A sad man sitting against a wall - The Critical Voice of Toxic Shame And How To Silence It- Sandra Harewood Counselling

The Critical Voice of Toxic Shame And How To Silence It


I really admire the work of Brené Brown.  If you’re not familiar with Brené, as well as being one of the world’s leading researchers on the subjects of shame and vulnerability, she is a wonderfully compelling storyteller. Brené Brown talks about difficult topics in a very soulful, humorous and graceful way.

The Paralysing Power of Toxic Shame

I think most of us can connect with what it means to be vulnerable, even if we don’t like feeling that way.  On the other hand, when you’re caught by toxic shame, it can feel a bit trickier to know what’s going on.

Shame isn’t a pleasant emotion.  You may notice it as blushing or a loss of energy.  But at it’s worst, the symptoms are more debilitating.  Toxic shame can physically deflate you, and your whole body crumbles; your head sinks into your shoulders, your shoulders slump, and your body disintegrates.  You feel desperate and want to hide.

And toxic shame also reduces your ability to think clearly.  Your brain feels foggy and sluggish, or you draw a blank and can’t come up with any idea’s.

Toxic shame is a powerful force.

Guilt v Shame

Not all shame is bad.  A healthy dose of shame can let you know when you have hurt someone or crossed a boundary.  Connecting to shame in this way can be an essential part of healing and growth in relationships.

Toxic shame is very different and often gets confused with guilt.  So here’s the difference:

Guilt is the emotion you experience when you’ve done or failed to do something which is not in alignment with your values.  The important thing is it’s about your behaviour, i.e. ‘I DID something bad.’ which you can adapt and change.

Shame, on the other hand, is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that you are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging, i.e. ‘I AM bad.’  Something you’ve experienced, done or failed to do makes you feel unworthy of connection.

When you feel on a deeper level that there must be something wrong with you, Brown has observed that you are much more likely to be the source of destructive and hurtful behaviour. Shame is a symptom of a wound to the soul.  That could mean you believe that:

  • I am less than human
  • At my core I am nothing
  • I am inferior and incapable
  • I am not special
  • To exist, I need to serve others

To silence toxic shame, or at the very least quiet the voice, you first need to recognise it for what it is.

Brené Brown – Listening To Toxic Shame

This TED Talk by Brené Brown is inspiring and reveals how working with shame is the key to vulnerability, creativity, courage, authenticity, and deeper connections in your relationships.  Embracing these qualities will make a significant impact on your life.

Over To You

How does toxic shame show up in your life?  Counselling can be a safe space where your shameful feelings can be explored. If you want to explore how shame shows up in your life get in touch and book your first counselling appointment.

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.


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© Sandra Harewood

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and single women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create great relationships.

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