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 




The Great Confusion

The Great Confusion

So many confused.

Christ is not a man who lived long ago,

Nor a woman.

The Christ is not of this world.


Men and women, even a child,

Can realize the Light.

It will not come through the body’s eyes,

Glory supplants our binary earthly existence.


Wish to become fully the Light?

Be not fooled. Pain will be involved.

How are dense gray rocks transformed into transparent crystals?

How is gold purified?


The Christ is Quietness.

A snowstorm scribbled a solid excuse to stay home,

Relief washes over you,

Your daily burdens miraculously lifted.


Peace envelops the forest, or city street,

Blanketed in pure heavenly white.

Sunlight transfigures the brilliant wonder,

into a unexpected in-breath of long-awaited awe.


This same Love reaches through a young woman’s

Fatigue to comfort her cranky infant,

Or sensed as a man opens his heart

To his woman’s upset directed at him.


It is felt as skillful compassion is extended to a distressed addict,

Understanding the incessant attempts to keep the inner demons at bay.

It shines through a neighbor’s soaking of a small dog’s infected wounds,

As day after day, she coaxes the little creature from death’s claws.


Christ is the Eternal Remembered,

Not a religion.

Christ is those who embody the Deep Stillness,

Those transmuted by the Joyous Emanation of Immortal

Radiant Light.


A Dead Deer

A Dead Deer

A Dead Deer


I came upon her body,

Lying on the asphalt,

Irregularly shaped pools of crimson liquid under her neck.


A sunny day, not too hot,

Already beginning to bloat

Or might there be a fawn inside?


Clearly the doe was dead.

I didn’t like her exposed like that.

I wanted her on the grassy side.


As I contemplated touching her

An image of her leaping up and

Attacking me jolted my mind.


Timidly I approached her hind legs,

Wrapping my hands around delicate tawny ankles

Above her now useless hoofs.


She lie now in the shallow ditch and I felt relief.

Aligning her with the earth’s curves

Dried grass and weeds were her last bed.


Three tiny dandelion flowers placed on her neck,

Three where the front legs met her chest

In that indentation, as in our bodies.


Three more carefully arranged on her hindquarters.

I thought I was done,

but the blood on the road disturbed me.


A tiny bouquet of yellow flowers now graced her blood,

please forgive our fast-paced lives.


My work was done.

The Sadness Never Leaves

I guess that is not true,

Sadness vanishes at times,

Happy in the market amongst the colorful array,

As organic fruit and veggie piles abundant transmit their joy.

Talking to that acquaintance deeply disturbed by the news,

His turn looming nearby,

I imagine he thought my bouncy smiles absurd.


I have been happy since he died.

That morose morning

An angelic friend visited,

Attending closely to the overpowering suffering,

Massaging the heaviness away,

‘Til I calmly saw,

All is as it should be.


I remember smiling

As I drove down this mountain

Early one vibrantly emerald spring morning,

Famous brothers bantering on the radio.

One of them had also passed from this realm.


Sadness is there now,

That is the simple fact on close inspection.

Arising while I drive through these rolling hills

Towards her idyllic home,

Sensing it would be graciously received.


Grief lurked most of the evening.

Finally I succumbed as I lie on my side,

Comforted by white down in our luxurious bed,


You not there to hold me.


If I stay busy enough,

The gloomy mood can be held at a tenuous bay.

Not keen to feel into myself these days.

He says sadness means we need more rest.


I am told more “primitive” societies

Relieved you of all your responsibilities.

For one whole year grieving was your sacred work

As they watched over you and cared for you,

Ensuring you didn’t do anything rash.

They knew these were dangerous times

And grief, done well, would one day bring her gifts.


Can I be with the sadness?

Can I listen to her?

What does she need from me?

What is she whispering or screaming at me?

“Please don’t leave me alone,

I need you here with me”.


There is so much to do.

The endless business of afterdeath is more in order now,

Something larger moves the tedious details along,

Piles of black and white paper are more organized,

The taxes, his and mine, can wait.