The Toxic Shame thread (the cause of SA for most) - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-22-2010, 06:00 PM Thread Starter
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The Toxic Shame thread (the cause of SA for most)


The cause of social anxiety for the majority of us – Toxic Shame

This thread has been specifically created for the discussion of what I firmly believe to be the direct cause of SA for most people – toxic shame. Even though there are a few other threads in this forum about this condition, I wanted to create this thread to highlight the absolute importance that everyone here look into this fairly little known subject. However, even though it is a fairly little known condition, it is a more common condition than people realize. Hopefully I can help provide useful information in this thread that can help you understand why you are the way you are and what you can do about it.

Just to let everyone know, I am including info on this thread from posts made by myself and others from other threads concerning toxic shame. Therefore, some of my posts may include info I have copied and pasted from my and others’ posts. It makes it much more easier for me to get the message across here quickly and more efficiently. So, if you see any info I post that looks familiar in some way, then that is probably the reason.

After you read this thread (as well as the various books on the market about toxic shame), if you agree and come to the realization that toxic shame is the cause of SA for most people – and that SA is just a symptom of the true problem of that condition – I urge you to contact the administrators of this forum and request that they make this thread a "sticky". It is very important for this thread/topic to always be available for everyone to see, and that is why we need it to become a "sticky". I believe this subject is what most people here need to focus their attention on. It will help so many people here if they knew what the true problem is in their lives.

Toxic Shame: What is it? And what does it have to do with social anxiety?

As I said earlier, most people have SA because of a psychological state called toxic shame. So, what is toxic shame you say? It is the belief that one is inherently bad, defective, different, unworthy, or unlovable. Toxic shame is not just a belief that one does bad things, it is a deeply held core belief that one is bad. A person with this condition believes 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. Most people that acquire toxic shame will usually acquire it as a child. However, depending on the circumstances, it is certainly possible it can happen later in life also.

It is important to understand that 'toxic' shame and 'regular' shame are not the same thing. They are very different.

Healthy shame (healthy guilt) would say, “I made a mistake or a blunder, and I can repair that blunder."
Toxic shame says, "I am a mistake - everything I do is flawed and defective."


Gershen Kaufman, the author of the book Shame, says: "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."

So as you can see, SA is not the only condition that is toxic shame related. However, for our purposes, we will focus more on SA, shyness and toxic shame. Michael Pilinski, in his book Without Embarrassment, talks about how acute shyness is the result of toxic shame. And, John Bradshaw, in his book Healing The Shame That Binds You, says that "Shyness can be a serious problem when it is rooted in toxic shame."

Toxic Shame and it’s natural companions of fear and hiding

When we have toxic shame, we go into hiding. The condition causes us to hide many things about ourselves. This can result in a lifetime of cover-up and secrecy. This secrecy and hiding is the basic cause of human suffering. When we go into hiding, we of course begin living in fear... and vice versa.

It is obvious that toxically shamed people have anxiety… and anxiety = fear. BUT the reason one has that fear is because toxic shame causes them to have that fear. As John Bradshaw says, toxic shame causes a person to go into hiding. He/she hides their emotions ... their thoughts ... their feelings ... they try to hide their humanity – in which they try to hide that they are sexual, that they have emotions, that they have bodily functions, that they are imperfect beings. They hide their perceived imperfections because they fear their "flaws" (and thus their perceived unworthiness as a person) will be exposed. And, so, those with this crippling condition tend to live in secretiveness. So, yes, people with SA live with fear. Again, it is our toxic shame that causes us to hide and live in fear. When we hide from something, it is because we have fear. And obviously with all the hiding that we (SA'ers) do, it is just a natural reaction that we end up living in fear. And this is what leads to our SA - which, in reality, SA is really just a symptom (though a big symptom) and toxic shame is the actual problem.

In my next post below, I will go into the sources of your toxic shame, in which I will discuss how you came to acquire it.

"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: http://bit.ly/UeWprg
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post #2 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-22-2010, 06:01 PM Thread Starter
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In the post above I talked about toxic shame, what it is, and it’s direct relation to most of us with SA. I also talked about the aspects of fear and hiding in which this condition causes in us. In this post I will talk about some of the sources (the various sources from which we received our toxic shame).

The major sources of Toxic Shame

There are many ways to acquire toxic shame. However, the most common way is through your parents (though, not the only way). Obviously, your parents (or guardians) are who you learned about yourself and about life from the most, during your critical early years. As a child, parents can shame you through their - the parents - 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. Or maybe they, for whatever reason, are indifferent towards you and rarely hug you or show affection towards you. Often, negative actions and messages towards victims of toxic shame were communicated overtly by parents who had no concern for the child’s welfare. Some were communicated indirectly by caring parents who themselves were too young, overwhelmed, or distracted to provide a nurturing environment for their child. At times, these messages were communicated by circumstances that were beyond anyone’s control. It is important to know that many times our parents can be wounded souls themselves. Whatever the reason, they might not do it on purpose and they often 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. The mirroring eyes you received from dysfunctional parents/or guardians ends up being negative and distorted towards you and causes you to see yourself – and usually life as well - in the wrong way.

Parents aren't the only ones that can play a role in you acquiring this "soul-murdering" condition (as John Bradshaw calls it). It can also be caused by your peers, school systems, religious systems, the media or possibly society in general, or even a traumatic event. As Michael Pilinski says in his book Without Embarrassment:

"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?"

But regardless of whether one was abused, abandoned, neglected, shamed, used, smothered, controlled, or objectified, all people with toxic shame internalized the same belief – it was a bad or dangerous thing for them to be just who they were. And because of this belief, they (or rather, “you”) developed defense mechanisms to cope. Your acute shyness is one such common defense mechanism. John Bradshaw goes into more detail about the defense mechanisms in 2 of his books: Healing The Shame That Binds You (Revised Edition, October 2005) and Bradshaw On: The Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem.

In my next post below, I will go into what can help heal your toxic shame, and thus, your social anxiety.

"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: http://bit.ly/UeWprg
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post #3 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-22-2010, 06:02 PM Thread Starter
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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:

http://bit.ly/1iIwciC

http://bit.ly/1lGkvJ9


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: http://bit.ly/1PObT7z


Lifetimer

"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: http://bit.ly/UeWprg
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post #4 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-22-2010, 10:08 PM
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Wow!
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post #5 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-23-2010, 06:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Lifetimer View Post
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 -

Quote:
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."

Um, yep.
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post #6 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-23-2010, 09:09 AM
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Shame plays a big role in the cause of my SA. I always knew this. The books you talk about seem interesting , but do you really believe it can also help to overcome this shame ?

after reading all this I can only think about how can we overcome this shame?
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post #7 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-23-2010, 09:12 AM
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After more thinking I realize that we can only overcome shame with help of other people. In some way shame can only be caused by other people.
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post #8 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-23-2010, 11:12 AM
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ugh not again with this toxic shame crap. are you trying to sell a book or something?

Life is a journey thru time and happiness is what happens when we make that journey together.
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post #9 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-23-2010, 02:10 PM
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ugh not again with this toxic shame crap. are you trying to sell a book or something?
He's just trying to be helpful. I don't think it underlies everyone's social anxiety, but some people might find it useful.


I also wonder about recovery - would cognitive therapy be enough? I've never actually done a full course of it, where you get down to the core beliefs and challenge them with evidence. Or is toxic shame on a more visceral level, in which case developing a relationship with an empathic person would help provide the emotional regulation that was lacking in childhood?

Or maybe doing both would be best, as the cognitive component would be there as well. I guess that would involve doing CBT with an empathic therapist.

The therapy I've been doing is psychodynamic and relational, which involves learning to integrate previously disowned emotions. And along the way I've seen how much my dad used shame to control and belittle me, in order to make himself feel better. Bradshaw refers to that as acting 'shameless', and I know why he did it, because of the childhood he had. And my mom had emotional problems as well, and I wound up trying to take care of her emotions and failing. They were both pretty intense experiences of shame. And shame is such a horrible emotion that you wind up repressing it out of conscious awareness, but it's still there at the core of your personality. Part of the therapy I'm doing is uncovering and reexperiencing these old emotions in the presence of an empathic person, which slowly helps integrate them into your psyche, instead of them being like buried mines that go off in situations that trigger them due to their similarity to the original circumstances (in my case, anything involving work and bosses, and close and romantic relationships).
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post #10 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-24-2010, 09:18 PM Thread Starter
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LostPancake, thanks for your input regarding toxic shame. You are a good example of someone that "gets it" when it comes to understanding how this soul-murdering condition can affect a person.

You mentioned the book by Dr. Robert Glover titled No More Mr. Nice Guy, and I agree with you that it is a great book! Funny thing is, I was actually planning to post about Dr. Glover's book in this thread at some point, but since you brought it up I will briefly talk about it right now.

First of all, it is important that everyone not be fooled by the title of the book. It has absolutely nothing to do with being mean or a jerk. Now that this has been made clear, here is what I think about this superb book. I believe Dr. Glover's book No More Mr. Nice Guy is every bit as good as the books by John Bradshaw that I've talked about in this thread. The biggest difference to me is that Dr. Glover uses the term "Nice Guy Syndrome" as the main subject. However, if you read between the lines, you will realize he is actually talking about toxic shame as the actual problem. He even mentions the term "toxic shame" consistently throughout his book. It is my opinion that Dr. Glover's book has better solutions than does John Bradshaw's books. However, I will say I think Bradshaw's books are better at going into detail as to how TS affects people and he does a better good job of explaining other various aspects that are related to the condition.

In my original posts above, I mentioned for everyone to get the books by John Bradshaw. The reason I didn't mention the "No More Mr. Nice Guy" book in those posts was because of my concern that it would confuse some people. This is because of the name of the book, and also because of the fact that Dr. Glover talks of 'Nice Guy Syndrome' in his book. However, Nice Guy Syndrome is really the same thing as toxic shame. So don't let that confuse you. Anyway, it is just as important to add Dr. Glover's book as one that everyone here needs to read. And, since it is essentially about TS, I think not only men can benefit from it, but women as well. As one of the members of Dr. Glover's forum said:

"Bradshaw's book is more of a starting point. Glover's book is a continuation. He picks up where Bradshaw left off."

EDIT: If you are a female and just prefer not to read the book then that is OK (because it IS a book geared towards men and, thus, quite a bit of it is specifically "men intensive"). I understand if you choose not to read it. But the good news is that I have included a lot of the important info from Dr. Glover’s book & website in the Outer Work document of my TS healing plan. Regardless if you (women) choose to read his book, you can still benefit from all the other info in my healing plan and of the info throughout this thread.

Also, if you are a female, I want to point out that I am aware of a book called Nice Girl Syndrome by Beverly Engel. It apparently is similar to Dr. Glover’s book (Dr. Glover’s book is about Nice Guy Syndrome, although obviously the title of his book is different). Her book has received very good reviews at the Amazon website. If you are a female then you may want to consider reading her book. Here is a link to her book at the Amazon website: http://amzn.to/1j65NKY

As for the men here, I definitely recommend to get No More Mr. Nice Guy.

In addition to Dr. Glover's book, I think it is very important to also visit his forum. He has some excellent articles there posted as stickies that are equally as worthy as his book (if not even better in some instances!).


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"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: http://bit.ly/UeWprg
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post #11 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-24-2010, 09:35 PM Thread Starter
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ugh not again with this toxic shame crap. are you trying to sell a book or something?
Can you point out the specific parts of my posts that are “crap” as you called it? Can you tell me what doesn’t make sense in what I posted? Yes, I have often posted before in the other threads about toxic shame. The reason I continue to post about it and bring it to the light is because of the absolute seriousness of it. It is so obvious how toxic shame plays a major role in SA. Anyone with a rational mind can see why. It is my total belief that this condition affects the majority of the people with SA – and this is a SA forum, isn’t it? And that is why I post here. Now, whether that majority is as little as 51% of us or on up to 99% … I don’t know the exact number. But I certainly believe it is more than not, meaning at least 51%. So, I am not making any claims that 100% of the people here have this condition. As the old saying goes, "there's one in every crowd" no matter what the issue or situation is. So there probably is a certain small percentage of people with SA in which toxic shame is not the problem. However, through common sense, it is not difficult to realize that it does affect more of us than not.

After reading about toxic shame and knowing how it works, how can anyone say that it doesn’t affect many us with SA?? Anyone that says it has nothing to do with most of us is in denial and doesn’t want to admit to shame having anything to do with them. 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." So I am saying, you must face the truth and deal with it instead of hiding from it.

This is why I say that a section of this forum needs to be devoted to the subject of toxic shame. Or at least this thread should be make into a “sticky” in which it is always available for those here to read. Because if it affects so many of us, then doesn’t it make sense that everyone here know about it?

I know there are probably several members here that have seen my various postings in the past concerning this subject. I imagine some of their reactions may be along the lines of, “Why do you keep posting about it?” My response to that would be: “Well, should I ignore that toxic shame is actually the cause for SA in most people and instead continue worrying about the symptom?” (SA is a symptom of the actual problem – that of toxic shame) “Isn’t the reason everyone is in this forum is because they want to know what causes SA and what to do about it?” “Would everyone rather complain about their problem and not want to cure their problem?”

I hope I got my point across as to why toxic shame MUST continue to be discussed in this – as well as any other – social anxiety forum.


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"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: http://bit.ly/UeWprg
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post #12 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-24-2010, 09:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Lifetimer View Post
As John Bradshaw says, toxic shame causes a person to go into hiding. He/she hides their emotions ... their thoughts ... their feelings ... they try to hide their humanity – in which they try to hide that they are sexual, that they have emotions, that they have bodily functions, that they are imperfect beings. They hide their perceived imperfections because they fear their "flaws" (and thus their perceived unworthiness as a person) will be exposed. And, so, those with toxic shame tend to live in secretiveness.
I think this is one of the best descriptions of SA that I've read, at least as far as it applies to me. I know every time that I let someone know how I feel or what I think is a tiny victory -- something I had much more trouble doing when I was younger. I still have nightmares, though, about this kind of shame, where all my secrets are in a little cardboard box and then someone finds them. I'm hoping some day I can have that dream and go "So what?" when that box is opened.

"They had to laugh, otherwise it would be too terrifying." -Bukowski
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post #13 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-24-2010, 09:54 PM
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I read TOXIC SHAME probably 50 times in this thread alone. My head hurts. xD
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post #14 of 634 (permalink) Old 08-25-2010, 10:47 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by P312 View Post
I read TOXIC SHAME probably 50 times in this thread alone. My head hurts. xD
P312,

Ha-ha. You are right! I used that phrase a bit too much - instead of using other words in its place. I didn't realize how many times I used the words "toxic shame" in my posts! I have now went back and edited out those words in some places, and I replaced it (in some places) with different words. However, there are still quite a few of the words "toxic shame" that I left in. I didn't know what else to use in its place in all the situations. Well, I guess I could've used its initials. I'll use the initials in some cases in the future. In any case, I have now went back and made an edit by replacing "toxic shame" in some cases with the words of "this condition" and the very generic word of "it".

EDIT (below in italics):

I know everyone is seeing the words "toxic shame ... toxic shame ... toxic shame", over and over throughout this long thread. BUT, don't become SO focused or hypnotized by those words to the point that you miss the main message of why you have SA. The point of this thread - at least in regards to why most people have SA - is to show how a specific source (or a combination of sources) has caused you to have SA. Shame (or "toxic" shame) is the end result of that source or sources that has caused the issues inside of you.

So, once again, don't become overly transfixed on the words "toxic shame". Instead, what is important to know & understand is that someone - or something - has caused the issues that you currently face, and that you need to do the work to heal yourself of this illness.


Thanks again, P312, for pointing out my overuse of that phrase. Even though there are still several places in my posts where I left in the words "toxic shame", hopefully, now that I edited it a bit, it isn't as quite overused as it was before.


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"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: http://bit.ly/UeWprg
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post #15 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-05-2010, 10:10 PM Thread Starter
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I think those of us with toxic shame (most everyone here) tend to have our personality stunted by it. I’ve always felt I’ve never had much of a personality from the start. And the reason I feel like I've never had much of a personality from the start isn't because I was "just born that way", but instead it is because of my lifetime of toxic shame (with social anxiety being a major symptom and toxic shame the cause, as with most people here). The condition robbed me of ever developing a real personality - the personality I should've had. I, as many of you here, have always been in hiding from not only everyone in the world, but from myself as well. I was always hiding my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I've never felt as an equal to other human beings. All of this, of course, led to me shutting down myself and hiding myself (my personality). And thus, my personality never had a real chance to develop and grow. Does any of this sound personally familiar?

The good news is that, since I've found out about the condition of toxic shame, I have improved immensely regarding my social anxiety. The social anxiety itself is not a problem anymore for me. For example, here is some hard physical evidence of my improvement: I used to have a bad, bad blushing problem. I would blush from just having a normal conversation/interaction with another person. So, yes, the blushing had become a major problem … to the point that I didn’t want to talk to people anymore for fear that I would begin to blush. I was afraid they would look at me as if I had mental problems. And this had became a daily, very embarrassing problem for me. However, since learning about the condition and following the advice of authors John Bradshaw and Dr. Robert Glover (I have talked about these authors and their books previously in this thread), I have completely stopped blushing! To me this is unquestionable physical evidence that my toxic shame is beginning to heal. I still don't feel I am completely healed of it yet, but I definitely have made major progress and I expect to continue to make progress.

As with just about anything - physical or mental - healing takes time and gradual improvement, bit by bit; it won't happen overnight. What I mean is: it isn’t like one day a person has toxic shame and the next day he is completely cured, as if someone flipped a switch. It really is a process – a very gradual process. As you begin to heal from your toxic shame, the lines can become a bit blurred as you gradually go from having toxic shame - to healing your toxic shame. At that point you will begin to wonder if you are 100% toxic shame free, or if any uncomfort level you are now feeling is that of lacking confidence in your social skills and life experience. IF it is just a case of lacking confidence and feeling uncomfortable in these areas, then that has nothing to do with still having TS. You can be 100% free of your TS but still lack confidence in these areas. It is these areas you have never previously develop because of your TS. And realize you are essentially changing from one person to another, and THAT is why it takes a good amount of time.

My main problem now is that of not having a personality/social skills. Even though SA is no longer a real problem for me, I still have a big problem in interacting with others the way most other "completely normal, well-adjusted" people do. Practically all people that never had SA/toxic shame managed to develop a personality of some sort that they go with. And so I think most "normal" people have a set way (or a set mode) in which they automatically know how to act/behave in many situations. They have their personality set to act in a particular way that works for them. This is because since they were fortunate enough to not be afflicted with SA/toxic shame, they were able to grow and develop their personality. I, on the other hand, don’t know what “type” of person I am – or how to act in many situations. I don’t feel I have a set mode in which my “personality” automatically kicks in and knows what to do … especially in social situations. I know without a doubt that, because of my toxic shame, that my personality/social skills has stunted and hasn't been able to develop and grow as it should have. So even though I no longer live with fear and anxiety, I still feel awkward around people -- BUT for the reason of not having the social skills to interact easily with them and to "fit in". This is something I feel will take a lot of work and practice on my part... to build up a personality and build the social skills that I've never had a chance to build.

Another consequence of not having any real personality and/or not being a certain type of person is: What kind of friends should I have? What type of people should I hang out with? I really don't know. Should I have friends who are the "goody-goody" type? Should I have friends who are wild, loud, foul-mouthed, and like to drink a lot? Should I hang out with nerdy people? As I said, I feel like I don't know who I REALLY am, and so I don't know what kind of people I should hang out with.

I guess it's just a consequence of toxic shame that I am going to have to figure out myself.


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"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: http://bit.ly/UeWprg
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post #16 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-06-2010, 12:25 AM
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Pretty much everything that LifeTimer has said has hit home with me.

For 25 years I've lived with a lot of this toxic shame resulting in never having a lot of good friends and never having a true friend that I felt I could tell anything to. Gone 25 years without feeling truly close to anyone except my mom to a degree. Hell, never even kissed a girl.

I really can't figure out where things went wrong. I feel like my parents were really good to me with the only aside being maybe there was some perfectionism, high expectations, and I was an only child. I know my problems started around age 7 when I became a fat kid and starting having problems being picked on in school. I feel like there had to be more to it but I can't pinpoint it.

Eventually I became relatively comfortable dealing with people in shallow ways but could never, ever expose myself and all the shame in all sorts of parts of my life that snowballed.

Last week I had a major breakthrough, I always had some suspicion that I had SA but never researched it. When I finally broke down and looked at all the evidence it became clear that I'd been living with it and in denial nearly my whole life. I came to this site, started reading a lot and came to a realization that if I was ever going to beat this I'd have to admit to myself that I'd been living with a terrible condition and it isn't my fault. I had to come to terms with the fact that I'm not a "normal person" who is bad and has many flaws, but that I'm a decent person who is living with a socially debilitating disorder.

I was able to come out of the closet so to speak about all this to my mom. I decided that I had to accept who I am and my problems, and if my fate is to live alone and accomplish nothing in life, I had to accept that too. I've tried my best to make up for all the horrible years and love myself.

This last Friday, I happened to get a message on a dating site from a girl who was interested in me and wished to chat. She seemed like a nice person and I decided that I needed to throw caution to the wind and not hide anything about myself. Told her about my SA. I was completely honest with everything she asked including being a virgin and never kissing a girl. She's been a great listener and I've received nothing but empathy and compassion from her and I feel so grateful. She has flaws also and I've been able to relate really well with her. She's been really open to any of my personal questions. We've been constantly talking all weekend and I feel like because I was able to shed my mask with her, it's been truly liberating and cathartic. Now I feel completely comfortable when I talk to her and am free to have fun, flirt, and be myself, and will be seeing her next weekend.
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post #17 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-07-2010, 02:58 AM
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interesting concept. im booking marking this thread to take a good look. thanks for posting life timer
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post #18 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-07-2010, 10:00 PM Thread Starter
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In my previous post, I talked about how I felt I didn't really have a personality because of my lifetime of toxic shame. I then talked about how I am now over my social anxiety - but that my problem now is that I don't know how to act around others and that I am now this socially inept person with no real personality (because my toxic shame had robbed me the chance to develop a real personality).

While all the above is true, I wanted to let everyone know that I was venting my frustration of finally realizing my dream of getting over my SA but being frustrated because of not being able to immediately start living the "normal" life, and not being able to immediately display the personality that I've always imagined I would have. I'm not saying that I've expected myself to become "Mr. Personality" or "the life of the party", but I certainly imagined I would have a solid, workable personality and way of acting around others in that I would automatically "fit in", just like I see other (I hate saying this phrase) "normal people" easily do. When I say "normal people", I'm talking about people that never had SA/toxic shame issues or any other major emotional/psychological issues. I'm talking about those people that developed their personality normally while growing up, without it being stunted in any major way.

Yes, my previous post showed my frustration for not having the personality I want to have right now. However, I was so focused on my frustration in that post that I neglected to mention that there IS a book I am following to help me develop a true solid personality. It's the book I mentioned previously, titled: No More Mr. Nice Guy written by Dr. Robert Glover. First of all, this book has nothing to do with making a person into a jerk. Far from it. This superb book teaches a man how to be a man. Really, it teaches a person how to be a solid, internally strong, integrated person. Even though it is written for men, I believe some of the book will benefit women as well (edit: for the women here... please read again post #10 - the edited portion - in which I talk a similar book written specifically for women). Dr. Glover's book has excellent advice and also "Breaking Free Activities" of which will help you. One of the important things I've learned from this book that has really helped me is: "Stop seeking the approval of others". I know you've probably heard similar statements like this before, but after reading Dr. Glover's book you will view this statement in a new light and realize how correct this statement really is. Dr. Glover in his book goes into more detail regarding that statement of why it is so important not to seek the approval of others. I think this - implementing that statement - is one of the big things that helped me get over my severe blushing that I've talked of earlier in this thread (but other things I learned from Dr. Glover and John Bradshaw as well contributed to overcoming my blushing).

I've actually seen more than once people post in other forums that Dr. Glover's book is now their "Bible".

Anyway, I am just letting everyone know there IS hope for anyone that feels your SA/toxic shame has caused your personality to be stunted (or if you feel you have no real personality at all because of your SA/toxic shame). And there certainly is hope you can overcome your SA by overcoming your TS.


Lifetimer

"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: http://bit.ly/UeWprg
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post #19 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-08-2010, 01:02 AM
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It's no secret that shame is a part of social anxiety...our fear of being judged by others in a negative way is the crux of our problem.

But to say that shame is the cause of our conditions is not exactly true. Shame is an emotion, a mental state, that results from the way we interact with society.

I think the "toxic shame" theory confuses a symptom for the "disease" itself.

But I do hear what you are saying about acceptance...that is an extremely important part of getting better. If you look a lot of validated therapies like Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy employ acceptance of your thoughts and yourself as a person.
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post #20 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-08-2010, 10:38 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by djp2k10 View Post
Pretty much everything that LifeTimer has said has hit home with me.

For 25 years I've lived with a lot of this toxic shame resulting in never having a lot of good friends and never having a true friend that I felt I could tell anything to. Gone 25 years without feeling truly close to anyone except my mom to a degree. Hell, never even kissed a girl.

I really can't figure out where things went wrong. I feel like my parents were really good to me with the only aside being maybe there was some perfectionism, high expectations, and I was an only child. I know my problems started around age 7 when I became a fat kid and starting having problems being picked on in school. I feel like there had to be more to it but I can't pinpoint it.

Eventually I became relatively comfortable dealing with people in shallow ways but could never, ever expose myself and all the shame in all sorts of parts of my life that snowballed.

Last week I had a major breakthrough, I always had some suspicion that I had SA but never researched it. When I finally broke down and looked at all the evidence it became clear that I'd been living with it and in denial nearly my whole life. I came to this site, started reading a lot and came to a realization that if I was ever going to beat this I'd have to admit to myself that I'd been living with a terrible condition and it isn't my fault. I had to come to terms with the fact that I'm not a "normal person" who is bad and has many flaws, but that I'm a decent person who is living with a socially debilitating disorder.

I was able to come out of the closet so to speak about all this to my mom. I decided that I had to accept who I am and my problems, and if my fate is to live alone and accomplish nothing in life, I had to accept that too. I've tried my best to make up for all the horrible years and love myself.

This last Friday, I happened to get a message on a dating site from a girl who was interested in me and wished to chat. She seemed like a nice person and I decided that I needed to throw caution to the wind and not hide anything about myself. Told her about my SA. I was completely honest with everything she asked including being a virgin and never kissing a girl. She's been a great listener and I've received nothing but empathy and compassion from her and I feel so grateful. She has flaws also and I've been able to relate really well with her. She's been really open to any of my personal questions. We've been constantly talking all weekend and I feel like because I was able to shed my mask with her, it's been truly liberating and cathartic. Now I feel completely comfortable when I talk to her and am free to have fun, flirt, and be myself, and will be seeing her next weekend.
Djp2k10,

Thanks for posting your story. You stated that you “can’t figure out where things went wrong”. I think it usually is fairly easy to tell what causes a person’s toxic shame. It’s really hard for me to comment on what may have caused your toxic shame because, of course, I haven’t personally witnessed the things that have happened in your life. You’ve listed several things that could be a possible cause but you said you couldn’t pinpoint it. I don’t think toxic shame necessarily has to be caused by ONE single thing. It could be a combination of things that build up to cause a person to feel unworthy, defective, different, unlovable, less than human, etc. So, it possibly can be several things that causes one to live in fear and anxiety (to have toxic shame). Maybe all the things you’ve mentioned came together to combine to cause your shame. Or maybe it was mainly just 1 or 2 of the things you’ve mentioned. It’s hard for me to say.

It’s funny you’ve brought up about how being a “fat kid” and being picked on in school as a possible source of your toxic shame (I don’t mean it’s funny as in “ha-ha”, but you know what I mean). The toxic shame expert John Bradshaw mentioned those very things in his book Healing The Shame That Binds You. He talked about how being overweight can be a source of toxic shame, and he seperately mentioned how being bullied, in general (not necessarily because one is fat) can also cause toxic shame. In regards to the perfectionism you’ve mentioned, Bradshaw talked extensively about that in one of his chapters. So, you can see how it is possible with all those things that they could be the source of one’s toxic shame.

Djp2k10, I noticed you happened to mention your parents. In Dr. Robert Glover’s book No More Mr. Nice Guy he talks about how sometimes a person feels their parents are “perfect” and that they (the person) feels he (or she) can never meaure up to their parents. This could lead to a person feeling unworthy and shameful of himself/herself. He gave a real life example in his book. I think Dr. Glover (or maybe it was John Bradshaw, I can’t remember which one for sure) also talked about how some parents have very high expections of their children, and when the child doesn’t measure up to the parents expectations, the child becomes shameful – which of course could lead to toxic shame. I’m not suggesting that what I wrote in this paragraph is necessarily the case with you, but I’m saying it is a possibility for some people.

I personally think it’s possible some people may be more susceptible than other people, and thus, may be more likely than others to be affected by the various sources of toxic shame that I’ve mentioned in this thread. So, in other words, maybe some people are more likely to be affected and so they are more likely to acquire the condition. We are all different – and live in different environments as well – and so I think it is possible that some people are more susceptible to toxic shame than others. This is just MY theory and I don’t think John Brasdshaw or Dr. Glover (or any other toxic shame author I know of) has mentioned it in there books.

Djp2k10, I agree with you that it was a major breakthrough for you in finding out about SA (and toxic shame) and that it really isn’t your fault. I also think it’s a big step for you in that you interacting with the opposite sex. I think it took courage for you to open up and let this girl know those things that are a part of your life that other people may feel embarrassed to tell another person. It looks like you could be on the right track. I wish you well in your journey to a life free of SA and toxic shame.


Lifetimer

"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: http://bit.ly/UeWprg
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