Toxic shame can be one of the most damaging aspects of narcissistic abuse. It tells a victim that something is deeply wrong with them, unlike guilt which tells a person that they did something wrong. This shame obliterates self esteem & makes a victim easier to control. This is why shame is such a common weapon of narcissists. It’s extremely effective.
Narcissists instill toxic shame in their victims in various ways. They let their victim know that their feelings, thoughts, & beliefs are wrong. The victims likes & dislikes are also harshly judged & criticized. In fact, everything about the victim is harshly judged & criticized. His or her looks, actions, hopes, dreams & more. Even if a victim tries to be what the narcissist wants, the narcissist will let the victim know it isn’t good enough. In fact, nothing the victim does is good enough. Instead of the victim seeing this as the narcissist is impossible to please, most victims take it as them being a failure for not pleasing their narcissist, which adds to their toxic shame.
Shame also forces victims to keep the abuse secret. The victim is too embarrassed to admit that they tolerate such cruelty in some cases. In others, the victim is ashamed of feeling angry or hurt by the abuse because the narcissist has convinced the victim that the victim is the reason for the abusive behavior or that it really isn’t abuse, the victim is being oversensitive. Either way, the abuse being kept a secret is another benefit for the narcissist. They can continue the abuse without fear of the victim exposing their heinous acts.
Even once a victim ends the relationship with a narcissist, toxic shame is still a part of that victim’s life until he or she realizes it & works on healing. Adults with toxic shame end up in abusive relationships, whether they be romantic, friendships or coworkers. They are depressed & seldom realize why. They often have tremendous anxiety as well. They live to please other people, & feel as though they fail even when told they have done a great job. They have no self esteem. They’re simply miserable!
One of the best ways to start to combat toxic shame is by talking about the abuse. Being open about your experiences is a very effective way to release the power they have over you. I’ve thought of it like this… if you remember anything about the old legends of vampires, when they were in the dark, they were incredibly powerful. Nothing could stop them. Yet, in the sunlight, they were powerless in the short time before they were destroyed. Talking about the effects of the abuse is the same. Being open about it releases the power it has over you. In fact, it enables you to take back your power! By talking about it, you’re basically telling your abuser, “This is my story too & I have every right to talk about it. You can’t stop me anymore!”
By talking about the abuse, I’m not saying you need to talk about it non stop to everyone, write books or have a blog like mine. You have to do whatever feels right to you. It’s usually best to start out by praying about it. Also, you can write in a journal. From there, you can talk to a safe person such as a close friend or counselor. Take baby steps, since talking about it can be pretty scary at first. As you get more comfortable discussing it, maybe one day you will feel like creating a blog or writing a book about your story. Only God knows what the best plan for you is. Until such time as that plan is revealed though, start talking. It will help you destroy that toxic shame & live a happier life!