the high life again.
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post #15 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-28-2009, 05:22 AM
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Sounds like the defectiveness/shame schema. But that is only one of several schemas. I'd love to read your documents but you say they are in Microsoft Word documents? Doesn't that mean I'd have to have Word to open them? I only have WordPad.
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post #16 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-28-2009, 07:53 AM
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I so agree. One of the most important discoveries I made last fall when I started to see my psychologist was that my social anxiety or fear of blushing are not my main problems. And they didn't just start, without a reason. They are just symptoms. Now I'm in therapy, slowly starting to discover the causes and basic feelings behind them... I have discovered, for my surprise, that all my life I've been living in shame, feeling that somehow I'm bad, unacceptable... Now it has just taken this SA form.

You said you are surprised for the low number of responses or PM:s... Shame is one thing we all want to hide to the last. We don't want to bring these emotions up and face them. It is much more easy just to consider SA as a purely neurobiological disorder... (this is just my opinion... ) as I virtually did earlier. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_resistance :P
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post #17 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-28-2009, 09:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TX boy View Post
I really surprised this thread hasn't gotten much more views or responses than it has received so far. I'm also suprised only a handful of people have requested my documents concerning toxic shame. I would've thought if you had social anxiety then you would do anything to get rid of it. It seems as if many here at this forum are only interested in talking about how SA has ruined their lives, but they don't seem to care in taking the action that could help themselves. Maybe it's the title of my thread that is the problem. Maybe I should have titled it something like, "The Holy Grail of SA found" or "Possibe cause of SA identified" or something like that.
That wouldn't make you very popular, there've been hundreds of posters on mental health sites offering "the holy grail" and they usually just end up annoying people. If people want help they'll come for it soon enough.
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post #18 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-28-2009, 03:05 PM
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Wow I think this theory pretty much sums up my life. The main reason why I feel anxious around people is because I'm ashamed of myself and feel like sh!t compared to others.
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post #19 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-28-2009, 03:14 PM Thread Starter
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I am going to reply to several of the posts here in this one post (for the sake of efficiency) -

Black dog - Yes, Pilinski's book, "Without Embarrassment" is a very good book. It's an absolute "must have" for any shy or social anxiety guy. For the guys here with SA (well I guess that's everyone here that is a guy. lol) you need this book before even considering asking out and dating a woman. Otherwise you will simply be unprepared and not ready. You need to know why you are the way you are, and you need to know how to start from the basic beginnings by taking things slowly and progressing. You need to know that odds are, because of your SA, that you are being viewed as Pilinski says "a low staus male". He explains how to overcome this. I think any guy here that has SA and does not have much experience with women is making a big mistake by trying to jump in and attempting to ask out and date women. You need this book!

person86 - I agree with you that my previous post did have a lot of bold letters in it. However, the majority of it was in 2 paragraphs in which I put all the words in those paragraphs in bold. The reason I made those paragraphs in bold was to point out (or to highlight) that those paragraphs were actual passages from my document. Looking back, maybe I should have not put those paragraphs in bold because it made my post have a gaudy feel to it. I just did not want my words and thoughts in my post to get mixed up with the author of those 2 paragraphs. That is why I tried to make them separate by putting the paragraphs in bold. However anything else in bold, or in italics, or underlined, I did those things because I thought it was important to emphasize those things.

sprinter - Yes it is true my documents were created with Microsoft Office Word. In regards to your question if the documents can be opened using WordPad, my answer is that I don't know if WordPad can be used. I don't know much about computers. Hopefully someone else can answer your question. You may want to consider getting the Microsoft Office software, not necessarily for my documents but for many purposes. It's a very worthwhile software to have.

wiima - I also suspect that when people see the word "shame" as a possible cause of their SA then that scares them off from looking at this thread or replying to it. You are dead on correct when you say that the last thing people want to admit is that they have shame. As John Bradshaw says, "There is shame about shame. People will readily admit guilt, hurt or fear before they will admit shame."

To everyone that has requested the documents - Hopefully you all have recieved the documents. If not, then please let me know.
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post #20 of 101 (permalink) Old 04-28-2009, 03:26 PM Thread Starter
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That wouldn't make you very popular, there've been hundreds of posters on mental health sites offering "the holy grail" and they usually just end up annoying people. If people want help they'll come for it soon enough.
I'm replying to this post separately from my above post because I want to talk about this topic a little more specifically.

UKPhobe, I suppose you are right in that if I had mentioned the words "holy grail" in my thread title then that would have turned people off.

I want to say that I don't think that it can be said (yet) that toxic shame is 100% the cause and solution to social anxiety. I don't know the exact percentage of us in which toxic shame causes our SA. I will say I truly believe toxic shame causes SA in more of us than not. Now, whether that's as little as 51% or on up to 99% ... I don't know the exact number. BUT, I certainly do believe that it is more of us than not. So, is toxic shame the holy grail in that it is behind ALL cases of social anxiety? I can’t say for total certainty. Now, is it the holy grail in that it is the cause of SA in more cases than not? Well, by THAT definition, I do believe it is the grail.

Someone had PM’ed me a theory as to why there hasn’t been an off-the-charts overwhelming reception to this thread (in terms of number of responses and requests for my document). She said something I think is true. I am really paraphrasing here, but basically she notes about how we are all different, and that many of us are in a mindset in which hearing new information about something may not resonate with us as strongly as it does with the person presenting the information. Very often people want to find or learn the information themselves rather than being told by someone else. I completely understand this because I am the same way. I’m more likely to believe something if I came across it and researched it myself rather than to take someone else’s views and opinions as to why something is the way it is. I totally understand this. However, at the same time, I want to say that the documents I created are not my opinion and thoughts of toxic shame. I did not read the Bradshaw and Pilinksi books and then put my thoughts in a document as to what I thought they were talking about. Everything in the documents I created is their words. I copied the passages directly from the book into the documents. There were a few instances that I had to clarify something or point something out. I did this by putting the word “Edit” in paranthesis and then making my statement. Other than that, everything in the documents is exactly as it was written in the books.

Now, I DID choose the passages from the books to copy into the documents. I guess in a way you can say it was my opinion towards what I thought was best to put in the documents. But the actual words, sentences, and paragraphs in the documents are exactly what the authors themselves wrote.

I hope everyone is clear on all this.
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