All About Toxic Shame and How to Overcome it with Psychological Therapy & Counselling
What is Toxic Shame?
Toxic shame is a sense of shame that is so strong or pervasive that it negatively impacts your day-to-day living.
Everyone experiences shame at one time or another.
It’s an emotion with physical symptoms like any other that come and go, but when it’s severe, it can be extremely painful and when shame becomes toxic, it can ruin lives.
Strong feelings of shame stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, causing a fight, flight or freeze reaction.
We may feel exposed and want to hide or react with rage, while feeling profoundly alienated from others and good parts of ourselves.
Furthermore, we may not be able to think or talk clearly and be consumed with self-loathing, which is made worse because we’re unable to get away from ourselves.
Each of us has our own specific triggers or tender points that produce feelings of shame.
The intensity of our experience varies, too, depending upon our prior life experiences, cultural beliefs, personality, and the activating event.
Unlike ordinary shame, “internalised shame” hangs around and alters our self-image.
It’s shame that has become “toxic,” a term first coined by Sylvan Tomkins in the early 1960s in his scholarly examination of human affect.
For some people, toxic shame can monopolise their personality, while for others, it lies beneath their conscious awareness, but can easily be triggered.
Characteristics of Toxic Shame
Toxic shame differs from ordinary shame, which passes in a day or a few hours, in the following respects:
- It can hide in our unconscious, so that we’re unaware that we have shame.
- When we experience shame, it lasts much longer.
- The feelings and pain associated with shame are of greater intensity.
- An external event isn’t required to trigger it. Our own thoughts can bring on feelings of shame.
- It leads to shame spirals that cause depression and feelings of hopelessness and despair.
- It causes chronic “shame anxiety” — the fear of experiencing shame.
- It’s accompanied by voices, images, or beliefs originating in childhood and is associated with a negative “shame story” about ourselves.
- We needn’t recall the original source of the immediate shame, which usually originated in childhood or a prior trauma.
- It creates deep feelings of inadequacy.
You may have all or only a few of these experiences as a part of your shame.
The Causes of Toxic Shame
In most cases, shame becomes internalised or toxic from chronic or intense experiences of shame in childhood.
Parents can unintentionally transfer their shame to their children through verbal messages or nonverbal behaviour.
For an example, a child might feel unloved in reaction to a parent’s depression, indifference, absence, or irritability or feel inadequate due to a parent’s competitiveness or over-correcting behavior.
Children need to feel uniquely loved by both parents.
When that connection is breached, such as when a child is scolded harshly (for example ‘you should feel ashamed of yourself‘), children feel alone and ashamed, unless the parent-child bond of love is soon repaired.
However, even if shame has been internalized, it can be surmounted by later positive experiences.
Therapy & Counselling for Toxic Shame
We offer a number of different types of therapy and counselling for toxic shame and related problems.
Choosing the most suitable therapy depends on a number of different considerations including factors such as:
- How long you have had the problem.
- Your personal preferences.
- How your problem is affecting you today.
You can read more about the different types of therapy for shame on the following links:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Toxic Shame
- Counselling for Toxic Shame
- Pluralistic Therapy for Shame
Although all therapies use slightly different approaches, the one thing they all have in common is the relationship that is formed between the client and therapist.
Research suggests that this therapy relationship may be the most important factor in achieving a good therapy outcome.
Behaviour Change Framework – BCF
All of our counselling sessions and programmes are enhanced by applying the Behaviour Change Framework (BCF).
This scientifically proven protocol clearly defines the incremental stages of behaviour change that you need to go through in order to achieve long lasting and sustainable change.
Drawn from the Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change (TTM), the framework provides a roadmap that not only gauges the current stage of progression through the change process, but also indicates if more change is required before entering the next phase of therapy or coaching.
In this way, we are able to ensure that you get the best possible level of support in overcoming your problems as well as ensuring that we don’t terminate the change process prematurely.
You can read more about the Science of Change here.
Arrange your FREE initial consultation here.
During this consultation we will discuss your particular issues and the different types of mental health counselling we offer without you having to commit to any counselling going forward.
The consultation lasts around 50 minutes and is a great opportunity to meet with either Paul or Joan and decide if you would like to proceed with any support.
Applied Psychology Solutions
If you’d like to learn how to overcome toxic shame problems but dislike the idea of having “therapy”, then why not learn how to change the way you make sense of your experiences with the CORE Programme.
If you believe that your problems are the result of what has happened to you and not because there is something wrong with you, then this is the solution you’ve been looking for.
Not Ready to Commit to Therapy Quite Yet?
Then why not see if you can solve your own problems using our comprehensive, Online Self-Help CBT course.
Written especially for people who prefer not to engage with a therapist before doing everything they can to overcome their problems.
Mirroring our in-house course of CBT, it contains everything that you need to know to tackle mental health challenges for only £149.
We offer counselling for toxic shame problems for people living in:
- West Midlands
- South Staffordshire
You can also access our services around the World using online therapy with Paul.