Shame and Toxic Shame

Is there a difference?

Some people treat all shame as if it is toxic shame.  I tried multiple times to read a book on shame.  I was so confused within a few pages at it batted back and forth between shame and toxic shame.

Dictionary result for shame – Google dictionary

  1. 1.
    a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
    “she was hot with shame”

The emotion is supposed to alert us when we do something wrong, when it is healthy it is called guilt.  It is an uncomfortable feeling designed to get us to change course and get back on track.  The feeling is supposed to be part of our emotional experience that guides us towards doing the right thing for the right reason.

Toxic shame:

Shame, when toxic, is a paralyzing global assessment of oneself as a person. When severe, it can form the lens through which all self-evaluation is viewed. As such, some words used to express the emotion of shame include feeling insecure, worthless, stupid, foolish, silly, inadequate or simply less than. Overcoming the Paralysis of Toxic Shame | Psychology Today…/overcoming-the-paralysis-toxic-shame


The way I finally described it is guilt is when I realize I did something wrong.  Shame is when I am a what is wrong.  Toxic shame is the abuser shifting their shame from them selves to the victim.  Victim shaming and blaming is a powerful technique used by abusers to justify their horrible behavior.  “They made me mad, so I beat them senseless.”  “She looked sexy, so I raped her.”  Blaming the victim is often used when such incidences go to court.  Some victims are afraid to go to authorities because they realize they will be blamed, not that it is there fault, just that they will be blamed and shamed into silence.
Toxic shame is a common issue survivors of complex trauma endure. Often the perpetrators of the abuse make the survivor feel they deserved it, or they were the reason for it. Often survivors are made to feel they don’t deserve to be treated any better.
I re-watchedBrené Brown TED Talk on Vulnerability and Shame: These take about 20 minutes each.  I believe they are worth the time to watch and watch again.  She pointed out that we feel guilty about doing something wrong and when we feel shame we are what is wrong.  Vulnerability, Shame, and Courage are linked in a way that Brené  Brown helps me understand how to heal by being courageous and talking about my shame and owning my guilt.  

Guilt and shame are not the same thing.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. ~ Brené Brown

2 thoughts on “Shame and Toxic Shame

  1. I like the idea of toxic shame being the abuser instilling the shame. It’s two levels of pain: the self loathing *and that it was inflicted on us.* No wonder it is the hardest thing for a C-PTSD survivor to overcome…

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