Yesterday Tamara really hit home with shame by calling it "toxic guilt". Unfortunately, we see so much of this toxic guilt in our clients. They have been carrying it around like a nasty garbage bag their whole life. It usually stems from the family environment or some type of abuse that could have been experienced even outside the home. Here are 5 more characteristics of a Shame-based Family Environment: 11. Abandoning or neglecting your children: So many people think of abandonment as leaving your child on a doorstep somewhere for someone else to take care of. This is a horrible form of abandonment but their are so many types. There is physical and emotional abandonment or neglect. Basically, the child does not get what they need from the parents. This leaves them with a feeling of not being taken care of and a constant fear, even as adults, of being abandoned and not taken care of. This can lead to a multitude of problems in their relationships.
12. Families that are attacking or hypercritical: Our family environment needs to be one that a child can learn and grow. Part of that process is making mistakes. If children are attacked or criticized for making mistakes or even attacked for no reason, they are living in a shame-based environment. This will make them self-critical and even self-hating!
13. Families that have secrets that are not talked about with each other: When something is not allowed to be processed or talked about within the family, the child lives with a fear of being "caught". This creates shame in that they live with the feeling of something being wrong with them and they do things (become perfectionists, overachievers etc.) in order to not be found out.
14. Families that have extreme standards of performance: It is great to have goals and to encourage your children to succeed. However, when we place unrealistic expectations on our children and possibly even withhold our love until they meet them, we create shame filled children. They feel they are not good, special, or valuable just the way they are. They feel no effort is ever good enough. This can create perfectionism or sometimes they just give up all together.
15. Families that place too much emphasis on "right and wrong" and see things only in black and white: I am not saying we should not take a stand on our values and morals and teach them to our children. But if we don't allow some gray from time to time, our children will not see any gray in the world and in their thinking. Seeing gray is an important part of critical thinking and is something valuable to teach children in order for them to learn flexibility and grace.
If you are noticing any of these characteristics in your home, please take steps today to change this so your children don't grow up with shame. If you don't know how, ask us! We can help you take steps to do so. More than likely you were taught this by your shame-based family. You can break the cycle of the shame-based environment. Tomorrow Joleen will finish up and give you 5 more characteristics. Thanks for reading...
*Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville.