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The Toxicity of Shame

Last Thursday night I was invited to speak to a Celebrate Recovery night at Life Church in Olathe, KS. The topic that I choose was shame. Below are the notes from that session.

The Compulsive Addictive Cycle Fueled by and Regenerating Shame by John Brads

The Inner Child

We do not choose what family or belief system that we are born into. As we grow through the stages of development, dysfunction and traumas can lock us up emotionally. These events can be shaming events. We start to think that shame is about us instead of what happened to us.

Healthy Shame

  • Knowing your limits
  • The feeling that lets me know that I’m limited
  • Without healthy shame, I’m not in touch with my basic boundaries
    • Boundaries utilize the word NO
    • An addiction is not being able to say NO
Toxic Shame
  • The whole self is fundamentally flawed and defective
  • Is no longer an emotion that signals our limits; it is A state of being, A core identity
  • Gives you A sense of worthlessness, A sense of failing, of falling short as A human being
  • Is experience as an inner torment
Toxic Shame vs. Guilt – a quote from Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw
“Abuse creates toxic shame – the feeling of being flawed and diminished and never measuring up. Toxic shame feels much worse than guilt. With guilt, you’ve done something wrong; but you can repair that – you can do something about it. With toxic shame there’s something wrong with you and there’s nothing you can do about it; you are inadequate and defective. Toxic shame is the core of the wounded child. This meditation sums up the ways that the wonderful child got wounded. The loss of your I AMness is spiritual bankruptcy. The wonder child is abandoned and all alone.”

Cover Up – Compulsive and Addictive Behaviors

One of the ways that we can cover the toxic shame in our lives is to cover it up with compulsive and addictive behaviors. The following list is also adapted from John Bradshaw:

  • Ingestive Addictions
    • Alcohol/Drugs
    • Eating Disorders
  • Feeling Addictions
    • Rage Addictions
    • Fear/Excitement
    • Shame
    • Guilt
  • Thought Addictions
    • Detailing
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Activity Addictions
    • Gambling
    • Sexual Addiction
    • Buying (“Shopaholic”)
    • Hoarding
    • Working (“Workaholic”)
    • Exercising
    • Watching TV
    • Video Game Playing
    • Internet Addiction
  • Will Addictions
    • Addicted to our own will

“…Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”  2 Timothy 1:12b

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