Toxic Shame

Toxic shame is a sense of shame that is so strong or pervasive that it negatively impacts on 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/freeze reaction.

We feel exposed and want to hide or react with rage, while feeling profoundly alienated from others and good parts of ourselves.

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 be rid of ourselves.

We all have 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.

Associated Symptoms & Behaviours

People may also experience a number of symptoms and behaviours that may not seem to be directly related to XX including:

Within the Power Threat Meaning Framework, these associated or secondary symptoms may be better thought of as threat responses and coping strategies that have been adopted in order to cope with the immediate problem.

Unfortunately, when faced with threats not everybody adopts threat responses that are ‘adaptive’ to the situation and may frequently choose approaches that end up being more harmful to mental and physical health in the longer term.

Despite this obvious paradox, it is important to recognise that nobody deliberately chooses ‘maladaptive’ coping mechanisms that result in more harm than good.

At some level, the choice of threat response made complete sense (was coherent) at the time the threat was originally experienced, and this may have been in early childhood at a time when fewer mental resources were available.

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.

If not healed, toxic shame can lead to anger, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, and addiction problems.

It generates low self-esteem, anxiety, irrational guilt, perfectionism, and it limits our ability to enjoy satisfying relationships and professional success.

Core CBT for XX on PC Screen

The CORE CBT Programme for XX

The CORE CBT Programme was devised and written by Paul in 2020 and combines all the best elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with additional knowledge drawn from research in Personal Construct Theory, Attribution Theory, Self-Determination Theory and Social Constructivism.

It is particularly well-suited to XX related problems due to the prevalence of cognitive ideation in the creation of XX responses.

It is a 10 module course normally taken over a 10 week period with weekly hour long counselling sessions (either face-to-face or using Zoom), but can also be followed as a ‘teach yourself’ course for those with more manageable levels of anxiety.

Free Initial Consultations for XX Banner

Want to Find Out More?

If you’d like to find out more about overcoming or recovering from XX using a psychosocial approach, then why not arrange a free initial consultation with us.

During this consultation we will discuss your particular problem, what it means to you and the potential solutions that are available.

We provide a safe, confidential and non-judgemental environment without any obligation for you to commit to any psychotherapy programmes or sessions going forward.

This initial consultation will give you the opportunity to consider the merits of the psychosocial perspective as well as the chance to find out what Paul or Joan are like as individuals.

Contact Paul

You can contact Paul on:

07434 776125

or by e-mail at:

paul@leepsychology.com

Contact Joan

You can contact Joan on:

07434 776504

or by e-mail at:

joan@leepsychology.com

Joan

Hypnotherapist Joan Lee D. Hyp. MIAEBP

Location Map

Lee Psychology, Maypole House, Yew Tree Court, Wombourne, South Staffordshire, WV5 9JB.

Mental Health at Work Services Banner
Mental Health at Work

Corporate & Business Services

Consultancy

Training

Principles

HSE Management Standards

Signs of Stress in Staff

Mental Health Prevention

Bullying in the Workplace

Legal Duty of care

Psychological tools

Access to a number of self-assessment tests and quizzes that are commonly used across the mental health sector.

Self-Help Online 

The Science of Self-Help Therapy

Self-Help CBT Course Online

Self-Help Course for Tinitus

Self-Help Course for Emetophobia

Services

All Consultancy Services

Mental Health at Work

Elite Sports Performance

Tinitus

Academic Support

Mental Health & Safety

Web Services

Website Design Services

Website Design for Psychologists

Website Design for Hypnotherapists

Therapy Webs

Hypno-Band International

The Hypno-Band Weight Loss System

Practitioner Licenses

Practitioner Websites

Hypno-Band Downloadable Course

Self-Help CBT Course for Weight Loss

Hypnoband.com