Toxic Shame Counselling Wolverhampton
Psychological Therapy for Toxic Shame Problems
Everyone experiences shame at one time 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 and when shame becomes toxic, it can ruin our lives.
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, “internalised 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 monopolise their personality, while for others, it lies beneath their conscious awareness, but can easily be triggered.
Characteristics of Toxic Shame
Toxic shame differs from ordinary shame, which passes in a day or a few hours, in the following respects:
- It can hide in our unconscious, so that we’re unaware that we have shame.
- When we experience shame, it lasts much longer.
- The feelings and pain associated with shame are of greater intensity.
- An external event isn’t required to trigger it. Our own thoughts can bring on feelings of shame.
- It leads to shame spirals that cause depression and feelings of hopelessness and despair.
- It causes chronic “shame anxiety” — the fear of experiencing shame.
- It’s accompanied by voices, images, or beliefs originating in childhood and is associated with a negative “shame story” about ourselves.
- We needn’t recall the original source of the immediate shame, which usually originated in childhood or a prior trauma.
- It creates deep feelings of inadequacy.
Unhelpful Beliefs Based on Toxic Shame
The fundamental belief underlying shame is that “I’m unlovable — not worthy of knowing.” Most frequently, internalised shame manifests as one of the following beliefs;
- I’m stupid
- I’m unattractive (especially to a romantic partner)
- I’m a failure
- I’m a bad person
- I’m a fraud or a phony
- I’m selfish
- I’m not enough (this belief can be applied to numerous areas)
- I hate myself
- I don’t matter
- I’m defective or inadequate
- I shouldn’t have been born
- I’m unlovable
The Causes of Toxic Shame
In most cases, shame becomes internalised or toxic from chronic or intense experiences of shame in childhood. Parents can unintentionally transfer their shame to their children through verbal messages or nonverbal behaviour. For an example, a child might feel unloved in reaction to a parent’s depression, indifference, absence, or irritability or feel inadequate due to a parent’s competitiveness or over-correcting behavior.
Children need to feel uniquely loved by both parents. When that connection is breached, such as when a child is scolded harshly (for example ‘you should feel ashamed of yourself‘), children feel alone and ashamed, unless the parent-child bond of love is soon repaired. However, even if shame has been internalized, it can be surmounted by later positive experiences.
If not healed, toxic shame can lead to aggression, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, and addiction. It generates low self-esteem, anxiety, irrational guilt, perfectionism, and it limits our ability to enjoy satisfying relationships and professional success.
Transform Your Thinking & Overcome Toxic Shame
If you’re committed to overcoming your shame problems then we highly recommend following either our Advanced Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course with Paul, or the Changing Limiting Beliefs (CLB) Programme with Joan.
Both the CBT course and Changing Limiting Beliefs approach are highly successful & pragmatic psychological training programmes, run over 10 sessions, that will teach you everything you need to know to understand your problem, identify how unhelpful thinking and limiting beliefs might be reinforcing the issue, and then show you how to make any changes to your unhelpful thinking styles or maladaptive safety behaviours that you may have developed as part of your coping strategies.
Our CBT programme is an evidence-based, research supported approach used by mental health practitioners around the World.
FREE Initial Consultations
We offer all prospective clients a FREE initial assessment to chat about your Toxic Shame or your personal development. During this 50 minute consultation we will discuss the various options that are available to you and make a considered recommendation based on your individual personal circumstances.
At TranceForm we believe that therapy & counselling should be a collaboration between therapist and client so it’s very important to be able to meet PRIOR to agreeing any kind of help. Our policy is to help people make a fully balanced & considered decision about undertaking work with us, including both the financial and personal implications.
We recommend following our 10 session course of advanced Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to overcome a wide range of mental health and behavioural problems. CBT is the therapy of choice for developing a deep level of understanding into the dynamics of your problem, but also for then learning new coping mechanisms and strategies for sustainable change over your life.