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It could be that the mother already had a nursing child, or she might be lacking in social support, or there could be a famine. API: Disconnection is the second system that you include in a trauma-world. Can you tell us more about disconnection and trauma? Sieff: Disconnection involves cutting off from some aspect of ourselves. There are different forms that disconnection can take.

All provide us with some kind of protection, but all are ultimately harmful, because they leave us cut off from our own internal reality and from the reality of the external situation. Disconnection first occurs during the original traumatizing experience. In the midst of a terrible situation, the release of opiates from within us blocks the pain and fear coursing through our bodies, and we are numbed to the feelings.

This is an adaptive response, because it means that if we get a chance to escape, we can take it — whereas escape would be impossible if we were incapacitated by pain and fear. Once we are out of danger, and if we have enough support, we may be able to reconnect to our pain and fear, and process them. However, without support, our unprocessed emotions remain locked away in our unconscious minds and bodies. First, we are compelled to avoid anything that might bring our unprocessed emotions into awareness.

This compulsion to protect ourselves from what was once overwhelming poison in our relationships, creates a desperate need for control and prevents us from taking new opportunities. It can also lead to attempts to sabotage the healing process. Second, having locked the overwhelming pain and fear in our bodies, we must disconnect from our bodies to prevent these feelings from surfacing.

This creates new layers of suffering and difficulties:. Third, in its most extreme form, the drive to separate from the pain and fear of the original trauma can result in a dissociative identity disorder. There is another kind of disconnection, too — one which is underlain by fear of being attacked or abandoned in the present. This typically occurs when certain parts of ourselves are unacceptable to our family, teachers, or society. Under these circumstances, we cut off or bury the unacceptable parts in an attempt to protect ourselves from the possibility of being retraumatized.

We might also disconnect from our need for love and connection, or from our need for independence and self-expression. Sometimes, we try to bury the unacceptable parts of ourselves using self-control and willpower.

Treating Toxic Shame

Other times, critical inner voices try to shame these parts into submission. But often this kind of disconnection occurs unconsciously — we are unaware of what we have lost. Being cut off from parts of ourselves contributes to the underlying sense of loneliness that is inherent to trauma, because we are abandoning aspects of who we are.

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It also exacerbates the sense of danger that is built into a trauma-world, because we are not rooted in the fullness our own reality. API: Shame is the third system that you say is intrinsic to a trauma-world. Can you expand on this? Sieff: Shame is a visceral and pervasive feeling of being fundamentally flawed and inadequate as a human being.

Shame is primarily relational: Although shame leaves us feeling absolutely alone, its roots lie in an implicit conviction that we are somehow unworthy of having meaningful relationships with other people. Shame is often confused with guilt, but with guilt, we feel bad about things we have done.

With shame, we feel bad about who we are. Shame is a product of evolution, and it is experienced as a passing emotion in almost everybody. It exists to tell us that we are at risk of losing important social relationships, or that we might be thrown out of our group. Thus, we see ourselves through a distorted lens. As a result, we are likely to experience ourselves as contemptible and feel a victim to our own believed inadequacy.

In this state, we get sucked into a downward spiral of shame. We can become even more desperate to obliterate the parts of ourselves that we believe make us inadequate, redoubling our efforts to shame those parts into submission. However, when we use shame against ourselves, we retraumatize ourselves. Then, instead of fostering change, we reinforce the status quo and fortify the walls of our trauma-world.

At the same time, we try to cajole ourselves into success, believing that if we can force ourselves to become more than we are — or ideally perfect — then the gnawing pain of being shame-based will abate.

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However, if we are shame-based, then no amount of success will be enough. No matter what we do, we are never enough. When we are shame-based, we will be terrified that if others get to know us, they will see us as the inadequate person we believe ourselves to be, and in an unconscious attempt to prevent that from happening, we may put up barriers, push people away, and sabotage relationships.

Alternatively, we may try to control others, hoping that we can prevent them from doing anything that might bring our shame to the surface. We are generally not conscious of what we are doing, or indeed why we are doing it. However, we are left with a murky feeling that our relationships lack authenticity, trust, and intimacy. As a result, we feel increasingly isolated. In short, shame creates more shame. Shame also generates isolation and fear. And shame reinforces the need to disconnect. Ultimately, shame keeps us locked in our trauma-worlds.

Sieff: One of the challenges for healing is that although trauma-worlds are created in response to external events, once established, they form rigid and closed internal systems. Locked inside these systems, our behavior sets us up to be retraumatized by other people. Additionally, the ways that we behave toward ourselves are invariably retraumatizing. Trauma-worlds are self-perpetuating. Locked inside these systems, we also struggle to see trauma for what it is. That leaves us little choice but to focus on the visible symptoms and the chronic, deadening pain they create.

These symptoms include the fear, disconnection, and shame that lie at the heart of a trauma-world — also depression, meaninglessness, addictions, self-harm, rage, and unexplained physical pain and ailments. Additionally, we are likely to struggle in our relationships and to sabotage things we care about.

Focusing on such symptoms, we — as individuals and as a society — put our resources into trying to alleviate them, perhaps through short-term therapy or psychotherapeutic drugs, or by pinning our hopes to something like success at work, a new romantic relationship, losing weight, or cosmetic surgery. Even when we can see beneath the symptoms to the underlying traumatizing experiences, we are unlikely to recognize the trauma-worlds in which we are living, so our first port of call is to blame whoever, or whatever, caused the original wounds and look for retribution.

That is a valuable first step and a necessary part of the process, for we do need to recognize what happened to us. We need to validate the experience and understand that it was not our fault. Healing trauma requires the courage to recognize that ultimately our lives are compromised not by the original traumatizing experiences themselves, but by the trauma-world that is created by our own minds and bodies as a response to those experiences. And we need to recognize this reality without blaming and judging ourselves — we need to understand that creating a trauma-world is what human beings do to survive.

At the same time, we have to take responsibility for our healing, and for moving out of our trauma-worlds. Sieff: Developing a cognitive awareness of the original traumatizing experiences, and of the systems created in their wake, is a good start to the process of taking responsibility for our own healing. But it is not enough. To create lasting change, we have to enter into our emotional minds and bodies and slowly become aware of what we carry from the inside.

That means opening to the original traumatizing pain and fear, learning how to tolerate it, and integrating it into our sense of who we are. It is only when we find ways of relating to our buried pain and fear that our lives are no longer organized around the imperative to avoid anything which might trigger what we carry in our depths.

However, this is an extremely challenging process: We need to do it slowly, taking one small step at a time. Equally crucial is that we work with the fear, disconnection, and shame that form our trauma-worlds:. It is hard, daunting, and arduous work. Our trauma-worlds were created to survive overwhelming pain and fear.

When we try to transform them, we are besieged with the conviction that we will be annihilated. That conviction leaves us at risk of sabotaging the healing process.

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Thus, we need patience, perseverance, determination, and courage. It is also imperative that we have support and guidance from those who have been through the process themselves. To heal trauma, we not only need an embodied consciousness of what we carry from our past, we also need new experiences.


Overcoming the Paralysis of Toxic Shame | Psychology Today

Real change happens in the present moment through lived experience. Emotional trauma arises because something has gone awry in our relationships, so a healing relationship is crucially important if we are to learn how to connect to other people and to ourselves in healthier ways. Similarly, we need support if we are going to approach the unprocessed pain and fear that was once unbearable, and we also need guidance if we are to transform the fearfulness, disconnection, and shame that lie at the heart of our trauma-worlds.

What does matter is that whoever is accompanying us has worked deeply with his or her own trauma. Healing trauma is akin to learning to speak a language like Chinese: It is not enough that our teacher has a theoretical knowledge of the grammar and that she can recognize the characters when they are written on the page; rather she must speak the language herself.

Sieff: When we embark on trying to heal trauma, we typically imagine that we will reach a place where our lives are free from the suffering that arises from our wounds, and where trauma no longer has any effect on our lives. That is not what happens. We cannot change our past. Our trauma remains part of us. What can be changed is its impact. To achieve that, we have to find new and healthier ways of being with the pain and fear embedded in the traumatizing experiences, and just as importantly, we have to transform the trauma-world that developed around them.

It is a challenging process. It takes time. Many people, and indeed most public health services, look for an easier and faster route. But there is no easy route. To address trauma in a meaningful way, we need to commit ourselves to this challenge. And I believe it is vitally important that we make this commitment, not only to help ourselves, but also because when we carry unaddressed trauma, we have no choice but to relate to our children, family, neighbors, and colleagues in ways that are likely to result in them becoming traumatized.

In contrast, when we transform our trauma-worlds, we break that spiral and start relating to ourselves, other people, and the world around us in much healthier and more nurturing ways. API: Thank you so much, Daniela, for your wise words and insight! Your knowledge surrounding shame and trauma is certain to change lives and has the potential to change the world. Thank you for publishing this interview! I am a victim — and continue to struggle with the healing journey — not yet having found a guide to lead me through the tangled jungle.

I fully agree trauma passes from generation to generation — my parents were child of WWII…. Heavy stuff. Susan Sarandon, in the movie Dead Man Walking , is a wonderful role model for loving behavior. She plays a nun who has been asked by a murderer on death row to help him avoid execution. The murderer, played by Sean Penn, is a despicable human being. Not only did he rape and murder in cold blood, he is a racist and he continues to avoid responsibility with his blame, lies and manipulations.

Almost no one in the nun's life supports her efforts on his behalf. They accuse her, blame her, shun her, yet never once does she lose her connection with God.


She tells the murderer that he is a son of God and therefore greater than his worst acts. While never condoning his acts, she never condemns him as a person. She lovingly confronts him with himself. Although she does not like him, she loves him. She becomes the face of God for him, and through her love, which is God, he opens his heart and is redeemed. Penn's character is very dark, the worst of the wounded self, while Sarandon's is very light, the best of the loving adult.

Given that you might not have role models of loving behavior in your daily life, you can use your spiritual guidance as your role model to emulate and assimilate. Eventually, when you do this long enough, you begin to take on the qualities of your spiritual guidance. This is how you develop your loving adult. It takes practice. You have to learn to concentrate on this imaginative process and to trust what you hear. When clients of mine first start to do this, I generally hear them say, "How do I know this is real?

Embracing Our Dark Side: Healing Anger and Shame

It feels like I'm just making this up, that it's just my imagination. We may believe that we actually have the capacity to be creative all by ourselves. The truth is that creativity flows when we are open to Spirit and use the gift of our imaginations. I no longer believe that my theories, my writing, my paintings or even the words that flow from me when I am working with someone or leading a workshop come from my own individual mind.

I experience my mind more as a receiver of Divine information, which I can then transmit through my writing, speaking and painting. Just as love, compassion, truth, peace and joy are not feelings we generate from within our own small selves but are gifts from Spirit, so too are our imagination and the creativity that flows from it. We all have the capacity to learn to access the Source of wisdom and creativity.

It has taken me time and practice to trust the information that comes through me. I have learned over the years that when I do not trust my spiritual guidance, bad things happen. This really hit home for me in the summer of when I was leading an Inner Bonding five-day intensive in Missouri. It was the fourth day of the intensive and I was pouring some tea from a pitcher during one of our breaks.

I heard my spiritual guidance say, "Do not drink that, it is contaminated. The next morning I woke up with a terrible sore throat--the first time I had been sick in years--and so did a number of other people, all of whom had drunk the tea. Even with all the years I had been dialoguing with and listening to my spiritual guidance, I still lacked trust and needed another lesson in humility: that my individual mind, unplugged from spiritual guidance, doesn't know much.

So it takes a lot of Inner Bonding practice, yet practicing seems to be difficult for many people. If you were determined to become accomplished at a particular skill, for example playing a musical instrument, you would think nothing of practicing every day. In fact, you would know that you needed to practice daily in order to become skilled and then continue practicing daily to maintain your skill.

Becoming skilled at Inner Bonding is no different. You will become skilled only by daily practice, and you will continue to reap the benefits only by daily practice. It is only through daily practice that you will learn to consistently hear and trust both your Guidance and your true Self. The problem is that the wounded self won't practice, so unless you pray daily for help in shifting your deepest desire from getting love to being loving, you will not have enough of a loving adult to override the wounded self and make the decision to practice. Many of my clients, coming in for help because they are suffering, find that they start to feel better within days of starting to practice Inner Bonding.

Then, as soon as they feel better, they stop practicing and go right back to feeling badly. Sometimes they then conclude that Inner Bonding doesn't work. This is like saying that if you have a young son and you give him love one day but ignore him for the next few days, he should continue to feel happy because of the one day you did give him love. This doesn't work with your inner child any more than it does with real children. Just as babies need you to be constantly tuned in to them, your inner child needs you to be constantly aware of your feelings and needs.

Becoming this aware and maintaining this awareness takes daily practice. The good news is that practice really pays off. Clients of mine who have been practicing Inner Bonding for an extended period of time it varies for each person find that eventually they do it all the time. They naturally stay tuned in to their inner child and their spiritual guidance, and they naturally dialogue with them whenever they feel anything other than peace and joy inside. They find themselves doing it in the shower, while preparing meals, doing chores, waiting in line at the market or stuck in traffic.

After much practice, they are delighted to find that they feel no longer allow themselves to feel badly for any length of time. They are progressing rapidly toward wholeness and oneness with God. Margaret Paul. Start learning how to love yourself, with Dr.

Margaret's Day at-home course, Love Yourself. Join IBVillage and receive compassionate help and support for your healing journey. Information about you from another's wounded self is always about control rather than about love. It is not helpful to you, even if it is accurate. It is loving to you to let others know that you do not want information about yourself unless you ask for it. Ask for it only from people who have your highest good at heart, not from people who have an agenda for you.

Ask for it from people who have a strong loving adult.



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