Toxic Shame and
Spirals of Suffering

How evolution and psychology,
psychodynamics and lived experience,
can help us to recognise the suffering fuelled by toxic shame.

Image: Henrik Uldalen – Inhal

Emotions evolved over millions of years to help creatures navigate opportunities & threats. But while emotions are generally helpful, they can become harmful. 

Shame is the emotion which evolved to warn us when our own behaviour endangers important relationships. Humans need to belong to a supportive network to survive, so this warning is invaluable.

Shame becomes harmful when it calcifies into the frightening conviction that fundamentally inadequate in some way, and thus intrinsically unworthy of relationships & in constant danger of being abandoned.

This conviction is typically held in the unconscious mind & body. It is toxic. It creates self-perpetuating spirals of suffering.

  • It distorts the processes that gives rise to emotions, & causes mistakes when identifying opportunities & threats.
  • It compels us to see ourselves through judgemental & self-shaming eyes, resulting in inner loneliness, & an escalating burden of toxic shame.
  • It drives us to behave in ways which hurt and shame family, friends & colleagues. We spread toxic shame to others, while increasing the likelihood that we will be abandoned.  


This presentation explores shame-fuelled spirals of suffering by drawing on of evolution, psychology, psychodynamics & lived experience.

The goals of this presentation are to:

  • Develop greater understanding of toxic shame & the harm it causes.
  • Set the stage for a healing process, through psychoeducation. 

In this presentation participants will learn:

  • The evolutionary roots of emotions in general, & shame in particular.
  • How to distinguish between healthy and toxic shame.
  • How healthy and toxic shame interact.
  • Why toxic shame often goes unrecognised.
  • How toxic shame distorts the system which gives rise to emotions.
  • How toxic shame perverts the way we see ourselves & others.   
  • How toxic shame invariably creates more toxic shame in ourselves.
  • How toxically shamed parents unwittingly pass shame to children.

Future presentations on shame will explore:

  • Ways that toxic shame is initially created.
  • What is involved in healing toxic shame.

Is this presentation right for you?

  • This webinar is open to anybody with an interest in psychological dynamics and how they impact our behaviour.  
  • My webinars are intended to be educational, rather than therapeutic. 

Image: Suzanne Tucker – shutterstock

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