Transforming Toxic Shame into Joyful Belonging

Transforming Toxic Shame into Joyful Belonging

“Shame is the grease of the devil.”


Caution Advised!

I originally entitled this workshop “Draining the Cesspool” with a photo of a deep murky cesspool because toxic shame is a dangerous waste dump that creates tremendous pain in our lives and is inherently challenging to heal. You will need support, if you are like most of us, so I suggest you enlist friends, recovery partners, therapists, mentors, sponsors and others you trust to handle your pain skillfully and with empathy.

Understanding Toxic Shame

Healthy shame is simple embarrassment that passes after a few hours. How we feel when someone sees us pick our nose and wipe it on our shirt is an example of embarrassment.

  1. Healthy shame is adaptive. It is tolerable and helps us learn how to fit into our families, our tribes and our society.
  2. Guilt is different than shame. Guilt says we did something bad.
  3. Toxic Shame is an internal experience of being bad to the core. Toxic shame says we, not just our behavior, are BAD.
  4. Toxic Shame is a sense of something being seriously wrong with our thoughts, emotions, bodies and can include our very spiritual essence or being.
  5. Toxic shame is combination of thoughts, emotions and sensations that we are somehow defective combined with the belief this is a permanent condition. We are inherently defective deep down and that won’t change. 
  6. “Shame is the intensely painful emotion that we are unworthy of love.” Brene Brown
  7. Shame is the most powerful master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” Brene Brown
  8. Shame screams that I do not deserve love or good things.

More Information about Shame

  • Children pick up and take on the shame from adults around them.
  • “If you put shame in a petri dish it needs 3 ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment.
  • Shame tells us to hide and withdraw.
  • Toxic shame is overwhelming.
  • A trance or black hole of unworthiness. The inner child continues to dream its young dream, formed by abuse, neglect and traumas, and continues to project it as an adult onto current relationships including in our career relationships.
  • Descriptors of Toxic Shame includeRepulsive, dirty, defective, disgusting, worthless, revolting, unlovable, utter failure, loser, humiliated, mortified, a mistake, hideous, self-hatred and self-loathing.
  • Sex, in our culture, is deeply associated with shame.
  • It is not unusual for people raised in dysfunctional families and unhealthy cultures to grow up in a Toxic Shame Soup. Addiction is known to be a “shame-based” disease.

Toxic Shame Origins

  1. Can be passed down through the generations probably through our genetic material.
  2. Is a force field that can be energetically absorbed from another person’s “pain body” (their store of unresolved emotional pain). I experienced absorbing sexual shame while inside my mother’s womb.
  3. Can be injected into us with emotional abuse when we experience someone’s disgust directed at us or with repeated acts of rejection or profound humiliation.
  4. Can be transferred or “injected” from one physical body to another directly especially during severe boundary violations of physical and sexually abuse. Sexual abuse may be the most damaging because of the physical intimacy involved.
  5. Many religions communicate shame especially about sex.

Common Shaming Comments

  1. “Is that the best you can do?”
  2. “I’ve shown you a hundred times how to do this, and you still can’t?.”
  3. “You’ll never amount to anything.”
  4. “You’re such a loser!” “
  5. “You are ugly.”
  6. Children should be seen and not heard.”
  7. “I am going to send you away if you don’t behave.”
  8. “My life is miserable because of you.”
  9. “I wish I never had you.”
  10. “You were born a sinner.”

Healing Shame Quotes

  1. “I decided that the single most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed.” Anne Lamott
  2. Sometimes light can only shine through a cracked pot. … God’s light shines greater through “cracked pots” than it does through those who have it all together.
  3. “Shame says that because I am flawed, I am unacceptable. Grace says that though I am flawed I am cherished.”
  4. “If we share our shame with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”- Brene’ Brown
  5. “Empathy’s the antidote to shame. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle is ‘metoo’.” – Brene Brown
  6. “Only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.” – Richard Nixon
  7. If you put some shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.
  8. “You grow up the day you have your first real laugh – at yourself.”
  9. “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

Motivational Quotes to Persevere

“The road to success is always under construction.”  Lily Tomlin

Moral: Which is why you should make your own path in life. Even if you get a few cuts and bruises going through the bush, you will get there before everyone else.

“If you hit the target every time it’s too near or too big.” Tom Hirschfield

Moral: – Keep stepping slightly outside of your comfort zone because if you don’t you will never improve. Seek great challenges and those challenges will turn you into a force to be reckoned with.  

Ask Yourself

  1. Can I identify when I are triggered into the experience of toxic shame?

Circle one:   No      Sometimes    Getting better at it!    Most of the time, yes!

  1. When I realize I am triggered into shame, am I able to communicate my inner experience to another person responsibly? For example, “I am in a toxic shame spiral right now.”

Circle one: No      Sometimes    Getting better at it!    Most of the time, yes!


Remember writing is a powerful tool that helps us access deeper material held subconsciously. If you are ready to heal, consider doing these exercises. Use as much extra paper as necessary. Remember it is strongly advised to have support to move through toxic shame.

Generational Shame Inventory

List events, situations, occurrences, incidents in your family history, including ancestors, that may be associated with shame. For example- child abandonment, racial discrimination, handicaps/diseases, family secrets, abortions/adoptions, suicides, murders, extreme poverty, severe illnesses, huge financial losses etc.


Rank your shame for each item: 1 through 5

1 mild shame……………….3 moderate shame……………  5 intense shame

*Put a star in front of the item you wish to share with someone else today (can choose to not share but encouraged to do so).

Shame is often passed from one person to another.  List three incidents, maybe from childhood, in which you sense someone passed shame to you that you think or know you continue to carry in your body.  Shame is usually being passed with all forms of abuse and neglect. 


 Rank the intensity of shame for each item: 1 through 5

1 mild shame……………….3 moderate shame……………  5 intense shame

*Put a star in front of the item you wish to share with someone else today (can choose to not share but encouraged to do so).

What were your parents, caregivers, teachers, siblings, religious leaders or other perpetrators common shaming comments or behaviors?

Rank the intensity of shame for each item: 1 through 5

1 mild shame……………….3 moderate shame……………  5 intense shame

*Put a star in front of the item you wish to share with someone else today (can choose to not share but encouraged to do so).

List the 3 most shame-filled things you tell yourself about your body or yourself?


Rank your level of rejection of this part of you for each item: 1 through 5

1 mild rejection…………3 moderate rejection……………5 intense rejection

*Put a star in front of the one you wish to share with someone else today (can choose to not share but encouraged to do so).

 List 3 emotions, if any, that you feel shame about feeling or expressing.  

Fear, grief/sadness, anger/rage or even shame.  Yes, we can shame ourselves for feeling shame!  You can additionally choose from hurt, helplessness, powerlessness, loneliness or maybe your challenging emotions are happiness or joy?


Rank your fear for each item: 1 through 5

1 mild fear……………….3 moderate fear……………  5 intense fear

*Put a star in front of the item you wish to share with someone else today (can choose to not share but encouraged to do so).

What are your habitual thoughts you say to yourself when you are triggered into shame? 


 List 3 things you carry shame about or are ashamed of that you usually do not want people to know about.  Note: Will only share today if you choose to.


Rank your level of shame for each item: 1 through 5

1 mild shame…………3 moderate shame………. 5 intense shame

*Put a star in front of the one you wish to share with someone else today (can choose to not share but encouraged to do so).

Demonstrative Healing Step for All Practices Above

Now, hide your shame writings. Take what you wrote and sit on it, hide it behind your back, in your shirt or somewhere else you prefer to demonstrate to yourself how we coped with this in the past.


 Shame Art 

Let the young part of you or inner child draw freely. They need to get this poison out of their systems. Use dull and yucky colored crayons and/or colored pencils or paint. (I see shame as yucky colors).

  1. Draw your shame. Just draw, don’t think too much. After you are complete with your drawing:
  2. Hide your shame.Sit on it, fold it up, hide it behind your back, put it in your purse or pocket etc. Shame tells us to withdraw or hide so hide your shame now.
  3. Share your art with a therapist, mentor, pastor or trusted friend who has the skills to empathize with it. Consider burning it when you feel you are complete with carrying this dynamic in your body/mind/life.

Writing Practices

Again, these have the power to be deeply healing if you actually do them and don’t just read them. Consider loving yourself enough, if you are ready now, to do the following exercises. Remember, recommended you have adequate support when doing this healing work.

Healing Generational Shame 

We often carry unhealed shame from our ancestors. We can be carrying shame from ancestors we are not even aware of. The TWO CHAIR TECHNIQUE: Put two empty chairs next to each other with them both facing in the same direction. I suggest using hard seat chairs and not those with cushions that might absorb energy more easily. Sit in one chair. If you know of shameful incidents such as alcoholism, drug abuse, infidelity, child abuse, sexual abuse, suicides, murders other criminal behavior etc. it will be helpful to think about them briefly. Set your intention to consciously connect with this unhealed shame. Trust this process and don’t think about it too deeply. Bring up these feelings/energetics and use your will to make them as intense in your body as you can tolerate. It is common to access a feeling tone on an energetic level that may be familiar to you. It is not uncommon that we have assumed this was our own personal baggage. This energetic may have been in the background of your awareness for a very long time.

When you feel the energetic strongly, stand up and sit in the adjacent chair. Use your hands to physically imagine removing this energetic from your system and see yourself placing it on the chair you just got up from. Notice that it is now physically separate from you. You may imagine seeing it as a package on the other chair. Now bless this energy. You may wish to place your hands above the energetic and say a prayer that you acknowledge your ancestor’s shame and release it to a favorite version of your Higher Power or the earth herself. Get up and notice how you feel. Hopefully you will feel lighter. Congratulate yourself for acknowledging and being a healer for your ancestor’s pain that they were incapable of processing.

Expressing Carried Shame to a Safe Partner 

To be done in pairs with recovery friend, mentor, therapist, sponsor, pastor or another person you trust. This can be done with each person revealing their shame or only one being the Shame Revealer depending on the situation. Remember healing shame comes often from expressing or sharing of shame with safepeople.

  • If only one person sharinggive them 3 timed minutes to talk.
  • If duo sharing, share for 3 minutes and then switch and the other has 3 minutes. First, assign who is the Shame Welcomer and who is the Shame Revealer. The Shame Welcomer can only say thank you after each revelation but no other feedback during the exercise. If Shame Revealer stalls the Shame Welcomer invites them to continue with, “Your shame is welcome here.” If Shame Revealer is unable to speak, the Shame Welcomer simply keeps repeating “Your shame is welcome here” until the 3 minutes is up.

Write a list of your good qualities or character assets. This is the “gold” in you. It may be a quality of your inherent spiritual essence or skills or personality characteristics you have developed. Many people find this a very challenging exercise and harder to do than listing their negative qualities or “defects” of character. I encourage you to ask people who are safe and love you what they see as your qualities and write them down. Refer to this list often to change negative focusing that many people are addicted to.

Write about how God sees you. I know deep in my being from a revelatory experience that God loves each one of us perfectly and completely. My experience correlates with many others that view God like the sun. Its warmth shines equally on all. Take a piece of paper and pen, get quiet, close your eyes and ask God to use your mind and hand to tell you how God feels about and/or sees you. Refer to this often for healing our negative and false perceptions about ourselves.

Good for you! You took a courageous step in your healing. Please get the support you need to process the material that is now arising.  To more enjoyable experiences of joyful belonging. 

I love you, Vanita 




Women, Anger & Power

Women, Anger & Power

I am sharing this from a presentation I gave. Now I am making it available openly to empower women. Women are the ones speaking up and saying no to the abuse they have tolerated for so long. Reading this material and actually doing the practices, will assist women in setting healthy boundaries and experiencing more fulfillment in their lives. It will help make the families in this world more sane and healthy.

Our Society is Emotionally Retarded!

Society, many religious and spiritual traditions discourage healthy anger expressions as well as many of the other emotions including positive ones!  Women are more naturally gifted with emotional intelligence and therefore often at an advantage to spiritually awaken since closer to Source since they are closer to their feelings.

Irresponsible Anger is Scary

Violence- emotionally, verbally, intellectually, physically, sexually

Causes harm, impaired or destroyed relationships, physical damage, criminal behavior

Shades of Red

  • Anger is a “hot” emotion; it is emotional FIRE and like fire often needs containment to not cause damage.
  • Irritation, displeasure, annoyance, aggravation, frustration, indignation, anger, outrage, livid, rage, fury, wrath etc.

Repressed Anger- Get is out!

  • Stored anger is a result of previous anger not fully experienced.Often it is from childhood when it wasn’t safe to express it and the child didn’t have proper or sufficient bresources to cope with it. Stored anger is toxic to the body.
  • May be associated with depression, rashes, acne, cold sores,acute inflammation in body or joints,acid reflux, gastric ulcers, heartburn, indigestion, inflamed eyes etc.
  • Often associated with judgment, impatience, criticism, intolerance,excessive perfectionist tendencies.
  • Often stored in liver, gallbladder, intestines, genitals, shoulders, jaw. Can be anywhere in body.
  • Dangerous anger/violence is usually stored rage that gets triggered by current circumstances and “hitchhikes” on current reaction.
  • Unhealthy men have learned to use anger to control women. They escalate their anger in stages using just enough to get what they want.  Undeveloped women do this also. 

Real Time Anger

     Current anger is a message that something isn’t quite right- usually a violation has occurred, a boundary has been crossed.  The level of anger is appropriate to the situation.

The transmutation of anger into response-ability doesn’t take place when you choose to use meditation in an escapist way, pretend that everything is fine, or play the forgiveness game.

The Gifts of Responsible Anger

  • Makes us whole- We are designed to feel the full range of emotions just as a rainbow is made of many colors including RED.
  • More energy- lots of energy is stored in anger and TONS of energy being used to keep it buried or at bay that comes back into your system when anger allowed to be felt.
  • Energy to protect the self physically, emotionally, intellectually, energetically etc.
  • Energy to set boundaries or enforce them.
  • Respect- Our demonstration of our self-respect by setting and enforcing boundaries teaches others we value ourselves and often leads to them respecting us more.
  • Fosters true intimacy- not sharing honestly creates barriers between people that build up over time.
  • People value people who are emotionally responsible. Men adore women who can communicate responsibly.
  • People can’t manipulate you with threats of anger when you have healed it in yourself.
  • You will attract healthier people to you as you transform your stored anger.
  • Ability to feel anger and respond in healthy manner in the moment
  • A more peaceful family, workplace and society.
  • Often is step depressed people need to take to move out of depressive states.
  • Direct and clear communications re: anger are better received than “sideways” anger expressions or passive-aggressive behavior.
  • Makes our lives more productive, effective, peaceful, colorful, flavorful, passionate, ALIVE!!!

Inquiries About Our Conditioning

Most effective if you do this exercise in writing.

  • What judgments do I carry about anger?
  • Who taught me my primary lessons about anger?
  • How did my caregivers react when I was angry as a child?Teen?
  • What age did I fully shut down my anger if I did that?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable am I with my anger and expression of anger?
  • What do I see as the gifts of anger?
  • Am I open to being in my power to a greater level?
  • What less than ideal strategies do I use to try to control other people’s anger for my comfort?
  • Who do I know who is a good role model for demonstrating heathly relationship with anger?

Our Relationship to Our Anger

  • First, work towards owning it more fully.Whether you choose to share it with others or not it is helpful to be honest with yourself about what is true for you.
  • If you are not sure if have suppressed anger ask your family members, friends, co-workers etc.
  • What did I thinkthat created this emotion? Event/Thought/Emotion
  • Be careful not to confuse thoughts with emotions which is very common and can impede effective communication.

Template:  When such and such happened or I heard him, her say ____________  I thought, I interpreted it, I made the meaning     ______________        and I felt   ___________.

  • Where do I feel it in my body?
  • What is my anger trying to tell me?
  • Am I willing to feel it more fully?
  • Am I able in this moment to feel it completely?
  • How would I like to be with my anger right now?
  • Are there feelings underneath my anger? Hurt? Fear? Sadness? Shame? Guilt?
  • Is there a belief I am powerless and/or helpless now? (Often this clues us to the victim child or may be situational as in someone is dying).
  • Is there something I need to express to someone?
  • Am I willing to express it?
  • Do I need support to express it? If so, what support do I need?Am I willing to ask for it?
  • Is there something I need to do? Is refraining from action the best course?
  • Am I angry with myself for something I did or omitted to do?

Communicating Anger Responsibly to Another

  • Anger can be “hot” and relational if expressed responsibly. (Susan Campbell, PhD, “Getting Real”. Rage can be expressed responsibly in the moment if you have ability to contain it. If contained the person will feel safe.
  • When we don’t share our truth with people we are no longer in full relationship with them. Most important is to be intimate with ourselves.
  • Don’t “leak” anger directly to others. Talk to other’s to calm down and get clarity but consider discussing it directly with person who triggered it for resolution.
  • If stored anger is triggered consider using words such as, “When you said that old anger got triggered in me” or “when you did that a button in me was pushed”.
  • Only express to safe people you trust. There are situations, such as work etc., where it may not be appropriate to share your feelings directly.
  • Contemplate if “I don’t want to hurt them or they can’t handle it” is an excuse you use to avoid communicating with someone.
  • Example of event/thought/emotion communication: When you interrupted me while I was speaking I made the meaning you thought what I was saying wasn’t important and I feel angry.  (Stop speaking, allow pause and see if other desires to speak)
  • If afraid of sharing anger can open with- “I want to share something with you and I have fear about expressing it.  I fear you won’t receive it well.   Are you willing to hear it?  Is this a good time to discuss this?”  “If this isn’t a good time when can we get together to discuss this?”
  • If very upset consider taking a time out. “I am very upset and need to be with myself.  I will be back when I am calmer”. (Communicates care and connection, not abandoning other).
  • Don’t minimize by saying, “I’m a little angry”. Consider saying, “I am angry”,

“I feel angry”, “I felt angry” (irritated, frustrated, aggravated etc.)  “Anger is in me” or “anger was in me”, “I feel rage in this moment” or “I felt rage”.

  • Take full responsibility- work to end blaming.Avoid the common expression “you made me angry” or “when you did that/said that it made me angry”.  It is your anger, own your reaction.
  • Allow your feeling to express in your tone of voice.

Dyad Work to Increase Power

What am I most angry about?

What is my level of fear in admitting, experiencing or feeling my anger 0 to 10?  _______

What is my level of anger currently in my body? 0-10  (0=no anger) to (ten = intense rage)?  _______

Where do I feel the anger in my body?  What color is it?  Texture?  Size? Shape? Density?

What is my anger telling me or trying to tell me?

Am I angry with myself?  If yes, what did I do or not do that I am angry about?

Is there something I need to do or communicate to someone?

What is the next step I need to take to be more responsible with my anger?

Am I willing to do that now?  If no, what is my resistance?

Additional ideas?  Comments?

Possibilities for Releasing Anger

  • Pound on bed, couch or cushion
  • Scream if appropriate to situation you are in.
  • Scream underwater, into a pillow or in a car (but not while driving).
  • Break things you don’t mind destroying, chop wood, clean the house, get a piece of red meat and tear it to shreds!
  • See a therapist comfortable with anger
  • Go to a workshop where anger is welcomed or encouraged.
  • Share it with someone you trust.
  • Remember resentments are like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.
  • Write/Journal unedited. Use dominant and then non-dominant hand writing.
  • Paint or other creative art
  • Breathe
  • Pause
  • Meditate if anger is mild and going into anger and not escaping or transcending it.

Decreasing Excessive Fire in the Body

Ideals to Strive Toward/Progress Not Perfection

  • The ultimate ideal is to fully feel your feelings in the moment.We abandon ourselves when we abandon our emotions.
  • Have your thoughts, emotions and actions be congruent.


Not all therapists, clergy or spiritual teachers are competent to help you with anger!   Ask them how they dealt with their own rage and notice their response! You want someone who has worked through their own rage and is at peace with yours for them to be helpful.