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Toxic shame, Depression and Role of Therapy

Discussion in 'Psychiatry' started by Priyanga Singh, Aug 19, 2020.

  1. Priyanga Singh

    Priyanga Singh Young Member

    Sep 11, 2019
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    “If a child lives with criticism, He learns to condemn.

    If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

    If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel ashamed.”

    In these beautiful words, Dorothy Law Nolte explains how childhood experiences shape our entire life script and worldview. Feeling ashamed of oneself is the root cause of many psychological problems and, Depression is one of them. Toxic shame and depression go hand in hand.

    The term "toxic shame" was first introduced by Sylvan Tomkins in 1960, he was an American psychologist and theorist. In his famous affect theory, which includes shame as a major factor in affect regulation he described that “The world we perceive is a dream we learn to have from a script we have not written.” Our perception of ourselves and, the world is mostly influenced by our childhood experiences and our mental conditioning.

    According to Sylvian Tomkins “Rationality is fragile in the face of massive negative affect and flourishes most under the positive affect.” And continuous negative traumatizing events can rob a person from his rational thinking and positivity.

    The toxic shame is internalized since childhood and the person lives in a constant state of “not being enough”, feeling small, unworthy, useless, and not measuring up to himself and the world around him. The person feels unloved or unwanted, think oneself as a failure, unattractive, or unintelligent person.

    The toxic shamed and depressed person roams around in the world with a negative point of view about oneself and the world. The world we all perceive is nothing but a mirror of our internal image, and for a depressed individual world is an untrustworthy and threatening place to be. This toxic shame and lack of faith lead them to freeze in fear and they do not function in the world like a productive and meaningful existence, life is a burden they carry around on their shoulders. This often leads to suicidal thoughts and suicides.

    The role of therapy and counselling cannot be denied in this situation. Psychotherapy is the most helpful tool in improving the quality of life and rooting trust in oneself and the world.

    According to Carl Jung psychotherapy and counselling are practiced through a form of analytical talk therapy. The goal of therapy should be healing, learning faith, and wholeness. It can happen when the conscious and unconscious minds are integrated and balanced by a continuous understanding of oneself with the help of well informed, compassionate, and patient therapist. The good psychotherapist helps a person to decode past trauma and toxic shame and teach him to face the world and find an authentic and meaningful life.

    These therapy techniques help in balancing and integration of unconscious and conscious minds –

    Some of them are listed below –

    Acknowledgment of toxic shame – with counselling and compassionate analytic talking the realization of the magnitude and impact of toxic shame can be realized and acknowledged. It has cathartic value and helps in uplifting the burden on a person's psyche.


    Every child is hypnotized by its primary caregivers and in the case of depressed individuals, they are hypnotized to self-doubt and self-loath, which is a major reason for their depression. Some depressed people hate themselves and their inner voice is brutally telling them “you are bad and unworthy”. Therapy leads to De-hypnosis and allows the person to appreciate good in himself.

    Dealing with inner dialogues

    Negative Self-talk and continuous toxic shaming is part of depressive personalities. Therapy helps in the identification and replacement of such negative inner voices with positive affirmations. It is like reprogramming and rebooting old ideas and beliefs which were toxic and destructive in a person's unconscious mind.

    Finding meaningful existence

    The whole purpose of therapy is to give meaningful and authentic existence to the person in therapy. The main goal of healing in therapy is finding a meaningful existence in the darkness of anxiety and depression.

    Realization of destructive patterns-

    Behaviors, experiences, and people that bring toxicity in a person's life should be identified, labelled, and reduced as therapy progresses. According to Jung, there is a hidden intention in depression, it “forces us downwards”, and anything which forces us towards a downward path is worth getting rid of.

    Validation of abuse –

    Validation of abuse has an especially important role in therapeutic counselling. Idealization and rationalization of toxic and abusing parenting is the norm with most wounded people, but it does not help in healing. It deprives one of actual grieving and suffering. All emotional disturbances are a by-product of postponing legitimate suffering. To break away from toxic shaming one must accept that he or she was abused and shamed in childhood.

    Original pain and grief work –

    It is a particularly important part of therapy; we heal naturally if we are allowed and helped to grieve for our lost childhood and our tormenting pasts. A good psychotherapist helps and promotes grieving and gives a safe environment for catharsis.

    The role of the therapist is to help a person identify his toxic shame, work through the necessary grief, and reducing the impact of traumatizing experiences on his present life experiences. It is like nurturing and healing his wounded child with compassion and knowledge.

    If you are interested in help and therapy for your depression please visit and let them help you heal and thrive.

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