We have all had experiences where we have been ashamed of something we have done or a habit that we have. It could be something like being overweight or addicted while maintaining a coping intervention that is unhealthy or even chronically hurting others in our family. Regardless of what we are dealing with the impact of chronic, toxic shame can impact us in powerful and destructive ways.
In an article in Psych Central author Darlene Lancer describes and illustrates the impact of toxic shame very definitively. Here are some excerpts from her valuable article:
When shame becomes toxic, it can ruin our lives. 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.
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, “internalized 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 monopolize their personality, while for others, it lies beneath their conscious awareness, but can easily be triggered.
She goes on to describe the characteristics, beliefs and cause of toxic shame. This is a very enlightening and helpful article for those who have been disabled in life by toxic shame.
Here is the link to the rest of the article.
I hope you find this helpful who are on the journey to deal with this difficult issue that is prominent in so many lives of those around us.