Blog #40: Toxic Shame Part One: A Broken Self
People with toxic shame believe that there is something fundamentally wrong about themselves .Because of this crippling self-concept, almost inevitably going back to some childhood trauma, their approach to life is
distorted and self defeating. Some of the most common distortions, culled from psychologist John Bradshaw (who got them from Albert Ellis), are listed below:
1. Mind Reading: This is a little bit like paranoia. Because one feels inadequate as a person, one assumes that everyone else does as well. One might think, for example, that “Everyone thinks I look bad with this dress on.” Or, that person in my office thinks that I am inadequate. In these instances, one may be right or one may be wrong, but the assumptions are created by our imagination.
2. Personalization: Your wife mentions that prices are really getting high at the supermarket. The insecure person immediately assumes that the wife is taking a pot shot at one’s ability to be a bread winner. The most innocent remark is always taken personally.
3. Overgeneralization: The words to look out for here are “all”, “every”, and “everybody.” You castigate whole classes of people based upon particular instances that you have experienced or heard about. All blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, teenagers, or whatever, are all the same.
4. Nominalization: Here a process is made into a thing. “This world is going down the tubes.” Are there some unhealthy things going on today? Of course. But there are some great developments also, like the Internet and the elimination of many diseases.
5. Either/Or Thinking: Everything is perceived in extremes. If a man or woman is not President of the company by the age of 40, one concludes that one is a failure. If a person does not look at 60 like they did at 25, they conclude that they are ugly.
6. Being Right: Because we feel so insecure about ourselves, we always want to make ourselves right and the other person wrong. We find it hard to conclude with something like, “You may have a point there” or “I never thought of it that way.” No, in this mindset, we never concede a point to anyone. We need to make ourselves feel okay by putting down the other person.
7. Global Labeling: Here, with sweeping generalizations, we dismiss individuals and companies and even nations with a global putdown. “The Russians are all liars.” Everyone who works in Wall Street is a crook.”
8. Control Thinking Fallacies: Either we think that we have total control over our lives or no control whatsoever. Either we are a “Rescuer” or a “Victim.” Both mind sets stem from toxic shame.
9. “Should” Thinking: We find it difficult here to deal with what is. We are driven by what people “should” do or “ought” to do. Our happiness is based upon expectations that we have set up on others.
Is there any hope for being healed from toxic shame? Certainly. This is where good therapy can come in handy, especially something called Rational Emotive Therapy. Google it. There is a lot of good there. But the one “cure” that strikes at the core of our mental dysfunction is an experience of being loved unconditionally by the Power that moves this universe. If we can ever move from seeing ourselves as skin encapsulated egos to being made out of “God Stuff”, we will never be the same again.
Next posting: Toxic Shame Part Two: To Err is Human
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