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This YouTube video provides perspective on what you're about to read here:
This is one of a series of Lesson-1 articlesin
this Web site - free your
to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and
significant false-self wounds This
Perspective on the crippling wound of excessive
shame ("low self esteem"), and how it compares to
101": how excessive shame relates to pride, self respect, humility,
assertiveness, and wound-recovery;
behavioral symptoms of
suggestions on how to shift excessive shame toward healthy self-respect
self-love as part of reducing
The article assumes you're familiar
intro to this nonprofit
Website and the premises underlying
This two-part video provides an overview of key points below.
The video mentions 8 self-improvement lessons in this Web site. I've since
reduced that to 7.
Perspective: ExcessiveShame and
To reduce excessive guilt and shame to
"moderate" (healthy), you need to know how they differ.
is a set of related thoughts, feelings, and a belief:"Im
defective, unlovable person, no matter what anyone says!"
is a primal reaction to believing or being told "I
broke an important
should (not), ought (not),
cannot, or must (not). I made a mistake / screwed up / blew it - I did
something wrong" (in someone's opinion).
mental + emotional response
"I MADE a mistake."
Shameis the mental + emotional response to believing
"I AM a mistake (worthless,
Because guilts and shame often occur together and feel thesame, they're combined here into one of six psychological wounds
Converting excessive shame into
genuine self respect and self-love is a very different process than
reducing excessive guilts to normal. For the latter, see
these articles on reducing excessive
guilts and effective forgiveness. The rest of
this article focuses on exploring shame "basics," and shifting
excessive shame toward non-egotistical self-respect
Let's explore these questions:
Where does shame come from?
happens to early shame as
we grow up?
shame become excessive?
How does excessive shame relate to...
addictions (toxic compulsions)
and addiction-recovery? and...
opposite of excessive shame?;
What are common
excessive shame and guilts?
Option - pause, reflect, and try answering each of these questions out
loud now as though to an average pre-teen. Then compare
your answers to what follows...
Where does shame come from?
Before we infants
evolved a vocabulary and learn to "think," we often experienced
powerful "good me" and "bad me"
or feelings. These came from decoding our caregivers' voice
tones, facial expressions, and behaviors; and the tranquility or stress in our
environment. Excessive shame is
often the most denied psychological wound and can take the longest to heal
because its roots may be pre-verbal.
Repeatedly experiencing caregiver smiles,
friendly-faces, loving eye contact, tenderness, soothing, gentle touchings
and voice-sounds, and relaxed breast feeding build core security and
"good me" feelings.
Chronic absence of those
experiences promotes anxiety and a primal "bad me"
This can happen when a primary caregiver - usually female - is overwhelmed
and/or wounded and unable to bond. It may also happen if an infant
wasn't a mutually-wanted conception.
nurturance promotes the
early formation of one or more young
personality subselves who believe and feel intensely "I'm
bad - not OK."
get more "bad you" than "good you" signals from our
primary caregivers, or if they're inconsistent (mixed messages) then "bad me" feelings often
grow. "Inadequate nurturance" can include...
physically absent parents. Research suggests that being
raised by a nanny, day-care staff, and multiple sitters risks
impaired development. Some
grandparents may supply great love and nurturance, but still the
primal feeling of not being valued and wanted by the people who gave
us their genes and name can cause great shame and pain.
Our caregivers ignoring us. Getting
little or no attention, pre-vocal infants and young kids may feel
"I don't matter - I'm worthless." Without other consistent
"good me" messages, "I don't matter" becomes as matter-of-fact as
fingers and toes, which has nothing to do with logicor reality.
Lack of genuine
affection and affirmations.Our early smallness,
weakness, lack of coordination, and
ignorance are daily opportunities to compare ourselves to the awesome
"giants" that tend us, and to repeatedly conclude
"(compared to them) I'm
so bad / stupid / clumsy / weak / ...";
And "inadequate nurturance"
often name-calling, swearing,
jeering, belittling, degrading, scorning, and being sarcastic, impatient,
frustrated, giving the "you-disgust-me" look, lack of friendly eye contact, and
rough or painful physical contacts all nourish a "bad me / I'm worthless" belief
(low self esteem) in our powerful
Shamed Inner Child;
Caregivers not teaching us the
difference between doing wrong and being wrong (bad).e.g. "Max, lying is really bad. You lied to me." (so
bad person). And...
If caregivers allow siblings, relatives, teachers, or
hurt and humiliate us (i.e. if they minimize or neglect our
dignity, comfort, and security), our shame and anxieties relentlessly increase; and...
caregiversuse us to satisfy their own needs without caring
or understanding how that affects us, we learn that our needs and feelings
are unimportant or don't exist; and...
If the people around us
young kids seldom
listen to what we're trying to say, or if they interrupt or laugh at us for trying to express ourselves, we're
apt to learn "I'm not worth listening to."
If our main adults
want todo the reverse of these things
and lovingly fill our early developmental needs
(nurture) well, our
young subselves come to feel "I'm good / lovable / OK / worthy" over time. This
is a primal source of
self-respect, self-trust (confidence), and self love.
Notice that these causes focuses on the infant-toddler phase of
early childhood. Other factors can ingrain and amplify early shame
as we grow through adolescence, if our caregivers don't guard us
What happens to
early shame as we grow?
As we develop our knowledge and vocabulary, our evolving
personality subselves generate constant
"inner voices" or thought streams. Most (all?) of us who were neglected
and shamed too often in our early years automatically develop an "inner
voice" which can be called our
Inner Critic, Critical
or Mean Parent, or Shamer.
When our original shamers aren't around, this well-intentioned subself diligently carries on their
work. S/He fills our heads with harsh criticisms and
comments like "Your socks don't match (you're so stupid)," and
"How could you possibly forget Alex's birthday?" A common companion
"voice" comes from our
S/He relentlessly lets us know
of our endless (shameful) failures. Do you have these inner voices?
Some young kids also evolve a judgmental
Preacher/Moralizersubself. It ceaselessly augments the Critic by pronouncing rigid
judgments about us and other people. These tireless subselves also nourish
Guilty Child in us. They
mean well, just as your shaming, blaming (wounded, overwhelmed)
caregivers (and their ancestors) did.
Shame has been called wryly "the gift that goes on giving," because
shamed-based (wounded) parents often unintentionally pass it on to their kids. Overly-shamed kids and
adults can feel ashamed of their shame, and other wounds.
How does shame relate to humiliation and
Shameful thoughts and feelings are a private experience.We feel embarrassed when our shameful traits and behaviors are
exposed publicly - specially to people who's admiration, acceptance, and respect matters most to us. Our critical
subselves can embarrass us, and/or other people may ridicule and humiliate us
publically if we're not clear on our
personal identity and rights.
A universal "shame
gauntlet" kids must navigate is the merciless criticisms of middle-school
and high school classmates (and some adults) - specially as puberty and
early sexuality lends angst and exciting confusion to our journey toward
When does normal (healthy) shame become
All emotions range from
faint to extreme - e.g.
"unease" to panic, and annoyance (irritation) to rage.Moderate
(normal) shame is helpful - italerts us to adjust our
attitudes and behaviors to avoid significant
For example, feeling "I'm ashamed
(and guilty) because I'm often late to school or work," can motivate
learning why and
how to be more prompt. When normal shame is balanced by a steady, positive self-perception, it does not seriously degrade our overall self-respect or
relationships or cause "too many" of the symptoms
on page 2.
Note that you can feel "global" self respect ("I'm a good person..."),
and still feel "local" shame and guilts about one or more
(responsibilities) - e.g. "...but I'm ashamed and guilty that I'm not a better
parent / sibling / neighbor / spouse / Baptist / citizen / bus driver /
pianist / tennis player / voter...").
Well-intentioned Guardian subselves will try to
distort reality to protect
against the pain of admitting excessive shame. If your
true Self is
free to guide
your other subselves,
admit shame without undue guilt or self-scorn, and (b) evolve an effective plan to
reduce it and other significant
Healthy shame becomes
excessive when it chronically
wholistic health, relationships, productivity, hopes, dreams, integrity, and
enjoyment of ourselves and our life. That can manifest in many
ways, including self-disgust, self-hatred, self-abuse,
How does excessive shame relate to
pride and humility?
Were you taught that pride is a "sin" and/or a sign of self-centeredness,
a swelled head, and/or egotism? Typical shame-based survivors of
childhood neglect are often taught shaming beliefs like these.
Premise: healthypride is a feeling of
respect, admiration, and appreciation for a person's or a group's traits,
talents, goals, and achievements. Excessive pride ("I am / we
are / they
are / better than others") is called egotism, elitism, racism,
always foster hurt, resentment, antagonism, conflict, anxiety,
distrust, and low-nurturance relationships and families.
Humility is minimizing your personal traits, talents,
assets, status, and achievements. It can range from healthy ("I see me or us
as being of equal dignity and worth to other persons") to toxic
("I/we are inferior to other persons or groups, and don't merit
special praise or rewards.") Humility can be genuine or
pretended, and moderate to excessive.
When denied and/or justified ("It's God's commandment"),
self abuse and self neglect,
excessive personal and/or group shame, and...
psychological wounding in minor kids.
What were you
taught about "being humble" as a child? What are you teaching your kids
about it? (e.g. "Don't brag!") See this for perspective on the
pervasive Christian value of excessive humility and the "sin" of
personal pride (superiority).
Recall - we're exploring aspects of the common psychological wound of
How does excessive shame relate to
submission and assertion?
(giving in) to others' needs, values, and opinions promotes social harmony
and cooperation. Compulsive and/or fear-based submission suggests
significant psychological wounding. Typical
low-nurturance childhoods often
unconsciously feel inferior, so they don't deserve or expect social
respect, fairness, or equal consideration with others' needs and opinions.
Assertion is the vital
relationship skill of knowing how and when to declare your needs, opinions,
and limits. As kids, average Grown
Nurtured Children (GNCs) are taught to
respect their own rights, values, and needs as much as other people's, and to assert them with confidence.
Typical Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) are
not taught this, and may submit or assert with ambivalence, guilt, and anxiety.
They grow used to enduring the uncomfortable results of sending chronic
(inferior) messages to other people, and not filling their needs.
your true Self and reducing excessive shame and guilts over time causes genuine self-respect,
"promoting yourself to equal," and calm, firm, respectful assertions.
How does excessive shame relate to
Premise - any true addiction
(toxic compulsion) is...
a sure sign of a low-nurturance
a reliable sign of
inner pain and psychological wounds, and...
a desperate strategy by protective
Guardian subselves to self-medicate (reduce,
numb, distract from) that pain - despite toxic results. True addictions always
provide this local relief - and relentlessly increase the inner pain that promotes
Believing "I am worthless, bad, and
unlovable!" and its social results are painful!Soexcessive shame
and guilts and other major factors (like a
low-nurturance environment) promote addictions (self-medication) and are
amplified by them over time.
That's why true addictions are progressive, despite painful
The self-destructive pain > addiction > more pain spiral continues
until the person dies prematurely or hits true bottom
and commits to true addiction recovery - i.e. to finding another way
to reduce their inner pain.
addiction recovery ("sobriety") is required for effective wound-reduction
and empowering the resident true Self to guide and harmonize the other
See this series of articles for
more perspective on addictions and maintaining true sobriety.
How does excessive shame relate to
psychological wound reduction?
Premise - growing up in a low-nurturance childhood family promotes a
fragmented personality, which causes up to six significant psychological
wounds. One wound is excessive shame and guilt.
Lesson 1 in this nonprofit
Web site focuses on identifying and reducing
these wounds. This article is an outline of how to (a) convert excessive shame
to normal, and to (b) promote genuine self respect and self love.
Most people who hit true bottom and commit to personal
wound-reduction ("recovery") will have to break long-held protective
denials to admit and reduce excessive shame and guilts. These wounds are
caused by a powerful, reactive Shamed Child, a Guilty Child,
and their tireless narrowly-focused
Subselves' core belief that "I'm not worthy or lovable" can block other
subselves' seeking wound-recovery, and/or sabotage their efforts to empower the wise resident
true Self to lead. This is specially likely when
distrustful subselves perceive wound-recovery as unneeded, unsafe, hopeless,
and/or "too hard."
Because shame is so painful and has been disguised and denied for
decades, establishing a trusting relationship between Self and a resident
Shamed Child (and similar subselves) is often the last step in harmonizing
personality subselves. It typically takes great patience, sensitivity, and
compassion to accomplish in the host person and any professional recovery
guide and supporters. This is most likely if the recovering person
intentionally chooses a support network of people led by their true Selves.
What's the opposite of excessive shame?
It is non-egotistical
pride,self love, self respect, and self-nurturance
(vs. self neglect). These come from key attitudes steadily
held by your governing subselves in most or all situations and
relationships. A key attitude is some version of
"I am a good, valuable, useful,
lovable child / adult / person
no matter what anyone else says or implies. I have talents
non-shameful limitations) which empower me to bring unique value and
to other living things and our world."
Another set empowering attitudes and beliefs is in an authentic
Bill of Personal Rights like
shame and guilt (a) powerfully affect all life experiences, expectations, and
relationships, and (b) amplify all other psychological wounds.
Recovery authority John Bradshaw calls toxic
shame "the gift that goes on giving," referring to parents' unintentionally passing on their own
inherited ancestral shame to their kids.
Without hitting bottom
and patient wound-recovery,
they're at major risk of growing up and doing the same. Has that invisible bequest affected anyone you know?
For more perspective, see this succinct review of the power of positive self esteem by Dr. Nathaniel Branden. I also recommend Bradshaw's practical book
the Shame That Binds You.
+ + +
Continue with typical symptoms of
excessive shame and a summary of typical shame-conversion options.
Do you need a break first?