Toxic Shame

Healthy Shame vs. Toxic Shame

Are you carrying the burden of shame that doesn’t belong to you?

Were you Sexually abused as a child? Were those who were suppose to protect you choose to turn a blind eye, choosing to not see what they see or know what they know– we take on their shame.

As they grow up, children who are abused, who have alcoholic parents or parents with a substance abuse, an eating disorder, a mental disorder a history of infidelity— anything than engenders shame and secrecy—learn to abide by the spoken or unspoken family rules about keeping the family’s secret.

Were you afraid to bring your friends home, afraid you were going to be found out, that the family secret will be found out, did you take on a shame that rightfully belongs to the other person?

Children learn to pretend that things are “normal” and to cover for others’ behaviors. They are often afraid to bring their friends home, lest their friends discover the family’s secrets. This secrecy, this strict adherence to “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” creates a sense of shame in children, and that shame, once internalized, travels with the children into adulthood. The fact that the children did nothing wrong in no way diminishes these feelings of shame, and this shame erodes their sense of self. The shame they bear is really toxic shame.

Healthy shame, that is, the feeling that arises when we acknowledge having wronged someone or having done wrong, is both normal and essential. It comes with having a conscience.

Toxic shame, however, is the pervasive feeling that who we are, rather than what we have done, is condemnable, and therefore we are unworthy, unlovable, and defective. Toxic shame sufferers have taken on the shame that rightfully belongs to another. People who suffer from toxic shame experience some degree of self-loathing, which in turn makes it difficult for them to reveal, even to their partner, their authentic self. Thus having and sustaining intimate relationships can be really challenging for them.

Toxic shame needn’t come from something as clear-cut as having an alcoholic parent or being sexually abused.There are many other family secrets, such as those related to poverty, depression, a particular religious affiliation, or even a particular ethnicity— anything that would make you feel like you had to hide this aspect of yourself from the world, lest you be judged or rejected. And what’s so important is being able to see that you aren’t responsible for these things. This toxic shame doesn’t rightfully belong to you. This shame belongs to the abusive parent or to the kids at school who bullied you for not being dressed the right way.

If you identify with being shame based and have had difficulty creating and maintaining an intimate and loving relationship the first step, is to get in touch with those times when you felt toxic shame—when you didn’t want to be “found out,” as if there was an unspoken rule to keep a secret—then you can work to let go of this shame, which doesn’t belong to you.


5 Tips for Spotting Red Flags During the First Few Dates

In The Love Fix, I talk a lot about expectations. Timing is everything. Before you even start dating, think about who you want as your life partner. Sit with yourself. What are your deal-breakers? Then, how do you envision a relationship? Are you looking out for the red flags?

A psychiatrist wrote a book for therapists called the “5 Minute Session,” and he says that in a therapeutic session, he can see in 5 minutes how the relationship will go, and even how it might end.

This might sound a bit extreme, but you definitely don’t need to be a psychiatrist or psychologist to see the red flags right from the get-go, even the first date. What are some of those items you can look out for?

  1. Listening and Observing: Sometimes just by listening and observing, you can see the type of person he is. How does he treat the wait staff? Rude and disrespectful or kind and patient?
  2. Ask the long-term questions in a way that provides you with answers: After you’ve been dating for a while, ask the more long-term questions such as, “where do you see yourself in three years?” If he says “traveling and my career is the most important thing in my life,” and you’re a 30-something year-old, marriage-minded woman, with the biological clock ticking in the back of your mind, then maybe this is a time to say, “okay, our life goals don’t match up.”
  3. Is it like pulling teeth to make plans with him? But then he jumps every time a family member wants to do something with him? This is a huge red flag that he hasn’t individuated or separated from the family, and is therefore unable to eventually become a family with you.
  4. What does he say in regards to exes? The subject of past relationships and why they ended eventually comes up. Does he constantly bad-mouth his exes and play the blame game? Or, does he look back and have the ability to say “In retrospect, I’m able to really look at my choices and my part in the conflict?” These answers will show if he takes responsibility for his part in a two-person relationship.
  5. They say to never discuss politics, but… especially in a political season like this one, more than ever, it’s not as much as who you’re voting for or the economy, but a great look into the shared values of a potential mate. You should absolutely discuss politics with the mindset of watching for shared values, because having shared values is the foundation for a solid relationship.

When in my office, and couples look back, they see that a lot of these red flags were there from the beginning. Keep some of these tips in mind to help ensure you’ll have a long-lasting and healthy relationship.

What to Do When Your Mom Is Totally Ready For You to Be a Mom

More than anything, your mother loved welcoming you into the world, so it’s really no wonder that the woman who raised you is ready for another bundle of baby joy. “The birth of a grandchild brings on the next phase of life for which some women are yearning,” explains Karen Ruskin, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of Dr. Karen’s Marriage Manual.

And whether your mother wants to receive the love only a newborn baby can bring, is eager to bond with you in a new way or is concerned over her own aging, she may be putting pressure on you to procreate right now, regardless of whether you’re actually ready to have children. So if your mom wants you to become a mother too soon, here’s how to deal.

First, gently explain how you feel about having a baby and that you’re simply not ready right now. “It is imperative to communicate in a style in which you are being kind to your mother and thoughtful of how her behavior makes sense coming from her position,” says Ruskin. “Validate her feelings by communicating your understanding of her perspective and why her perspective is sensible.”

Specifically, Ruskin says, “validate in a thoughtful, kind and understanding manner your mother’s perspective by reflecting upon what she just said through your mother’s lens. Then verbalize your hope that her voice and yours can be heard so that you can have an open relationship with her in which both of your perspectives matter. Finally, share your perspective whether it is that you are not ready or some other reason.”

If your mother persists, your reasoning falls on deaf ears or you find yourself emotionally exhausted from an ongoing and stressful discussion, you can ask your husband to speak up — but he must tread carefully. “One of the beautiful things about being in a committed, loving relationship is that in times when you’re feeling vulnerable, your partner can take a stand to protect you,” says Tara Fields, Ph.D., couples therapist and author of The Love Fix: Repair and Restore Your Relationship Right Now.

Together, you can decide on how he can best approach your mother. For example, he can lovingly say, “‘I know you love my amazing spouse as much as I do, and I treasure our relationship, but I am going to take a stand on her behalf,'” Fields says. “He’s setting a boundary and saying, ‘this topic is off limits until further notice.'”

Read the original article here.

How to Solve the Most Common Relationship Conflicts

When you hit a relationship rut—you and your partner argue about the same thing over and over again—it can seem like there’s no end in sight. So how to escape these exhausting conflict loops? On this week’s episode of “The Labor of Love,” host and editor Lori Leibovich talks to Tara Fields, a marriage and family therapist and author of The Love Fix: Repair and Restore Your Relationship Right Now, about the five most common and vexing relationship conflicts—and the straightforward solutions that can help couples sort them out.

1. The Parent Trap. When one partner takes on the role of being the parent to the other, begins micro-managing, and insists on having things done a certain way.

The solution: Begin by identifying where these roles stem from. Is there an underlying anxiety or fear at play? If one partner has become so afraid of doing something wrong, he or she will likely shut down and not take any action at all. 

2. Come Close, Go Away. When one partner begins to feel abandoned—and doesn’t understand why the other needs so much alone time.

The solution: Find the healthy balance of being a “we,” and work to create an interdependent relationship. As a couple, you should be “one,” but both partners should also have a sense of autonomy. 

3. Blame Game and the Shame Spiral. When one partner begins to blame and shame the other, often reverting us to our most juvenile selves (name-calling and flaring tempers). 

The solution: Take ownership, practice mindfulness, and do your best not to be reactive. Speak honestly, and say “I’m not feeling good about what’s going on, so when you want to talk about feelings, I’m available.” 

4. Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3. When one partner has started to feel invisible, so he or she begins testing boundaries—flirting with somebody else, checking in with a former fling, etc.  

The solution: Find the emotional courage to ask directly for what you want. Start an open and honest conversation with your partner, and don’t wait for him or her to be the one to do so.

5. Growing Apart. When both partners have begun taking each other for granted, and one person is beginning to grow out of the relationship.

The solution: Be willing to change as an individual as the relationship changes. During major life events, strive to become a team and be there for one another. Start creating the kind of relationship that no one or nothing outside the relationship can destroy.

Read the original article here.

Relationship Author Dr. Tara Fields’ Love Advice: “The Happiest Couples Don’t Necessarily Have More or Less Conflict”

Reclaim Valentine’s Day!

Forget Cheesy Lingerie — She’ll probably just say, “And what did you get me!?”.
And forget overpriced flowers — flowers just die anyway.

This year, give a real, meaningful gift, one that is personal and one that will last (or at least, a real, meaningful gift and those overpriced flowers). Read more