When it comes to defining shame, it is quite difficult to do so. Although it is healthy human power, yet it, sometimes, turns out to be a true sickness of the soul. Shame is an emotion that can be experienced as a result of a comparison between one’s actual actions and one’s standard of actions. It can also occur by comparing one’s actions with social standards. Although shame is an emotion, yet it can be exhibited through a person’s thought process, emotional state or affect.
There are two appearances of shame. The first type of shame is healthy shame which is nourishing; which let the person progress and move forward, it has the capacity to teach from one’s mistakes; and it does not push the person into the corner. On the other hand, there is another form of shame which is toxic in nature. As the name implies, it is life-destroying and pathological. It leads a person towards isolation; it does not let the person progress rather regress back. A person experiencing toxic shame even starts disowning oneself. Toxic shame has a tendency to hide the real self of an individual and covers itself up, so it is essential for a person to recognize the various faces of shame and its behavioral cover-ups such as being hopeless or irremediable on being flawed, mistaken or defective; circulatory in nature by acting out the internalized shame and then feeling ashamed about the shameful actions; as spiritual bankruptcy; grandiosity; narcissism; paranoid; self-alienation and isolation.
When we talk about healing the toxic shame, the first and foremost suggestion for that matter is that it should be healed with the help of some support system such as a trusted therapist, a support group, self-help books, etc. After finding an effective support system, one needs to externalize and eradicate the beliefs in the shaming lies that the toxic shame have had been telling the person all his life. Such lies can include statements like “I am good for nothing”, “I am all flawed and there is nothing I can do about”, “I cannot change my past so there is no point in making any effort” etc. By believing in such lies, a person is controlled by toxic shame and operates his life through it. So the first task is to get rid of the grip such lies have on the person. It also requires constant thought challenging on a regular basis. The emotional damage done by such toxic lies also needs to be healed which can be done by letting the affected person go through a cathartic process, teaching him/her the skills for emotional regulation, and thought replacement strategies.
Another technique of shame healing is enabling a person to put the true self back in control. This process consists of three stages. The first stage is freeing the true self. The person has to be taught to free his true self which has been hidden due to toxic shame. The second stage involves releasing the false self’s control. The person is empowered in this stage to get rid of the false self that his toxic shame has been using as a cover-up for the past years. This stage can be a bit difficult for the person as his false persona has been protecting him throughout the pain of toxic shame. He needs to trust his real self at this point. The third and the last stage in the process is called embracing the lost inner self. The person can free his hidden self, but when it comes to accepting that side of him, it gets hard for him.
However, this step is crucial for shame healing. Acceptance is the key to gain peace and come to terms with oneself and past wounds, which one might or might not be responsible for.