How talking can help to heal toxic shame.

21 February 2017
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21 February 2017, Comments 1

Do you ever have the feeling that there is something fundamentally ‘wrong’ about you?

Do you have a deep-seated, maybe even unconscious sense that you are unlovable; that if people ever got to know the ‘real you’ that they would reject you?

Does being emotionally or physically intimate with someone make you feel ‘icky’ or make your toes curl?

If your answer to these questions is yes, it sounds as if you may be suffering from toxic shame.


Toxic shame is a sense that we are fundamentally wrong and unlovable, and as such impedes or negates our ability to have healthy relationships. It is often stems from a belief which is learned in childhood and then confirmed by years of negative self-talk and self-abuse.

For example, a child may be told by his/her parents that they are stupid and worthless and this message is then compounded by addiction and/or abusive relationships throughout adulthood. The self-abuse helps to really make concrete the belief that the individual is not worth looking after either emotionally, physically or spiritually.

So, how can therapy possibly help to undo a lifetime’s worth of negativity?

Well… it does take time, but it is possible.

I believe that the relationship we have with our therapist is at the heart of un-learning that we are unlovable. And it’s not about being told that you’re lovable by your therapist. Well not directly anyway.

In my experience, the very act of being listened-to, understood, believed, and cared-for, for your allotted time (usually 50 minutes once a week) helps to undo the years of negativity. Your therapist is there exclusively for you. Those 50 minutes every week are your space. No-one else’s. He/she is there because they are interested in you. Curious about you. Keen to understand you better.

“Yeah, but they’re getting paid right? Aren’t they just there for the money?”

If that was what was going round in your head, then we think alike! I thought the same too, until I trained to become a therapist (which is the hardest thing I have ever done), and realised that you really have to care and be interested in people to do this job. It’s impossible otherwise. And there are definitely easier ways to make a living!

So, if you are unsure how on earth talking to a relative stranger for 50 minutes a week could possibly help to change a fundamental belief you have about yourself; trust that, by building a relationship with a therapist which is based on respect, care and compassion, you may start to think about yourself in a different way. And if you can think about yourself differently, perhaps you could feel differently about yourself too…?

In my experience as a therapist I have never come across anyone who is unlovable. So, if I can consistently feel care and compassion towards you, maybe you can too?



One response on “How talking can help to heal toxic shame.

  1. Ron Whittle says:

    Thank you Laura for putting this so significant point into such understandable words.

    The inability to completely and honestly forgive ourselves often lies at the bottom of the struggle many find in dealing with life
    I have found 1 to 1 counselling very helpful an learning about how I actually feel about myself. Still working on it of course!

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