The Toxic Shame thread (the cause of SA for most) - Page 2 - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #21 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-08-2010, 10:00 PM Thread Starter
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But to say that shame is the cause of our conditions is not exactly true. Shame is an emotion, a mental state, that results from the way we interact with society.
Relyt, what you don’t understand is that we ARE our emotions. If we didn’t have emotions, we would be robots. Everyone needs to understand that shame is, as John Bradshaw says, the master emotion. It is the master emotion because it binds all the other emotions. Why is this important? Because our emotions and our feelings are essentially our life. Without emotions and feelings we would not be human. When our thoughts, emotions, and feelings become toxic, then we basically cease to live as a normal human being. Our toxically shamed emotions and mental state is the reason we have so much trouble interacting with society (and also is why we have so much trouble accepting ourselves). It’s not any wonder that our lives can be, for all purposes, ruined when we go from normal, healthy shame to having “toxic” shame.


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I think the "toxic shame" theory confuses a symptom for the "disease" itself.
Relyt, you’ve got it backwards. Toxic shame is NOT a symptom. The symptom, in our case, is social anxiety. Toxic shame is actually the cause, or “disease” as you would put it. Go back and read the first three posts of this thread. It is plain & simple logic to realize that what I’ve been talking about in this thread is true. It’s not hard to figure out.


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post #22 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-09-2010, 03:22 AM
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Eh, I don't buy it. I've had social anxiety since I was a kid and my self-esteem was very high back then. Toxic shame might be related to depression, but not to anxiety, in my opinion.
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post #23 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-09-2010, 06:49 AM
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Eh, I don't buy it. I've had social anxiety since I was a kid and my self-esteem was very high back then. Toxic shame might be related to depression, but not to anxiety, in my opinion.

So you had High self esteem but also was social anxious ?
Can you tell what made you have anxiety? What were you afraid for?
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post #24 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-09-2010, 07:19 AM
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As a child, parents can shame you through their - the parents - repeated words or actions of making you feel you are not quite smart enough, or attractive enough, or that you can't do things for yourself, etc. Or maybe they, for whatever reason, are indifferent towards you and rarely hug you or show affection towards you. Often, negative actions and messages towards victims of toxic shame were communicated overtly by parents
QFT. I have a lot of resentment towards mine for this.

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post #25 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-09-2010, 09:35 AM
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I agree with this statement in some respects, and do not in others.

I do agree that toxic shame could be the original cause of social anxiety, in some cases. As a child, I was bullied severely by my fellow peers, both inside school and outside, through three different schools. In result, I could not help but to come to the conclusion that I must be defective, that I was a mistake that should have never been made, which caused me to isolate myself. Afterwards, I, basically, put away the real personality and memories of me, and created a new person, who appeared untouchable and perfect.

However, I do not agree that social anxiety is merely a symptom of toxic shame. Toxic shame caused me to attempt to become a new person, one that appearred perfect and untouchable, but did not prevent me from being in social situations. Of course, I would have that old person inside, the original me, who would be distressed and anxious, who would want to be alone, but I had invented a new person, which meant that old one did not matter anymore.

Of course, when people decided to, also, not accept the new me, that was when the facade began to crack, and the original me began to surface, once more. And that was when the social anxiety truly arose, part caused by feeling defective, even more so now because, even though I had evented a new version of myself, even that version could not be accepted, and part because of the shame, the shame that people would look at me, and laugh and talk and point, knowing I was defective.

And still, the problem remains, today. And I do not believe that it is the toxic shame that must be cured, but rather the social anxiety. Toxic shame may be a cause for social anxiety, and can be part of social anxiety, but I do not believe that it will ever become a problem worse than social anxiety, social anxiety becoming merely a symptom. Toxic shame results in you avoiding people in general out of choice, social anxiety results in avoiding people as mandatory.

But, each to their own.

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post #26 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-09-2010, 10:05 AM
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So it may be the case. I hear over and over that knowing the true culprits of your problems is the only way to fight them. I don't entirely believe this.

Say I do agree my social anxiety is caused by shame, and that this toxic shame was caused by some events in my past. Now what? Just knowing information doesn't make me permanently better. In fact it depresses me more , that I had to be one of the few to be embedded with this affliction.
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post #27 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-09-2010, 01:40 PM
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So it may be the case. I hear over and over that knowing the true culprits of your problems is the only way to fight them. I don't entirely believe this.

Say I do agree my social anxiety is caused by shame, and that this toxic shame was caused by some events in my past. Now what? Just knowing information doesn't make me permanently better. In fact it depresses me more , that I had to be one of the few to be embedded with this affliction.

Well this is how I see it,

If you can get yourself in a environment with people where you can exposure the things about yourself that you're ashamed off, And this people prove you that you're wrong, and that your absolutely fine. And you dont have to shame for this particular things. I think thats a way to solve you're shames. And you wont get anxious anymore.

Of course this would be a dream scenario. But what do you all think ?
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post #28 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-09-2010, 05:05 PM
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So you had High self esteem but also was social anxious ?
Can you tell what made you have anxiety? What were you afraid for?
I don't know. That's a hard question to answer, being it was so long ago. I just don't think shame is the right word to describe it. It's such a strong word. I was a loner and got picked on for it sometimes. Nobody likes to be picked on. or bullied It doesn't mean I hated myself though. It just means I was afraid of the other kids (I certainly didn't think they were better than me... quite the opposite). So, the way I see it, it was mainly about fear rather than self-loathing.

Of course, chronic bullying can lead to shame so the OP might be on to something there. In healthy people, our views of ourselves are based on both internal and external feedback, so it really does matter in a practical sense what people think about us. Following this logic, I think shame might be a consequence of SA (and of course an intolerant society) rather than the cause.
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post #29 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-10-2010, 05:37 AM
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I think shame might be a consequence of SA (and of course an intolerant society) rather than the cause.
yes a consequence of the way other people have threated you in the past. What they said to you.
Other people are the cause of your shame, But also other people can take it away.



(Normally I would always think its all my own fault. But this time I thing the cause can be other people, Not there fault but they can have caused it, and we maybe have make the wrong choises in the past to place ourself in the surrounding of this people that effect us in a destructive way. So I dont say just blame them, but we can not always choose to who we want to be effected by ,or not. And we can sometimes choose to walk away from someone. But not always(teachers,parents,schoolmates). So thats why they have impact on us. And can cause shame in our selfs.)

This not 100% of what I wanted to say, but I cant translate it in a better way. I hope you understand what I mean.
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post #30 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-10-2010, 06:30 AM
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Hi!,

Do you 3 want to play football?, person 2: No not with you, person 3: you cant play football person 4: loser..




...



Don't ask him, he can't play football.
ha ha, YOU LOSER!





I feel lonely. Most my schoolmates play football, but I just can't.
I'm not good enough.



(The cool guys vs Lonely me)
I don't have friends, And I'm afraid to ask people to do something with me. Because they would properly want to play football. And I can't And I don't want to make a fool of myself (shames for them to find out what his capability are in football.



Now every time I see them on school I try to avoid them,I don't want them to find out how bad I'm at football. So every time I pass them I feel anxious. Even If I try to play, they will laugh about me or call me a loser.
When I'm at home I'm sad, I just want to be like the rest of the guys.

Shame for something turns out in sadness and anxiety.

**********
What do you think?
**********
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post #31 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-10-2010, 09:34 AM
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Well this is how I see it,

If you can get yourself in a environment with people where you can exposure the things about yourself that you're ashamed off, And this people prove you that you're wrong, and that your absolutely fine. And you dont have to shame for this particular things. I think thats a way to solve you're shames. And you wont get anxious anymore.

Of course this would be a dream scenario. But what do you all think ?
Yeah, group therapy works sort of like that.

As far as toxic shame goes, I definitely had a lot of it about having emotions. I think they were really suppressed in childhood, so they were never integrated properly. Most of my therapy has been about learning to feel them. When I first started, an emotion might come up and within a split second it was already buried again. But I've gradually gotten more comfortable with them, with my therapists's encouragement.

I think this is what underlies my SA and AvPD - I've always felt like an alien, just not understanding people. And emotions play such a huge part in interacting with people, both sending and receiving it unconsciously, through body language. I think that is the main thing that has always screwed up my relationships with people, which led to rejection, and feelings of worthlessness, and anxiety and avoidance.

The last few weeks I've been able to make eye contact with people walking around campus, without it being all weird and uncomfortable, or too intense. I think that comes from being more in touch with emotions. Although it might also be from establishing more of a relationship with my therapist, I'm not sure - they kind of go together. But it took a year and a half of seeing her to establish that kind of trust, and it's still pretty tenuous.

On the other hand, some people are emotionless and don't have such problems in life, or it doesn't bother them so much. But I'm also highly sensitive (near the top of the scale on the tests), and I might pick up on people's reactions to me more than others might.
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post #32 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-10-2010, 11:11 PM
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My mom read Bradshaw's Homecoming when I was growing up and it seemed to help her make positive changes, so I also read it and did the exercises. She did get the Shame book, but I think the former was actually more constructive as a "self help" tool. Since then the bookstores expanded greatly with books similar, getting much of their inspiration from his series.

Of course, there have been meditations and metaphysical methods for psychological health going back all of our known history.

I don't know if shame is all toxic. I value guilt quite a bit. It reminds me that I have a conscience, and what principles I desire to live by. Shame must be overwelming guilt, the kind that doesn't help guide, just feels too hopeless to be dealt with.
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post #33 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-11-2010, 12:12 AM
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i believe shame is a very HUGE part to the ďcureĒ to SA but i donít think is the main cause of SA. why do i say this? because i have felt ďshamelessĒ in front of people before with out working on fixing my shame. so there is more to it. like today, i did not feel anxiety when i havenít been working on fixing my shame. what i did is to be more assertive and i sort of did stop criticizing myself mentally (for a day). i mean, my SA mind tortures me and puts me down, but when i ignore it, part of my old self comes back and gets me back on track. my old self was an assertive and very confident person. so i ask myself, what made me confident and assertive back then?

point is, shame is a very crippled thing to have that does play a very BIG role in SA, but i donít think is the main reason. but, if it works for you, it works.

for me, i believe that what is holding me back is the lack of being able to communicate. what stops me the most is not being able to get my point across. i can know the answer to something, but since i donít have experience in communicating with people, my point comes across as crap. this is what is holding me back. i have experience the power of communication before when i was explaining myself very clear as bottled water and people understood my point, which in return, i got positive feed back which in return gave me this HUGE feeling of accomplishment. is hard to explain, but is like i sort of gained part of their confidence when they understood. is like being praised.

it is a feeling that you gain from others. i don't know hot to explain but i'll give you a scenario. my boss wanted to get something done. i knew the answer to the problem but i could not explain it. so i said something like, i don't know how to explain it but i have the answer. the boss gave me the go ahead and i got the job done. after wards i felt this weird feeling i had never felt before. i felt like i was better, and in reality, i was cus i knew the answer. this gave me very high confidence and it showed in my body language and actions, though it only lasted a day or two

i will look into this further though, cus i want to get rid of shame as well.
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post #34 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-11-2010, 04:12 AM
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Toxic Shame can Cause SA. SA can cause Toxic Shame.

Despite being maybe a bit forcefully presented as the cause of SA, I think this thread does a good job at explaining what is probably a useful concept for many of us dealing with SA.

It makes us realize that our self-loathing is irrational and unfounded and that we are actually pretty normal except for the fact that now in conjunction with SA we also suffer from something called TS too. Reducing a whole complex cohort of thought patterns and feelings to a two-letter-abbreviated thing can indeed be helpful, if only for that reason.
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post #35 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-11-2010, 05:18 PM
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Can anyone provide any studies that use toxic shame as their framework for treating anxiety?

I'm trying to be open-minded here but I've never come across any academic literature on the subject in my many years of reading about Anxiety (over a decade). I'm all for people using what works for them and if this is what does it, fine.

But here's my problem: toxic shame doesn't seem to offer anything new or innovative with regard to treating anxiety. Calling an emotion "toxic" is nearly the same as saying "chemical imbalance" (a la psychiatry) and acceptance of your flaws and yourself for what you are is something that [I]all[I] therapies try to get anxiety sufferers to do.
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post #36 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-11-2010, 05:23 PM Thread Starter
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Eh, I don't buy it. I've had social anxiety since I was a kid and my self-esteem was very high back then. Toxic shame might be related to depression, but not to anxiety, in my opinion.

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Originally Posted by dutchguy View Post
So you had High self esteem but also was social anxious ?
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Originally Posted by dutchguy View Post
Can you tell what made you have anxiety? What were you afraid for??
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Originally Posted by kev View Post
I don't know. That's a hard question to answer, being it was so long ago. I just don't think shame is the right word to describe it. It's such a strong word. I was a loner and got picked on for it sometimes. Nobody likes to be picked on. or bullied It doesn't mean I hated myself though. It just means I was afraid of the other kids (I certainly didn't think they were better than me... quite the opposite). So, the way I see it, it was mainly about fear rather than self-loathing.

Kev, please don’t take this the wrong way, but what you said in your last 2 posts just doesn’t make any sense. As Dutchguy alluded to, how can someone have “very high self-esteem” and still have social anxiety!? Having high self-esteem and social anxiety at the same time does not compute. If you were feeling great about yourself then you would have no reason to have anxiety when interacting with people. I don’t think a person has to necessarily hate himself to have toxic shame. I had toxic shame - and still have it to some degree - but I don’t remember hating myself. However, I obviously hated the negative feelings and negative thoughts in which toxic shame gave me (though, at the time, I didn’t know I had the condition of toxic shame because I never heard of it before). I just had a deep-seated feeling of unworthyness … a feeling of not being the same as others … a feeling of being flawed and defective. And I was always had fear and was always in hiding – hiding my emotions and my humanity. Despite all of this, I didn’t actually hate myself. It wasn’t like I was doing things to cause me to hate myself. I just had all those terrrible thoughts and feelings about myself, and I didn’t know why I had them. And all this of course lead to the fear and hiding that is so much the heart of SA.

You say you were picked on and bullied, but that you didn’t hate yourself. Again, it’s not so much a matter of hating yourself. I don’t think being picked on makes a person hate himself/herself. But I do think it can lower a person’s self-esteem and make him feel less of a human being. It goes without saying ... how can it not!?

Also, being picked on and bullied doesn’t make one think the bullies are better than him/her. It does, however, play a part in damaging a person’s self-esteem and a feeling of being less than human. It is only natural a person would begin to feel this way when others pick on and bully him/her.


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"Shyness can be a serious problem when it is rooted in toxic shame." - John Bradshaw, toxic shame expert

Visit this thread link to find out the cause of SA for most of us and what to do about it: http://bit.ly/UeWprg
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post #37 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-11-2010, 05:41 PM
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I think there may be a false pride that one has to experience with shame in order to retain homeostasis.

In ways, I feel high self worth, but in a sense that is isolating, because it puts me in a place where I don't think others could understand/ grasp me.

But at the same time, I feel critical of my failures in life.. how to solve dilemmas etc. (inadequate).
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post #38 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-11-2010, 05:48 PM
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Thanks for this thread. A lot of the OP points ring true with me too. I don't know if it was my parents or my brother or both that contributed a lot. I was always not good enough, too slow. And when I was trying new things from age 6 on up my brother would be always making fun of me. To this day, my brother always instinctively tries to prove me wrong in everything I say or do, that includes every second in the way I walk or talk. And even if my brother's not around I see my parents occasionally, and also at work it seemed to carry over.

It's probably too late (in my mid-30's). I read somewhere that the critical social skills should have been learned in the teen and pre-teen years, and then different stages of early 20's to add on to it. So it's like being "robbed" of the "foundation" experience in large part due to the "toxic shame". Since like Lifetimer says, we don't have a personality, there is nothing to build upon. And the wrong reactions are already learned. Like tennis or piano, once you have bad habits it's very hard to erase them or reprogram them into the "right" habits.

Maybe only way to relearn is 1) erasing of memories and starting over, 2) relieving your young years and trying to talk again. 3) extreme therapy and/or brainwashing into the unconscious.

I don't know if toxic shame is the be all and end all. Most people think I'm a wrong person. I think only my mother (of course) think I am doing "ok". Most people I know (not many) think I have no right to stand up for myself because I'm "supposed" to be a loser to them. I can certainly remember having "toxic shame" when I was in my pre-teens and teens not getting along. Then of course it got worse. Failed college. Hard time getting along and getting/keeping a job. Acting "cowardly". Never having a gf. etc. Whole life of failure and then the shame which compounds the SA. Yes, never found an effective therapist. Most of them just said in the end I was a cowardly bum or instead said I was schizo and needed to take heavy doses of Valium or something like that everyday.
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post #39 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-11-2010, 05:55 PM
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Kev, please donít take this the wrong way, but what you said in your last 2 posts just doesnít make any sense. As Dutchguy alluded to, how can someone have ďvery high self-esteemĒ and still have social anxiety!? Having high self-esteem and social anxiety at the same time does not compute. If you were feeling great about yourself then you would have no reason to have anxiety when interacting with people. I donít think a person has to necessarily hate himself to have toxic shame. I had toxic shame (and still have it to some degree) but I donít remember hating myself. However, I obviously hated the negative feelings and negative thoughts in which toxic shame gave me (though, at the time, I didnít know I had the condition of toxic shame because I never heard of it before). I just had a deep-seated feeling of unworthyness Ö a feeling of not being the same as others Ö a feeling of being flawed and defective. And I was always had fear and was always in hiding Ė hiding my emotions and my humanity. Despite all of this, I didnít actually hate myself. It wasnít like I was doing things to cause me to hate myself. I just had all those terrrible thoughts and feelings about myself, and I didnít know why I had them. And all this of course lead to the fear and hiding that is so much the heart of SA.

You say you were picked on and bullied, but that you didnít hate yourself. Again, itís not so much a matter of hating yourself. I donít think being picked on makes a person hate himself/herself. But I do think it can lower a personís self-esteem and make him feel less of a human being. It goes without saying ... how can it not!?

Also, being picked on and bullied doesnít make one think the bullies are better than him/her. It does, however, play a part in damaging a personís self-esteem and a feeling of being less than human. It is only natural a person would begin to feel this way when others pick on and bully him/her.


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No actually I didn't feel shame. I was just nervous around other people. I'm a little bothered that you are trying to put words in my mouth, although I understand you feel very strongly about what you are saying.

I guess I'm just a little weirded about your enthusiasm about toxic shame. It just seems strange to me. Again, I think shame is too strong a word. Public speaking is a from of social anxiety that I really just don't believe has anything to do with shame at all. I could be wrong of course, but it doesn't sit right with me.

If SA develops into an "avoidant personality" style that encompasses all aspects of one's life, then maybe shame starts to come into play more. Just my thoughts.
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post #40 of 634 (permalink) Old 09-11-2010, 06:17 PM Thread Starter
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My mom read Bradshaw's Homecoming when I was growing up and it seemed to help her make positive changes, so I also read it and did the exercises. She did get the Shame book, but I think the former was actually more constructive as a "self help" tool. Since then the bookstores expanded greatly with books similar, getting much of their inspiration from his series.
Banana Cream, I have looked at the book reviews of John Bradshaw's book Homecoming and I see it has gotten really good reviews. I might buy this book to see how it may differ from his other books. I agree that his book Healing The Shame That Binds You (Revised Edition October 2005) is not his best book as far as having constructive exercises to follow. However, I do think that book is great at explaining what toxic shame is, how it affects us, and many other aspects of TS. It does give some good, general ideas of what we need to do to work on overcoming our TS and how we need to change the way we view ourselves and the world, but it doesn't really give good exercises. Still, I think it is important that everyone read his book to fully understand everything that TS is about, and to learn those core things we need to change in our thinking to get better.

John Bradshaw also has another book I really recommend as well - Bradshaw On: The Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem”. A member of another forum described the 2 books this way: "Healing The Shame That Binds You gets to the core of social anxiety, but Bradshaw On: The Family gets to the core of toxic shame."

A book I found that has excellent exercises to help overcome TS is No More Mr. Nice Guy written by Dr. Robert Glover. Though the author talks about overcoming Nice Guy Syndrome, the book is essentially about overcoming toxic shame. The author even talks about toxic shame often throughout his book. I highly recommend everyone get this book. (Just don't be fooled by the title, because it has nothing whatsoever to do with being mean or being a jerk).

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I don't know if shame is all toxic. I value guilt quite a bit. It reminds me that I have a conscience, and what principles I desire to live by. Shame must be overwelming guilt, the kind that doesn't help guide, just feels too hopeless to be dealt with.
You are right ... all shame is not toxic. Bradshaw talks about in his book of "healthy shame" (healthy guilt") and separates it from "toxic shame". He says healthy shame is a valuable component to our lives. Bradshaw writes: "Without healthy shame, moral behavior and ethical responsibility are impossible." And Bradshaw says healthy shame lets us know we have boundaries.

So yes, healthy shame is good and valuable, but when it goes out of control and becomes unhealthy to the point that it severely affects our life, then that's when it becomes "toxic".


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"Shyness can be a serious problem when it is rooted in toxic shame." - John Bradshaw, toxic shame expert

Visit this thread link to find out the cause of SA for most of us and what to do about it: http://bit.ly/UeWprg
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