52 years of hard living and hard lessons have less than gently convinced me that shame is one of the most excruciating and paralyzing states of being we can experience.

Shame plagued me for decades. It gripped me with the tenacity of a toddler sensing their about to be ripped from their mother’s arms forever. It slithered into the inner recesses of my soul, ataching itself to the core of my being with its powerful coils. It hijacked my mind, clouding the lens of my worldview with a smog-like cloud of condensed fear and hatred.

Shame took me places I never thought I would go. Horrifying destinations like stagnant swamps of self-pity. Cities of self-hatred, where the other denizens could reduce me to a state of depression or anxiety with a nasty comment or even a disapproving stare. Factories of fear that could manufacture a limitless supply of anxiety without constraint.

When shame was my predominant state of being, I became vulnerable to all manner of unstable, self-destructive, and addictive behaviors. Anything that could induce a rush of dopamine in my misery-ridden brain and grant me an escape from the pervasive and implacable SHAME that left me with no alternative but to believe that I was amongst the lowest forms of life on Earth.

Combatting shame in that manner quickly became not only a clinic in how to self destruct, but also an exercise in futility. My “cures” for the shame afforded very small doses of relief followed by shame coming back twice as strong as before.

But slowly and miraculously, with much work in therapy, AA, spiritual growth, fellowship, loving and being loved, and much more, I experienced and came to realize that my shame wasn’t congenital. Human beings aren’t born as shame-based, self-loathing creatures. Soul-crushing toxicity is the result of indoctrination. It is “nurture,” not nature.

When I first became aware of my shame, and how it shaped and informed much of my miserable existence, I felt hopeless. It was satisfying to recognize the root of my suffering, but painful to believe that there was nothing I could do about it.

At some juncture, a really good therapist (or maybe it was a John Bradshaw book) pointed out to me that I hadn’t been born infected with viral shame.

That was a big “aha moment” for me! I reasoned that if I had been taught shame, I could be taught self-worth and self-love.

My family of origin passed their shame onto me. Much of my formative years were spent acquiring indoctrinated shame. It wasn’t a birth defect or an intrinsic quality!

Over time, my initial thought that indoctrinated shame could be expelled proved to be true. However, it was so deeply embedded in the depths of my psyche and soul that the incredibly strenuous process felt more like an exorcism than a simple process of relearning. It was painful. It was rigorous. It took seemingly forever. It took a Power greater than myself. It was the hardest thing I ever did, with God’s help. But I am worth it.

Shame is indoctrinated into us. Once we realize that, we can drive that bogeyman out of our souls and back to Hell where it belongs!

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