Saturday, January 28, 2006

Toxic Shame Stinks

Humor me for a little sociological math on this one, okay?

All people sin. That means parents are sinful too, even around their children. Meanwhile, children are egocentric. From birth to pre-adolescence, their core relationships are a running commentary on who they are. Unfortuately, the thought process used for this commentary is entirely based in the limbic system since the thinking neocortex doesn't develop until later childhood & doesn't mature until adolescence. That means these are emotional conclusions that take root before logic matures enough to better explain things.

So when parents sin around & against children, children take that sin as saying something about who THEY are! In other words... if Dad is always critical about my actions, then I must not be capable enough. If Mom is distant or generally absent, then I must not be lovable enough. If Mom or Dad tease me or belittle me, then I must not be significant enough. And on and on.

Those are the kinds of conclusions children make about themselves from the behavior of their sinful parents. What's more, the most emotionally extreme experiences (especially related to fight or flight brain functions) register most deeply with kids. So when they're most afraid (like when Mom & Dad are yelling), that teaches them the most substantial (& most negative) lessons about themselves.

The result? Low self-estimation regarding one's acceptability, significance, or capability & emotional reactions to those false beliefs about self that produce a host of relational dysfunctions. A common term for these feelings (or subconcious beliefs) is TOXIC or DYSFUNCTIONAL SHAME.

So how many of us had sinful parents? And how many of us were children at one time? Then how many us have toxic shame? I know... bummer. Unless we've become aware & healed it, it's still there... messing with our relationships, influencing our feelings, thoughts & reactions, restricting our joy, & handicapping our love. All of this leads me to an initial conclusion... toxic shame stinks.


jess said...

John your post on Toxic Shame really hits home. Joe and I were saved when our kids were in their teens so we basically raised them in sin and without God. As I see them going through lifes struggles now, self esteem issues, partying heavily, etc... I can't help but wonder how we as parents - without Jesus - have instilled Toxic Shame in their lives and it's shaped and formed them. I believe that with our constant prayer for healing and salvation this pain will be annihilated from their lives - a work has begun! :-)

Great blog site John.


John Lynch said...

Praise the Lord for His healing work, Jess. His truth really does set us free!