Monday, February 20, 2006

Healing Toxic Shame

Everyone who has been raised by sinful caretakers in a sinful world has suffered emotional hurts causing negative false beliefs about themselves (toxic shame) & their world. These wounds can & need to be healed for people to have healthy relationships with God, themselves, & others.

I’ve found the book, Healing the Shame That Binds You (by John Bradshaw), to be a powerful tool for those who are ready to take the painful but liberating journey toward personal healing & reconciliation. Along with this book, I strongly recommend keeping a personal journal of experiences, memories, feelings, learnings, inner dialogues, & prayers... reviewing what you have written, often. I’ve also found it immensely valuable to read a chapter or two from the book of Psalms every day. Finally, it’s always helpful & nearly always necessary to walk through this process with a trustworthy, sensitive, & insightful friend who has a living relationship with Jesus Christ. This quest is difficult enough without the burden of doing it alone.

The following includes more information that will help make sense of your journey. May God bless you as you walk with Him toward the life you’ve always dreamed of, but never dared to hope for.

· Talk to God, admitting that as much as you’ve been wronged, you’ve also made mistakes & done selfish things that have hurt others.
· Ask for His forgiveness & for Him to walk with you in finding the truth & becoming whole. Invite Him to lead you through this process, praying & listening to Him & reading His Word the Bible.
· Get regular accountability & encouragement from mature friends.

As you experience circumstances that stir up negative or confusing emotional reactions & behaviors, the following ten steps help to unpack them & discover what dynamics might be active beneath the surface.

1. Trigger Experience
What was the experience that seems to have triggered the emotional reaction? Summarize it & give it a title.
2. Feelings
What did you feel (emotionally & physically)? Write down as many describing words as you can; then review the list & circle the ones that feel most powerful to you.
3. Images & Metaphors
As you think of your feelings, what images come to mind? Is there a certain animal you felt like? How about a unique role like a boxer, a dancer, a baby, a robbery victim, a hostage, etc.? Completing this sentence might help: “I felt like a _________ .”
4. Historical Connections
When else have you felt this way?
5. Themes & Issues
What do all these experiences have in common? How did you feel or react similarly in each situation? What did you say or do that was similar? Did you hide, cry, fight, eat, work harder, run away, etc.?
6. Source Experiences
What’s your earliest memory of this kind of experience? Did you ever feel this way when you were a little girl / boy? How about with Mom or Dad or your other primary guardians?
7. Discovering Your Lie
When you first felt this, what did you learn to believe (feel) about yourself? What did you learn to believe (feel) about others?
8. Discovering God’s Truth
Does God’s Word say anything related to this issue or the way it made you feel about yourself or others? How does He view you? Read Genesis chapter 1 & begin looking through the book of Psalms (like Ps 139) for clues; or try looking up relevant words in a concordance or online Bible search tool (
9. Reparenting
The feeling part of your heart functions a lot like a child & requires good parenting from your thinking, adult mind. Listen to that child (the feeling part of your heart) & begin the process of re-parenting (even dialoging with him/her in the 2nd person). You are the only parent that child will listen to now. All the rules of good parenting apply here: loving, listening, comforting, correcting, setting boundaries, educating, encouraging, etc. Writing these inner conversations in your journal can help make them more concrete.
10. Action Steps
What can you do this week to teach God’s truth to that deepest part of your feeling heart? ...maybe writing your LIE (step 7) on one side of a 3x5 card & your TRUTH (step 8) on the other? ...or how about memorizing a relevant Bible verse or catch phrase?

· Correctly assign responsibility for hurtful actions. This means taking responsibility for your own past & present actions, but not others’.
· Confess your actions to those you’ve hurt, asking for their forgiveness, & giving them the opportunity to be free of anger.

· Discover & embrace your true identity, personality, & spiritual gifts.
· Discover & embrace God’s plan & His next step for you.
· Begin moving toward that next step in faith & obedience.


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