Shame is the essence of codependence and the basis of all addiction. When you are feeling bad, embarrassed, or inadequate, the emotion you are experiencing is shame. Healthy amount of shame keep us within appropriate boundaries, but too much or too little shame can be damaging. Too much shame leaves us feeling defective and unspeakably bad. Not having enough shame causes people to behave shamelessly—to act out or penetrate offenses against others. Some of the characteristics of a shame-based identity are as follows:
Being highly performance conscious
Being out of touch with your own needs and wants
Being unaware of your feelings
Tendency to look outside yourself for meaning, identity, and value
High levels of anxiety
Lack of boundaries
Hypervigilence and hypersensitivity
Feeling “apart from” rather than “a part of”
Profound fear of abandonment
Absolutely no concept of what normal behavior is
Passing your own shame along to your mate, children, and others—criticizing and judging them at every opportunity
A state of being
Who I am
Belief that I am flawed, defective, limited
Feeling that I am subhuman
Creation of a false self
Conviction that I don’t deserve help
Feeling that I’m on my own
Grandiosity or groveling
A transient emotion
How I feel
Realization that I am human
Awareness that I am not omnipotent
Acceptance of fallibility
Recognition that I need help
Belief that I’m not alone
Is it guilt, or is it shame?
What is the difference between guilt and toxic shame? Guilt is associated with a specific behavior, a violation of one’s own value system or another person’s boundaries. Guilt is connected with inappropriate action. When I feel guilty, I regret my behavior, but I still respect myself. I know that I did something wrong or bad, but I don not identify with the deed and consider myself wrong or bad. To make amends for my mistake is to repair the breech and reaffirm my value. Throughout the process, I continue to esteem myself.
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