This is a MASSIVE topic and one short form article won’t give you all you need to know, but hopefully this one morsel of intel will intrigue you enough to go a little deeper…
So here goes!
When it comes to healing toxic shame, one concept you may *not* hear about much is the importance of working with the biological and primal emotion of disgust.
Yep. You heard me…disgust! But why? That has both a long and short answer. The short, or simple answer, has to do with the biology of shame. If we were toxically shamed via the many, many ways in which human parents dose out toxic shame to their little ones, we will manifest in our cells (our biology) a sense that we are literally, ‘bad meat’. [Those are Peter Levine’s words, not mine, btw.]
By ‘bad meat’ — this means we grow up thinking we are distasteful (disgusting) and worthless and not worthy or deserving of goodness…we literally have the wiring in our system that we are rotten.
(For example, one common thing you might hear a parent who is shaming their child in a toxic way say: “You are a rotten child!”, or, “you’re spoiled rotten!”)
So, with enough time, that kind of language and energy seeps into our entire cellular physiology, our movements, our body postures, and yes, how our muscles (our meat) sense us living in the world. We literally believe, feel and express that we are rotten and bad and undeserving of anything good and whole.
To heal this toxic distaste, which many are struggling to heal, we have to build the capacity within (our nervous system and body systems) to feel this disgust and not let it consume us with harmful thoughts and MORE toxic shame. It can become a vicious cycle if we do not work at this nervous system/biological level.
When this kind of living (survival) goes rampant and it isn’t healed at this biological level, it becomes a huge part of what breeds (manifests) the many types of mental and chronic illnesses that are ever present in our society today.
To build our capacity to be with this level of sensation, the emotion of disgust, we need to start small first.
We have to get better at noticing general qualities of bodily sensations like our temperature, our thirst, our need to need, to stop eating, to feel the ‘easier’ emotions like sadness, joy, and most importantly anger and healthy aggression .. which can happen by becoming better at feeling daily frustrations and resistances and setting boundaries.
Get better at being with the body’s sensations and biological needs, and you start to build capacity to be with the tough qualities of disgust.
REMEMBER: Sensations often hold the unconscious material of the body — if you get better at being with all the wacky sensations the body offers, you are well on the way to processing the big gun emotions like disgust and anger.
Let that sink in. Feel. Sense. Pause.
This may very well be new info as most talk we hear about healing shame these days boils down to embracing vulnerability, authenticity, and acceptance, which is nice in theory, but there is way more to it than that.
The biology is queen AND king here.
We have to listen to both sides to move through this deeply embedded stuff. Mantras and journaling are not enough.
*NOTE – Since writing this article I’ve created a vlog on this topic that you can check out HERE.
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Suggested Resources To Compliment This Article:
- How toxic shame creates the fallout we call depression
- 9 Common Human Experiences That Can Be Traumatic (but are often seen as not)
- Trauma Tip #5 – How to stay hopeful when all you feel is doubt
- Understanding the difference between healthy shame and toxic shame with Seth Lyon