I was born bad & I’ll always be bad

Guilt is about actions - it’s the emotion which is caused by disobedience to rules we deeply believe in. On the other hand, SHAME is about our identity - about who we are, fundamentally. It says that our very essence is bad, unlovable, unacceptable - to be eliminated. It makes us:
• want to hide, isolate, not talk, try to be invisible
• want to be dead! The pain of shame is so great & the conviction that we’re un-redeemable is so deep (not worth saving), that it eliminates Hope. Why bother even trying!
• OR overcompensate - by outdoing, controlling, shaming others, acting
superior, knowing ‘everything’, never showing ‘weakness’... ie. grandiosity

➼ SHAME is connected to our NEEDs, rather than our actions.
Specifically - each need we had as a child which was neglected, punished & made fun of. If you think about how many needs children have - and how many of them were not met at all or met with abuse - then you can imagine how huge our shame quotient is !!

➼ BTW, most people focus on the need for love as basic, & while this is crucial, even more basic is the need for safety! A person can’t begin to take in love, even if it’s available, if they’re terrified.

a. Ashamed - Children admire, even idealize their parents when they’re
quite small. They need to do this in order to feel safe - to know they can rely on these people to be competent & available for them. It helps to
compensate for the child’s extreme dependence & vulnerability.
✶ In reasonably healthy families, they gradually come to understand that their parents are human, fallible, imperfect - BUT still basically safe, trustworthy & decent role models.
■ In dysfunctional families, one or more the adults act out their damage: depression, verbal attacks, physical &/or sexual abuse, neglect, cruelty, addictions, withdrawal, mental illness, bitterness, constant criticism, putting each other & the kids in danger, not providing necessities, leaving & then never staying in touch, not staying groomed, not earning a living....
All of these, & more, will cause children to feel ashamed of their
family (the chaos, the craziness, the cruelty) - & by extension, themselves, as members of that group. The children’s sense of safety & healthy pride in themselves & their parents is eroded & shattered. This is devastating.
That feeling is then carried, like a canker sore in our spirit, into adulthood.
b. Shamed -
✶ Positive: To have self-esteem, Children need to be
• patiently taught how to do things
• admired & applauded for the things they do well
• respectfully corrected for errors or lapses
• treated with patience for the things they cannot do, especially if it’s
because they’re too young, yet, but will be able to eventually, or because they have a disability.
✶ Negative: Children in damaged families are
• teased & made fun of for many thing (anger disguised with toxic humor)
• yelled at, punished, harangued - sometimes for nothing specific or obvious
• expected to know or do the impossible
• insulted about ones gender, looks, tastes, interests...
• pushed to do things when too young & then punished for failing
• treated unfairly, abused & then punished for crying, being upset or angry
• being insulted, yelled at, humiliated - in public .....

These & many other forms of shaming have been called SOUL MURDER & represent parents’ lack of love & respect for themselves & so for their children, who stand in for their own Inner Child.
These mistreatments abuse needs all children have - the need to be heard, to be treated with respect, to feel safe, to be loved, to be paid attention to, to grow & learn at their own pace, to find out who they are as individuals, to know they can depend on their caretakers, to look up to their parents, to LIVE, to prosper, to succeed, etc.

➼ EACH of these NEEDS thus become SHAMEFUL !
We conclude that if our family hated these needs, then the needs are bad (& us for still having them). So they must be suppressed, better yet - eliminated, no matter how deep & persistent they may be.
EXPL: One person, after hearing the 4th Step in Al-Anon (“Made a searching & fearless moral inventory of ourselves’) suddenly realized 2 core issues:
■ his #1 toxic rule was: “I should be dead !”, &
■ his most shamed need: “ I thought my greatest character defect was my need for love! After all - I never felt loved, I got the message that I wasn’t lovable - so I must be a fool to keep wanting it !” In Recovery he learned that this & all his needs were legitimate, universal & his RIGHT, & so he was was able to reject the need to die, & start loving himself.

A core ACoA toxic rule is : “DON’T HAVE NEEDS!” pg.22
We feel shame when:
■ anyone gets too close, emotionally
■ we allow ourselves feelings of love for someone
■ anyone shows us kindness, respect, caring
■ do something a little foolish in public
■ we try something new, & don’t get it right the first time
■ if don’t try to do something, whether we can or not
■ we find out our expectations of someone are not realistic
■ we don’t know something which seems common knowledge
■ we want to be paid attention to, but get smacked down or ignored, etc.

Re: ANY NEED that was ignored, abused or made fun of in the past :
it’ll now be completely suppressed, so we’re not even aware of it, OR
■ we’ll try to get the need met in a VERY DYSFUNCTIONAL way (so it can be punished, hurt us, have bad consequences, denied to us), OR
■ we wait endlessly for someone else to come along & notice that we have needs - as long as we DO NOT ask for them to be met
■ we manipulate dysfunctional others into providing them for us
■ we cannot receive anything good without somehow having to ‘pay’ for it, even when it is given freely & without strings !
■ we mistreat, abuse or leave anyone who treats us with respect & kindness
■ we prevent anyone from know that we have needs, & so suffer in silence

This a deep & long process, for which we need much help from H.P. & knowledgeable & patient people. More specifically, we want to
✶ Start by identifying all our NEEDS, common to all human beings, & which are the foundation, the roots of our human-ness
✶ continually give ourself permission to HAVE these needs
✶ list which ones were not allowed, in order of intensity
✶ identify actions & non-actions which prevent meeting those needs correctly
✶ list action to DO, in order to meet those needs
✶ identify people, places & things who can help with this
✶ patiently, slowly RISK changing our old patterns
✶ allow for emotional discomfort, internal backlash, being
confused, scared, angry, discouraging comments from others,
regressing to old ways, frustrating delays, etc.
✶ NEVER STOP TRYING to improve ways to meet our needs:
• try out new actions to see what works or doesn’t
• observe the results of the healthier actions, & compare to old outcomes
• validate & reinforce any improvements & positive results
• ask appropriate people for help when we really need it
• read helpful material, attend suitable recovery programs or groups
• participate in any spiritual practice which is comfortable
• and NEVER, NEVER deny having NEEDS, whether you can get them met - or not. They are you BIRTHRIGHT.

• Unhealthy Shame ‘holds hands‘ with grandiosity, which allows a person to thoroughly (but most often unconsciously) believe they can do way more than they are - capable of / have the skill to do / is humanly possible - AND is therefore a defense against deep feelings of powerlessness, carried over from childhood
• Healthy shame, as Bradshaw often points out (in Healing the SHAME that Binds You), is the reverse - the antidote - to grandiosity. It represent our acknowledgement & acceptance that we have realistic LIMITS /limitations & boundaries, because of:
--being human, & therefore cannot be perfect
--not being nurtured & cared for in healthy ways, in childhood
--our genetic inheritance, providing pre-conditions & tendencies for physical, mental & emotional capacities (pluses and minuses)
--our socio-ecomomic, religious & educational background / environment
--our native personality, which reacted to & was moulded by all our early experiences
Embracing realistic limitations does not mean that we cannot heal & achieve!
IT does mean that we spend the ‘first half’ - or so - of our life repeating all the bad stuff we learned, & then spend the rest of it fixing the damage that was originally done to us. It’s not fair - but it can be done!

Q: What needs are you still not allowed to own, have & take care of?

Author's Bio: 

is a psychotherapist in private practice for 24 yrs in New York City,
specializing in ACoA RECOVERY (adult-children of alcoholics & other narcissists).
She has appeared on radio, television & at New Life Expo, created & presented ACoA / Al-Anon intensive weekend workshops & ran an ACoA therapy group for 6 years.
She was an instructor at the NY OPEN CENTER  for 9 yrs, presenting her 12-week interactive lecture course “KNOWLEDGE Is POWER: 
What makes an ACoA”

She works with individuals & couples/partners, in person and by phone & Skype. FREE Intro Session, to see if there is compatibility.
For Testimonials, go to ("About Me")