Shame vs. Guilt
Shame is highly correlated with depression, low self-worth, addictions ( substance abuse and sexual addiction), and eating disorders The difference between guilt and toxic shame can be described this way: Guilt is a healthy emotion that lets us know that our behavior did not match our values, so our BEHAVIOR needs to improve. Shame is when the mistake we make is because of WHO WE ARE; there is something wrong with OURSELVES. So, guilt is “I MADE a mistake” and shame is “I AM the mistake”. When we feel a lot of toxic shame about our “self”, we put on a false self. We become “symptomatic” because we are not okay with our authentic self. We may pick up symptoms such as protectionism, isolation from others, eating disorders, sex and drug addictions or even codependency (we overly serve) as well as depression. With these symptoms we are able to hide our “true” self with it’s shame. We truly believe that if someone knew who we truly are they would hate us like we hate ourselves. One unique characteristic about toxic shame is that it is transferred from generation to generation, in church, at school, and in our public life.
Individuals who struggle with a lot of toxic shame share some common characteristics such as having a hard time feeling all of their feelings (sad, bored, scared, and ashamed), having low self worth, not being okay with who they are, having a lack of intimacy in most of their relationships, and being egocentric. What I mean by egocentric is they take personally what other individuals do or say to them. Their hearts become hard and their emotions are not correctly expressed, which has a negative influence on their spirituality.
Family System: Shame affects the family system in many different ways as follows: the children aren’t allowed to express who they really are, there are unhealthy boundaries (rigid or distant), plus there is a “don’t talk” rule (especially about feelings and hard things). As a result the children are taught to deny their feelings and they may pick up “roles” that deny their true self in the family dynamics. They literally disconnect from their authentic self. The children will also be symptomatic: addicted to perfectionism and lacking emotional intimacy in their relationships.
There are many things that will promote healing for these clients. The starting point is for them to discover their true feelings and their true self. I believe if they can give themselves permission to feel and ACCEPT their feelings (the most intimate part about a human being) this alone will help the individual gradually work through the other things as long as healthy coping skills are in place. These skills include physical activity, meditation, spirituality, art work, and that which helps the individuals feel good about themselves. Healing length also depends on how serious the symptoms are, and what type of symptoms have been adopted.
12 Step Meetings (Adult child, Alanon, and AA)
LDS 12 Step Meetings: http://addictionrecovery.lds.org/?lang=eng
LDS Family Services
LDS Community Provider list:
Feelings Buried Alive Never Die by Karol K. Truman
Healing the Shame that Binds You, by John Bradshaw
The Shame-Based Family System, by John Bradshaw
Adult Child of Alcoholics, ACA
Boundaries & Boundaries in a Marriage, by Henry Cloud & John Townsend
He Did Deliver Me from Bondage, by Colleen Harrison
Any books authored by Brene Brown
Shame, Brene Brown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0