Reblogged segment from: Fear of Intimacy
It is very important in recovery to start making a distinction – drawing a boundary – between being and behavior. Growing up in dysfunctional societies taught us to equate our worth – and judge the worth of others – based upon external appearances. We experienced love as conditional on behavior. Someone who behaves badly – i.e. not the way we want them to – is a bad person. Someone who behaves the way we want them to is a good person.
It is very important to stop judging our worth based upon the dysfunctional standards of societies that taught us it was shameful to be imperfect human beings.
“When I use the term “judge,” I am talking about making judgments about our own or other people’s beings based on behavior. In other words, I did something bad therefore I am a bad person; I made a mistake therefore I am a mistake. That is what toxic shame is all about: feeling that something is wrong with our being, that we are somehow defective because we have human drives, human weaknesses, human imperfections.
There may be behavior in which we have engaged that we feel ashamed of but that does not make us shameful beings We may need to make judgments about whether our behavior is healthy and appropriate but that does not mean that we have to judge our essential self, our being, because of the behavior. Our behavior has been dictated by our disease, by our childhood wounds; it does not mean that we are bad or defective as beings. It means that we are human, it means that we are wounded.
It is important to start setting a boundary between being and behavior. All humans have equal Divine value as beings – no matter what our behavior. Our behavior is learned (and/or reactive to physical or physiological conditions). Behavior, and the attitudes that dictate behavior, are adopted defenses designed to allow us to survive in the Spiritually hostile, emotionally repressive, dysfunctional environments into which we were born.”
At the core of codependency is toxic shame – the feeling that we are somehow inherently defective, that something is wrong our being.
[And I want to make note here, that anytime I talk about shame, rather I use the adjective toxic or not – I am talking about feeling toxic shame in relationship to “being,” feeling personally defective. Some people in the field, notably John Bradshaw, make a distinction between toxic shame and healthy shame. I find it much simpler, and more useful, to use shame in reference to “being” and guilt in reference to behavior. I believe there is healthy and unhealthy guilt (as I talk about in Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility 2) but any time I use the term shame I am talking about toxic shame. (The example that I have heard Bradshaw use of what he calls healthy shame, is that it is what keeps us from running down the street naked. I find that not only blatantly a judgment of behavior – but also based upon cultural standards that are not necessarily aligned with any kind of Spiritual Truth. Some of John’s Jesuit background showing I think. ;-)]
The emotional trauma we suffered in early childhood created within us the feeling of toxic shame.