The Twin Destroyers of Healing: Shame and Self-Hatred

Healing from a childhood so full of trauma that it causes dissociative identity disorder (DID) is incredibly difficult and the road is hard and long. The two greatest destroyers of the healing process that poison our minds and keep us from progressing as we should are shame and self-hatred.

In this article, we shall discover together how shame and self-hatred hold us back and some methods to escape their grasp as we walk down the road less taken.

The Destroyer of Healing Called Shame

Shame is a natural emotion that helps keep human beings in line. If you do something wrong, you feel ashamed and hopefully will not do that thing again. This behavior helps us not to harm ourselves or others.

However, shame that goes beyond the healthy realm is usually begun by caregivers who kept the children under their care in a constant state of shame to control them. John Bradshaw gave this type of humiliation a title, toxic shame.

Toxic shame describes false, pathological shame that induced in children by all forms of child abuse where the child grows up with totally shame-based beliefs about themselves that they carry into adulthood.

A few of these limitless shame-based beliefs are as follows:

  • I’m stupid
  • I’m a failure
  • I’m unattractive
  • I’m a fraud
  • I’m a horrible person
  • I’m a failure
  • I don’t matter
  • I should have never been born
  • I don’t deserve to be loved
  • I hate myself

Strong and toxic shame stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and causes the body to undergo the fight/flight/freeze reaction causing people to feel exposed and react in rage while feeling isolated and alone. The person experiencing toxic shame cannot think or talk about themselves in the positive because they are so full of self-loathing that engulfs them and needs professional help to cure.

Overcoming Shame

Neuroscience (scientific study of the brain) has found that the human brain is plastic in that it can change and learn throughout a lifetime. One big discover that has set the stage to set many people free from shame is to change the brain by engaging in certain thoughts and behaviors by doing them on purpose until they become habits.  

What we believe and what we think are a permanent part of our personality, but we have great flexibility in our ability to make new habits of thinking and this in turn will change how you feel out yourself.

The way this works is that new thoughts and behaviors causes new connections to form between brain cells strengthening the likelihood you will have better thinking and engage in the new behaviors in the future.

Four methods (there are more) to overcoming toxic shame require you to:

  1. Become attuned to what your inner dialogue is saying and expand your ability to observe not react to what you hear.
  2. Decide to develop greater inner compassion for yourself and increase your self-acceptance of your humanity. Recognize that you have flaws and weaknesses and make mistakes just like all other humans.   
  3. Become willing to witness and mourn the pain associated with your pain current and past pain.
  4. Do not beat yourself up because of how you have behaved in relation to toxic shame. You lacked the insight and knowledge of what it was and how to defeat it before. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on.

The Other Destroyer of Healing Called Self-Hatred

Repeated extremely negative beliefs about yourself is called self-hatred. You are self-judgmental, attack yourself, and have low self-esteem. Self-hatred can cause it’s victims to retreat into self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, violence, or suicidal behavior and actions.

Self-hatred stems from childhood trauma but can also form from an adult who has experienced partner abuse. Both believe what they have been told by their abusers, that they are good for nothing, can’t do anything right, and are worthless. These words spoken by their abusers are internalized by the victims who are unable at the time to understand that it is not they who are wrong, but their abusers who are in the wrong.

Sometimes it feels safer to hate oneself after trauma than to place the blame where it belongs or to believe that bad things happen to other people too. Many people who have endured assault or other trauma blame themselves for what happened, and this too causes self-hatred.

There are at least five behaviors that people who experience self-hate:

  1. Under and over-eating. People who struggle with self-hatred might use food to punish themselves either by not eating enough or over-eating.
  • Defeatism. People who loathe themselves talk negatively to themselves and this reinforces their self-hatred and shame. Such internal statements as, “Why do I bother trying?” or “I know I’m going to fail.”
  • Self-Sacrifice. In an attempt to punish themselves, people who hate themselves will sacrifice themselves in a myriad of different ways. They do this to try to feel good about themselves seeking pity and martyrdom. They use suffering to gain some self-worth in a twisted sort of way even if what they are doing is destroying them.  
  • Physical Neglect. People who hate themselves may stop bathing or doing other things to make themselves clean. They may neglect their basic personal hygiene needs and truly not care because they do not feel they deserve to look or feel good. All of this behavior is another form of self-punishment.
  • Feel Hostile Towards Any Perceived Threat. People who hate themselves may feel threatened by the success of others and perceive them as a threat. They might strike out at their partner perceiving that he or she thinks the other person is more attractive or that their partner might leave them for the other person. Everything is seen as a threat to the delicate nest of comfort the self-loathing individual has built for themselves and they tend to become upset if they perceive any danger to it.   

Overcoming Self-Hate

Like with overcoming toxic shame there are things you can do to overcome self-hatred. However, you must want to climb out of the prison you find yourself in today. Too often pain can become familiar and the comfort zone from which we do not want to escape.

To overcome self-hatred, one must force themselves to push for change including doing the following.  

Practice Talking Positively to Yourself. Speak to yourself the same way you would speak to a friend or stranger who was in pain. You will find yourself speaking words of compassion and comfort not those of hatred and loathing. If you get stuck, do not panic as it is difficult to deal with such a strong emotion as love when you are feeling very down. If necessary, simply think of things you like or do not hate about yourself to begin your progress.

Reframe Any Negative Thoughts. This method is done by shifting your thoughts by thinking from a different perspective. Following this method involves retraining your brain to find a new focus on the positive when faced with a negative situation. For instance, instead of to yourself, “I cannot do this!” you can reframe the statement as, “I feel I can do it and I will do it to the best of my ability.”  In restating your thoughts, you can change negative thinking into a positive and often permanent change in how you feel about yourself. Hopefully, the next time you have the thought, “I hate myself” you will reframe it to say, “I have flaws but that’s okay.” It can make all the difference in the world.

Spend Time with Positive People. Because you hate yourself you may find that you isolate away from others. You may even feel you do not deserve your family or friends or that they do not want to be around you. Connecting with other people is an enormous part of human mental well-being because we are social beings creating an environment where we feel valued and needed. The best way to defeat self-hatred and isolation is to spend more time with your loved ones and friends who are positive people and make you happy. Social interactions like these can help you feel recharged and valued.   

Do Not Forget to Ask for Help. The emotions and behaviors that accompany self-hatred are exceedingly strong and represent a danger to some survivors. Do not forget to reach out for help from a mental health professional for assistance. A therapist or doctor can give you advice and offer you life lessons that will help you complete your walk down the road less taken and avoid the potholes that can entrap you.  

“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.”

~ John Joseph Powell

“If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…” ~ Cheri Huber


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