read online pdf Healing the Shame that Binds YouAuthor John Bradshaw –

“I used to drink,” writes John Bradshaw, “to solve the problems caused by drinking The I drank to relieve my shamebased loneliness and hurt, the I felt ashamed” Shame is the motivator behind our toxic behaviors: the compulsion, codependency, addiction and drive to superachieve that breaks down the family and destroys personal lives This book has helped millions identify their personal shame, understand the underlying reasons for it, address these root causes and release themselves from the shame that binds them to their past failures Key Features This is not just a recovery book Among other things, it is a classic book on identifying and working through unresolved family issues Includes affirmations, visualizations, inner voice and feeling exercises Strong supporting studies make this a popular book with counselors and other professionals Completely updated and revised

10 thoughts on “Healing the Shame that Binds You

  1. Emma Emma says:

    This book is a fundamental text in the field. What I found most helpful was understanding that shame-based families operate in a set of dysfunctional rules. Understanding that is the key to uprooting them from your psyche (or at least not taking them seriously).

    It also helped me understand the physical experience of shame and how it shuts down your whole system - it binds to the emotions or sensations you were feeling at the time you were shamed, so when you feel those emotions again, the shame comes back. So, normal emotions or sensations such as embarrassment or shyness trigger excruciating feelings of shame.

    One disappointing aspect was the focus on 12-step groups as the only solution. There are others - you can work with the feelings yourself, by slowly exposing yourself to the triggering experiences and breathing through the shame attacks. This work is best done in therapy - both because it's easier to trigger the feelings in a context where that is your specific goal, and because it's often a gentler and safer context in which to experience the feelings. Since shame is so overwhelming, experiencing it in normal social contexts is not fun and will usually cause you act in strange ways to try to shut down the feeling (like suddenly and vehemently changing the topic). That can be embarrassing and shame-producing in and of itself, so I recommend therapy. Most people you meet aren't all that comfortable with their own shame. In looking for a therapist, ask or assess whether they've worked through their own shame. Being a therapist doesn't automatically mean you are qualified to be one.

  2. Natalie Cardon Natalie Cardon says:

    In the category of self-help books for depression and anxiety, this was definitely a book that completely altered my outlook on life.

    I have to warn that the first part delineates the problem, and the second half delineates the solution. The first part can be very tough to get through. But it is necessary to understand the extent of toxic shame. And once you get to the solution part, there are some great things & it's worth it.

    I recommend this book for not only people struggling with depression, but anyone who struggles with self-esteem issues, ANY addictions (from shopping to sugar and all the stuff that's worse!), anyone wanting not to make the mistake of parenting kids (or teaching kids in school) in a way that makes them feel toxic shame, or anyone who had a difficult experience in childhood. (No, it doesn't have to be outright abuse, just anything traumatizing.)

    I think Shame Research is fascinating & I want to read more on that topic, and also more by this author.

  3. Lisa Romano Lisa Romano says:

    When you are stuck inside a closed family system, you do not know you are not normal. Because the entire organism is ill, you think like the other members of your family, in spite of how wrong you feel within. It is not safe to complain. You are expected to be compliant, and worse--to be grateful.

    Healing The Shame That Binds You explains in poetic detail the not so easy to see dynamics that create shame and guilt in closed dysfunctional family systems.

    When my life was falling apart, and my family began walking out of my life, because I was no longer following their rules, or thinking like them, deep shame showed up in my life. I felt guilty for speaking up for myself. I felt ashamed for displeasing my parents. I felt shame for not doing what they wanted me to do--which was stay inside a dysfunctional marriage.

    When I entered therapy and began to learn how my grandparents alcoholism had affected my parents ability to nurture my siblings and I in a healthy and intimate way, my therapist suggested I pick up a copy of this book.

    And I am so glad I did.

    I have referred to it often in the past thirteen years or so, and recommend it to anyone in search of a personal healing.


  4. CinnamonWolf CinnamonWolf says:

    If something has helped you to live a happier, more fulfilling life, I won't judge you if it's weird. By that I mean that I am glad that this book exists because it seems to have helped many people. That said, I would not suggest this book to anyone.

    TLDR version: Everything is shame! If you died of cancer, it's toxic shame that killed you! (In the book it was not cancer, but the rest is literal.) Not to kink-shame, but the bro gets way overexcited about shame.

    Long version: Somewhere in between phallic and vaginal mysteries and spirituality as the only thing that makes people human, I stopped taking this book seriously. And then the stupid extremely judgmental heteronormative ideas about sex started spilling, a section called Meaning of the Sex Organs was 100% about penises and a section called A Vaginal Way of Being was 70% about penises (and ended with a quote from Thomas Moore: Pornographic penises are symptomatic of our need to rediscover the phallus, with its religious appreciation of life's mysterious potency.) Completely wrong ideas about eating disorders and abuse were presented as facts. Hell, even the ridiculous left brain vs right brain bullshit was given as the most true thing that exists in the universe, and, of course, SHAAAAAAAAAAME! (because it is always somehow relevant to everything and that somehow somehow never needs explaining). Don't get me started on the lack of any kind of logic in the diagrams that are presented or in the text that is supposed to explain them. Same goes for quite a few metaphors and analogies.

    Finally, the author does not even define shame or point out what definition he is using for it. The closest he gets to that is implying toxic shame = bad, healthy shame = good. Welp.

    Why the hell did I read this and why the hell did I finish it? Because a really good friend insisted that I had to and that it was very relevant to me. *deep sigh*

  5. Jennifer Jennifer says:

    This is one of the most enlightening and interesting books I've ever read. But it loses 1/2 a star (and that's generous) for having a title that could send you into a world of shame all on its own. Could you read this on the subway? I did, but I bought a purple book cover for it in order to do so. ... The book talks about how, starting with the story of Adam and Eve, shame has always been at the root of all our undoings. And yet our society continues to use shame as an attempted form of discipline and reformation. Bradshaw tells us how to get from under that practice so we can live happier lives with fewer restrictions. You don't have to be unhappy or searching to read this. It's also great for parenting, understanding others in our lives, and society in general.

  6. Jonathan Karmel Jonathan Karmel says:

    This book gave me a lot to think about. I don't doubt that it is true that a lot of behavior that is off is caused by shame, but I can't believe that all of it is. For example, isn't some addiction just caused by the addictive nature of the substances? Anyway, here are some ideas from this book that I thought were interesting.

    Toxic shame makes you not love yourself the way you are, so you need something outside yourself to feel whole. You obsess on this thing outside yourself. Instead of just being yourself, you need to constantly do things. You become a “human doing” instead of a “human being.” When you have toxic shame, you are unable to be yourself; instead, you keep your true self a secret and present a different self to the world (persona).

    One cause of adult anxiety is being overexposed as a child before you were able to develop any boundaries to protect yourself. An example would be a parent who is overly judgmental in criticizing developmentally normal childhood behavior. Toxic shame is often manifested in dreams of being naked in inappropriate places or in not being prepared, as in suddenly having to take your final exam without having prepared for it.

    If you have toxic shame, you develop a script and then live life like an actor playing a role. The melodramatic scripts were described by Thoreau when he said that the mass of humanity live lives of quiet desperation.

    Very few people actually live truly authentic lives. Your inauthentic role could take many forms: being perfectionist, seeking power and control, rage, arrogance or pride, being critical, judgmental, contemptuous or patronizing. Always being a caregiver, people-pleaser or “nice guy,” being filled with envy.

    If you need something outside yourself to feel whole, you may engage in addictive/compulsive behaviors such as overeating, drinking, drugs, obsessive sex/pornography, gambling. When your needs are neglected as a child, you get the message that your needs are not important. Then you feel shame when you feel needy.

    Ruminating can be a thought addiction. You spend all your time thinking in order to avoid feeling.

    You can be addicted to constant activity: shopping, reading, exercising, watching sports, watching TV, taking care of pets or being a workaholic.

    You may convert your wide array of needs into sexual needs. You may need orgasms to restore good feelings about yourself even when your actual needs are unrelated to sexuality.

    We are all in a posthypnotic trance induced in early infancy. The “inner voice” is the insidious self-destructive process, an external point of view toward oneself initially derived from the parents’ suppressed hostile feeling toward the child.

    Expecting your partner to provide what one’s parent failed to provide is a delusion. It is an unrealistic expectation and ends in disappointment and anger.

    The main principle for handling criticism is Never Defend Yourself. Instead, follow these steps: (1) State what is TRUE about the criticism. (2) Ask the critic for more information in order to understand the criticism better. (3) Ask the other person why they feel the way they do. (4) Admit that you are wrong and that you are human. (5) Look the other person directly in the eye and state why you are still okay with the way you are. (6) Confirm that you are a good person. (7) Try to understand how the other person feels and comfort them.

    Shame-based distorted thinking: catastrophizing, mind reading, personalization, overgeneralization, either/or thinking, being right, “should” thinking, control thinking fallacies, cognitive deficiency or filtering, blaming and global labeling

    Example of catastrophizing: when a spouse acts slightly frustrated, thinking they are incredibly angry at you and that they will remain so for a long time and that there is nothing that you can do about it and that this will lead to divorce. Reality: what is the percentage chance of the thing happening?

    Example of mind reading: when someone doesn’t talk to you, you think they are mad at you. Reality: you are hallucinating; gather evidence about what is really happening.

    Example of personalization: when someone constantly states that they’re sick and tired, you think they are sick and tired of you. If another person is saying or doing something, assume it is about the other person, not about you.

    Example of overgeneralization: when one thing about the relationship is a problem, you think that the entire relationship is a problem. What is the evidence that supports your conclusion, and what is the evidence that does not support your conclusion?

    Example of either/or thinking: Either a person is perfect, or the person is worthless. Counter: “About 5 percent of the time I’m selfish, but the rest of the time I’m loving and generous.”

    Example of being right: If you think you’re right, you are completely defensive about what you do, but if you accept that you are human, you can just admit that it really doesn’t matter whether you are right or wrong. Ask yourself: “What can I learn from the other person’s opinion.”

    Example of should thinking: This is the way things “should” be rather than this is what I want and this fills my emotional needs. Think of exceptions to the “rule” that you have created.

    Example of control thinking fallacies: You think that something outside yourself controls the way that you are. You need to take responsibility for your own emotions and let other people make their own choices.

    Example of cognitive deficiency or filtering: You are completely fixated on the one bad thing and ignore the multitude of good things. Say to yourself: “this is distressing, but not dangerous.” You need to refocus your attention to the things that you have that are valuable.

    Example of blaming and global labelling: Blaming your unhappiness on other people. Have you honestly expressed how you feel to the other person?

    In summary, toxic shame makes you believe that you are more than human (e.g. you must act like a perfect, selfless martyr) or less than human (you believe you are not worthy of having your needs met). Healthy shame is believing that you are human and being able to express your emotional needs with humility or even embarrassment, but nevertheless being able to express your needs without freaking out.

  7. Biff Biff says:

    This book changed my life. I'm almost a different person. What this book taught me let me shed shame, and the accompanying terror and anxiety, at least the non chemically motivated kind of anxiety. There's even a section on nlp that helps you alter those shame spiral bad memories that come back over and over, so they never surface without your consent. I am not a self-help book person, but this book is beyond good, I recommend it to anyone who's ever said ihatemyself i hate myself ihatemyself and anyone whose perfectionism may have made them part perfect and part crippled. My therapist recommended it and it did more for me than all the therapy I've ever had.

  8. Valter Valter says:

    I stopped reading at page 30.
    The ideas are worthy, but the author repeats his concepts again and again - and again! And in doing so, he makes me wonder about his need to convince himself.
    The author sounds still obsessed with his own demons: this makes for a heartfelt sharing, but not for an objective viewpoint. And he wants to explain everything with shame, every ill and every neurosis: I distrust any unique explanation, especially when it's about complex phenomena - you know the saying, When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
    Besides, too much religious interpretations - for me, at least. And the need to redeem what he calls healthy shame... something that smells like Church, and I don't really think it's as healthy as he says it is.
    Finally, the language is sometimes unclear and confusing.

    All in all, good ideas, passable execution.
    You may get something good from reading it, sure, but I wonder if other books on the topic might be easier to read and giving better insights.

  9. Esther Esther says:

    A hot mess of influences from attachment theory, psychodynamic theory, addiction literature, trauma, etc. Bradshaw definitely appropriates a lot, but I was okay with it, and the 'self-help' tone was not unbearable. I appreciated his observations of toxic shame and how it grows out of dysfunctional family dynamics. My favorite chapters were Liberating your lost inner child and Integrating your disowned parts. The former had a guided imagery mediation/exercise that I used with a client successfully... in it, you go back to your childhood home visit with your child-self say a few words (from future self to child self), say goodbye to parents, take in the love of your friends, resurface... It was evocative and powerful in session.

  10. Erythrocytes Erythrocytes says:

    I'v never heard who John Bradshaw is, so I decided to watch some videos of him. To be honest, I didn't really gain much trust in him after watching his speeches. A recovered alcoholic, without any psychological degree, who really could have talked a bit less loud – that's what I remembered the most about him. Although he notices his own past mistakes, I couldn't shake the feeling that he was not honest. I was really skeptical about the book's ratings.

    This work, as noted by some other people, is really a mix of many theories. I could digest the first part of the book, trying to not pay much attention to the author's hypocrisy.

    But the healing part is just some home remedy and cult-like level stuff. I simply don't think imagining yourself as a child, and talking to him, actually does you any good except making you feel like you are going crazy. I didn't even want to read the spirituality part. I think the author should go and write his stories about a higher being elsewhere.

    Bradshaw constantly puts down people who struggle for power, like priests and teachers, and that's EXACTLY what he's doing in this book: trying to take a position of power to teach people what's right and wrong. But every time I see his face, I just see an alcoholic and a hypocrite. I think before going to heal people with your miraculous technics, you should heal yourself first.

    Finally, I really felt like googling John Bradshaw criticism. Here are some quotes by actual psychologists I found:

    Consider the abuse guru John Bradshaw who, through a series of television programs and books, persuaded a large number of Americans to believe they have an 'inner child.' People now literally talk to their inner child, comfort it, give it a name and personality, defend its right to exist, and find ways to get to know it better. There is no inner child--it is simply a metaphor! But to millions its existence is now a 'fact' and dictates their way of life. That is a very effective use of suggestion.”

    The 'recovery movement' consistently falls back on the claim that it does not encourage people to blame their parents for their problems. Rather, John Bradshaw says, he wants them to be held 'accountable.' While Bradshaw may be able to differentiate between 'blame' and 'accountability,' a great many Americans are not quite so discriminating. They blame their parents relentlessly, and who can blame them, when leaders like Bradshaw suggest that they recover, in vivid detail, episode after episode of childhood experiences that reflect family dysfunction and parental neglect or abuse? He offers the parents that parents are really not the target of the anger or rage that accompanies all these memories he cultivates while he encourages followers to view them through the lens of victimhood. It is much like telling a child about the dangers of smoking and admonishing him not to smoke while you are puffing away. 'Do as I say, not as I do' has never been an effective strategy for shaping desirable behavior. Bradshaw's steady fanning of the flames of anger and resentment as a necessary path to eventual acceptance of things that happened and a greater sense of personal responsibility (which he claims are his goals) sends a very mixed message.

    – These two quotes really resonated with my thoughts. Can't say it better than the pros.

    After reading some other self-help books and this one, I really feel that their authors go against common sense in one thing: trying to blame everything bad on your parents. They say that saying anything against parents is a taboo, and blame society for keeping it. When you start making claims like this, you know you are going too far. And yet they continue, like they are drunk, to develop conspiracy theories and stuff. Oh, you don't remember because this memory has been suppressed by your consciousness for too long. Very scientific.

    Anyway, if you have a desire to flip through the book like picking individual flakes from your bowl of cereal, go ahead. There are some good thoughts in it, but don't forget that at some point of the book, a tin foil cap will be required.