A little bit of shame is a good thing. It's the emotion that helps us keep a check on overly selfish and maybe even harmful behavior. We might feel a sense of shame after we've sent off an angry email or text, or told someone off in a heated moment. It then becomes the mechanism that reminds us that we made a mistake, giving us an opportunity to correct it.
Toxic Shame on the other hand is entirely destructive and it has the potential to ruin whole lives. Toxic Shame is a deeply ingrained, sometimes unconscious, felt sense that we are inherently "bad", "flawed", or "broken beyond repair". It's a no-win view of ourselves and the world that can keep us trapped in an endless cycle of depression and self-sabotage.
Toxic Shame runs a loop of negative self talk in our heads. We say things to ourselves like "I'm stupid", "I'm no good at anything", "I can never get anything right", "Nobody could ever love me", or even "I don't deserve to live". Over time, these ideas become so habituated that we might not even realize that's how we think of ourselves. In a very real sense, we've become "hypnotized" to believe we are devoid of any good qualities.
The roots of Toxic Shame are almost always connected to our experiences in childhood. Whether we were overtly abused and neglected, or simply received repeated messages from adult authority figures that our actions were "bad", we internalized the idea that we ourselves were bad.
This isn't just a simple case of misinterpretation (although in some ways it is). We were kids, cultivating our fundamental sense of identity during very important developmental stages. It's during those early years that we desperately need love, support, and guidance. These are the basic materials from which we construct our sense of who we are and how we fit in the world. If we didn't get that kind of nurturing, and instead were harmed and betrayed, then we're bound to experience a lot of suffering and confusion later on.
But once we recognize that Toxic Shame is a big part of our suffering, we are then free to do something about it. That's where modalities like hypnotherapy come in. By learning how to relax our bodies and minds we can begin to get in touch with the deep wisdom and love within ourselves that knows the way out of this mess. We can revisit the sources of the shame and give these memories and past experiences the loving, healing attention that they, and we, deserve.