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Toxic Shame

Shame is a deadly feeling or emotion that cripples interpersonal and external relationships.

Shame highlights the weak points within. It can be a convenient source of defensiveness as we read on Monday.

Shame is what is handed to us by others. Their denigrating comments, or gestures are the source of shame, as are being teased, ridiculed, or put down. It's difficult to accept or understand if you don't experience it, just like so many other emotions. It is likely to hear the comment, “Just get over it, it is not that bad.” Oh, how I wish that would be the answer. Shame cripples the inner self as well as relationships.

My first four years of schooling were in a two-room schoolhouse in Tankersley, Texas. It was a small rural school. The first, second and third grades were in one room and the fourth, fifth and sixth were in the other. The West Texas Boy's Ranch was a major source of students. This was a ranch for boys who suffered from family violence or were unable to be a part of their family for various reasons. This concept scared me because I was very dependent on my mom and dad, and I couldn’t imagine living away from them.

Man, these boys were rough and tough and to a frail boy like me, it was frightening. They bullied and teased me until emotional survival became paramount in my life. I learned to avoid, wheedle, please, and do whatever was necessary to exist in that environment. I certainly do not blame anyone for the experience, it was just life for me at that time and perhaps I did learn some skills that have helped me over the years. It did cause me to have empathy for these boys, yet it was empathy from afar.

When I changed schools, the school was so big it had three fifth grade classes! This put me into another situation that was difficult because these kids were much more affluent and much brighter than I. My desire to be accepted failed due to me trying to cover my shame by being a bit grandiose. I was the only one that didn’t see through it and when I finally did it produced more shame.

So, I struggled with not being enough for many years. Again, this is not blaming my past but exposing it, looking to the future and what’s next. How do I get rid of this ingrained negative thought pattern of feeling unworthy?

Recognizing and looking for ways of dealing with shame has been the way out for me. Self-talk, identifying the negative story I am telling myself, then acting as if it was true has made me aware of my contribution to self-induced unworthiness. Today I tell myself positive stories as if they are true and it lifts my spirit.

Some of the blind spots I have struggled with in my relationships have been anger, defensiveness, rationalization, and turning situations around so that I am not the problem, among other outward behaviors that have pushed others away over the years. Ouch, what a disaster I unknowingly created. Thank God I had the courage to persist until I succeeded.

Shame is a toxin that contributes to the demise of relationships.

If you're not familiar with it, I recommend doing some research on it. If you suffer from shame, seek professional help to deal with it in a healthy way. This is not a solution for dealing with shame, but rather an opportunity to examine how it contributes to unhealthy relationships.

Does shame permeate your relationships? It is a major source of problems in relationships.

Watch for the blind spots.

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Blind Spots in Relationships

What I don't know I don't know about myself

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