Toxic Shame...the fuel of all addiction

"Marriage and thus family are where we live our most intimate and powerful human experiences. The stuff that family is made of is bloodier and more passionate than the stuff of friendship, and the costs are greater, too." from In Transition by Judith Bardwick.

I'm finding that one of the costliest events that can happen in a person's life are the culmination of shaming events that go untold. These events in childhood that over time accumulate cause one to not only question themselves but to turn on oneself.

I'm reading a lot on shame and find myself thinking and talking a lot about it. One of the best books I have read thus far on shame is "Healing the Shame that Binds You" by John Bradshaw. I have heard it said (I think from Brene Brown) that shame is the main presenting issue in a therapeutic relationship. We all have and experience shame. 

Shame in itself is a healthy and human emotion. It lets us know of our humanity, that we are the creature and not the creator. Shame in a healthy sense allows us to know our limits. But I would venture to say that when most of us think and feel shame we are feeling the toxic shame. Toxic shame is when we have turned on ourselves and rejected our essence and worthiness. Shame causes us to have the inability to believe the Imago Dei, that we are made in the image of God. Shame can also be understood as codependency. They go hand-in-hand. It causes us to reject our "self". Shame manifests itself in perfectionism, depression, rage, control, judgment, legalism, OCD, and so on. 

We as human beings are made to need. We are needy beings. You don't have to teach a three year old to have needs. They know their needs and express them very well. If any of you have had a 3 year old you know what I'm talking about. But for many, that changes as they grow up. Bradshaw says, "as children, we were loved for our achievements and our performance, rather than for ourselves. Our true and authentic selves were abandoned. Fortunately the true self never goes away, and we can stop the drivenness to perform" (p. 69). We all are made to be held, touched, affirmed and confirmed. It is when children are told their needs are not important that they start to internalize and wonder if something is wrong with them. 

So what do we do with our shame? I have to confess that there is no simple answer to this. Research shows that talking about it with someone else helps. In my experience with my own shame, this is true but I still struggle and feel like I can't shake this demon called toxic shame. Bradshaw points out the following, "It's not what you know how to do, but what you do when you don't know what to do."

On my own personal journey through toxic shame, I know that I absolutely have to have a few people that I can just share my shaming thoughts with. Its to desire in me to know that "i'm OK and that I matter". With addiction, it is not so much about changing the behavior as much as accepting who we are. The behavior is a by product to our being. What if that is part of the good news?