Releasing Toxic Shame
Most of us have seen this chart. It depicts emotions and their corresponding frequencies. The aim being to ascend higher up the scale in order to access greater states of flow and understanding.
The emotion we see at the very bottom is shame. Not the kind of shame that serves a purpose in educating us as to how not to hurt other people and fit better into civilised society, but toxic shame. The kind that lingers for much longer than it has any right to. The kind that makes us feel responsible for things far outside of our control. The kind that comes hand in hand with our own ignorance and the ignorance of those who taught us how to relate to the world.
Toxic shame teaches us that who we are is despicable. That our nature is evil or malignant and that the only way others will accept us, or that we can find any degree of happiness, is by pretending to be somebody that we are not. Toxic shame makes us want to run away and hide, and people who carry a heavy load of it around usually end up being polarised as either codependents or narcissists.
In the case of codependency, a person tries to redeem their own unworthiness by pleasing others and aspiring to adapt the other’s view of themselves. They have no independent sense of self. They have been raised by a narcissist who perceived them as an extension of their own persona. So they rejected their sense of self long ago, preferring manipulation as a chameleon/doormat survival strategy.
In the case of narcissism, the load of shame is usually even greater, and the person deals with it by means of projection. Instead of processing it, releasing it, or altering their life circumstances/behavioural patterns in order to be able to release it, the person projects the shame onto the world. Especially onto the people closest to them. The end result ends up being a combination of a debilitating degree of unacknowledged insecurity, and a monumental sense of superiority and entitlement compared to other people.
As the chart itself would suggest the most likely next step out of shame would be guilt. Being able to distinguish between feeling bad about what you are and feeling bad about what you did. That is, feeling bad about what you know you did, or, as is often the case, about what someone important to you told you that you were guilty of doing.
In the first case, where you feel bad about what you did, you would say to yourself ( as an example):
“I got behind the wheel while intoxicated, and ended up in an accident that hurt another person. I take full responsibility for the despicable thing that I did as I face the consequences. However this event is not who I am. Had it never happened, I would still be me, to no lesser extent than I am today. I am a good, worthy person, who has done a bad thing. I cannot fix the past, but I can acknowledge that in the present I can convert myself into a force of good in the world. It is an act of courage and self-love on my part, to be able to grow after such a mistake, instead of running away from it or letting it define me. Through my acceptance of myself I teach other people how to do the same: How to forgive themselves and how to forgive others.”
In the second case, where you feel bad about what you were told/ convinced you did, you would say (as an example):
“I am not responsible for what my caretaker and/or partner is accusing me of doing or being. I had no control over the situation at hand. I am sorry that my parent/partner is hurt and scared. Clearly they need to feel like somebody they have power over can control the outcomes of important events in their lives. They are not bad, but simply wounded, scared and immature. It is up to me to decide whether I want to stay in this situation or walk away from it. I will keep loving and valuing myself regardless of which path I take.”
In neither one of the above scenarios will you get the immediate relief of happiness or enlightenment, but you will have taken one step in the right direction. You will have made a distinction between you essence and events in your life. You will have acknowledged that your essence is unalterable, and true. While events come and go. This will help you release toxic shame.
Remember, you are not despicable. You are an extension of creation/divinity/source/life itself. Once you do the work of self-discovery and find yourself able to let go of your shame, start working on releasing the guilt.