Discovering toxic shame as a potential root cause of anxiety, dysfunctional patterns, fragmentation and addictions can be the first step towards liberation. We go more into detail about what is a toxic shame and how it affects our lives in the Comprehensive Guide About Toxic Shame. We would recommend reading that article before we dwell into the 2nd part which is all about how to release toxic shame.
Confession / Speaking Up
Honesty with the self is the first step towards releasing you from the bonds of toxic shame. An effective way to start this process is through the act of confession.
You cannot address any problem unless you’re honest about what that problem may be. There is a reason why the first rule of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is to introduce yourself to the group and acknowledge that you are an addict. Courage is necessary for this process. You have to be ready to face and own your toxic shame in order to transcend it.
During this time you have to fully embrace and feel your emotions, however difficult this may be. You need to allow yourself to be vulnerable. This process can be especially difficult for men. As society has programmed them in such a way that expressing vulnerability equates to weakness. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. To feel and to face difficult emotions is a courageous act that requires a different type of strength.
Remember that the only way out is through.
Being part of intentional healing groups or working with skilled practitioners where you can open up and speak freely without judgement can have a great impact on releasing shame. The fundamental aspect of this healing process is a safe container in which space is held. Within this space, others have the opportunity and support to explore vulnerable aspects of themselves. It is essentially a ‘remirroring’ process whereby the aspects of us that were originally wounded are seen and accepted. This can be a miraculous process to witness. Spontaneous healing is akin to a rebirth process, whereby the sparkle within one’s eyes returns. You see a complete shift in the energy and the state of being. The participant will experience a huge liberation of energy as if the chains which ensnared him/her before no longer exist. This is very, very powerful – both to witness and to experience.
*If participating in a healing group seems like too much of a stretch, you can start by expressing your toxic shame through writing. You can write about your life story and your low points or even have a dialogue from your inner child’s point of view. Express yourself freely. This gives a voice to your pain. Sometimes that might be enough in order to get relief or to meet your inner child needs.
Notice yourself in moments when you feel triggered or insulted. It is usually an indicator that there is some aspect of you that you are not fully aware of. Remember that when you feel insulted, you become defensive. But the question is what is it that you are defending? In many cases when you feel insulted, it reveals to you an area that you are insecure or ashamed of. An aspect of you that you may have deemed ‘unworthy’ from childhood conditioning. Owning your toxic shame is the key to releasing triggered reactions.
Within holistic health circles and in particular, within modalities of shamanism, there is a process referred to as “soul retrieval”. It is the process of reowning back “lost parts of our soul”. “Soul loss” is triggered by experiences which we did not have the emotional capacity to handle at a time of the experience. Shame is one of these powerful emotions which force us to abandon parts of the soul. These parts of the ‘soul’ then reside in the subconscious waiting for integration.
In order to achieve internal integration, we need to break through the facade and face our shame/pain. Once we have done so with the honest self-inquiry we can then begin to reintegrate those vulnerable aspects in a gentle and compassionate way. In doing so the process requires both shattering of the old and redefining of the new. Instead of hating ourselves for being broken, we can seek to find beauty and potential in reconnecting lost parts of our soul in a new and unique way.
In Japan, there is a method of repairing broken pieces of pottery with gold. This process is called kintsugi and it is understood that the piece of pottery becomes more beautiful and valuable for having been broken. This metaphor portrays the potential of how our wounds can turn into our greatest gifts. Our most difficult experiences can become a catalyst for developing internal powers such as resilience, empathy and compassion for others and liberation. In transcending our suffering and circumstances we can become an inspiration for others to do the same.
Another aspect of transcending these cycles of toxic shame is the incorporation of compassion. Shame and trauma are transgenerational byproducts that are passed down. It is only when a member within the family or this ancestral lineage becomes aware of these patterns and consciously chooses to change them that these cycles can be broken.
In order to find peace and liberation from these intergenerational patterns, we need to forgive. By understanding the reasons for our pain, we can relate to our parents’ pain and become more compassionate. Forgiveness is an act of self-love that liberates us from the bondage of emotions such as shame, resentment and anger. If we hold onto these emotions then the same cycle will perpetuate onto our children.
Toxic shame can feel like a deep cut in our hearts. It separates us from ourselves and from others. Toxic shame involves disowning aspects of ourselves. As toxic shame often lurks in the darkness of our psyche, it’s up to us to learn and recognize its many faces. In doing so we can improve the way we perceive the world, how we interact with others and ultimately how we view ourselves. It is a journey back to wholeness. The more we are truly ourselves, the more we can access our natural gifts and live more fulfilling lives.