Empower Yourself: Toxic shame and Normal shame


Toxic shame owns us. Without any misgiving I can report that everyone in our society has been toxically shamed. Looking more closely at this shows us that it is entirely institutionalized. The playground bully is shamed. The president and his people make war to shame a head of state and find a way to kill him in a dirty hole somewhere like was done to Saddam Hussein In order to prove whose boss in the world.
These people cannot play in our yard. They don’t play nice. Go home to your Mum. She has to have you, we do not.
But what is shame really all about?
The best illustration of toxic shame comes from Charles Schultz; that’s right, the creator of the quintessential kid, Charlie Brown. Picture this: today’s comic strip has 4 boxes, from left to right. First frame: Lucy is all by herself whizzing along the sidewalk with her best self satisfied grin on her face….on roller skates. Frame 2: Lucy whizzes along on her skates. Frame 3: There she is still whizzing along blissful and happy on her skates! Frame 4:S he is flat on her back on the cement, skates in the air. No more blissful countenance! She’s yelling stridently:
“See what you made me do!”
No one in sight! No one but herself involved in this incident. She is seeking to shame and blame anyone because she fell off the skates. This is toxic shame.
You spoiled our lives. You are a worthless child. Your brother will get our money. Unless you can do what you are told, you don’t eat tonight. You are not the kind of person I would pick as a friend. Why can’t you get good grades like your older sister? I like the Marjory who lives up the street better than you. Why won’t you do what you are told?
Have you heard any of these?. It goes a little deeper for as obvious as these are, they are not exactly the cause of the shame burden everywhere.
When I’m a little kid, I depend on my primary caregivers to help me to identify myself in my world and to support me to grow into a whole, coherent, evolving personality and a useful person first to myself and then to everyone in my world. My responsibility is first to myself. This shows us another way in which this toxic shame is embedded in us: often we are taught that the only use we have in is giving ourselves away completely on the whim and desire of everyone in our world. If you are good, you get ice cream. That sort of thing. But whose idea is the ‘good”? One church says that if you are born of a woman, you are a sinner. Presumably the ones perpetrating this patent nonsense are born some other way that we don’t know about?
Toxic shame comes from people who themselves are in shame and they cannot deal with what that feels like in there, so they must hand it off to someone else: i.e. toxify you in order to relieve their own shame just to feel okay about themselves. They can transfer it all and then gloat at our pain. Ever watched these sorts of dramas going on in your space? Have you been the object of one of these ‘bait and tackle’ situations? Me, too. Lotsa times.
What’s the healing of this. The best book I ever saw about this is John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You. A blockbuster. I had a 4 day migraine figuring out what he was talking about and applying it to my own pain. His plan worked, I’m okay. You’re okay.
What it amounts to is an exercise in re-nurturing yourself, literally becoming your own parent. John Bradshaw takes you through a process where you as your adult self become the parent to your toxicified young child within teaching him/her love, tenderness, and validation needed to become a whole person.
With this kind of understanding it might be that all those toxic world leaders would come to the united nations and stage a mass intervention where they all got next to their toxic shame. Heal the whole world in an instant; the rest would be logistics: how will we take down the banks. How will be take down the military machine? How will be take down the churches who prey on their people in the name of being holier than we are? How will we return the corporations to their workers for sorting out.? Happy days are here again! All the best, Grandmother

Carole White