Adverse Childhood Events: How a Rotten Childhood Can Linger On

Happiness, trust, love, self-worth, the ability to be open and vulnerable–all can be lost through the ordeal of a bad childhood.

Often in therapy sessions, many adult patients trace their current struggles back to their childhood. Some people really struggle with moving pass their formative years if they experienced pain and adversity. Freud famously posited that our lives are pretty much determined by events in our early childhood. We all know counseling gets a bad rap for its tendency to blame parents for all the problems a person has long into adulthood.  To state the obvious– the case can be made that blaming parents for adult problems in a cop-out. It is of course easier to blame your parents than take personal responsibility. At some point, it is fair to say, whoever we are and whatever we may have experienced, we do need to let it go. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done for those who experienced childhood as unstable and uncertain.  The wounds of a rotten childhood can be all but healed. The pain of the past haunts many who walk among us.

Anger taken too far is often at the center of many therapy sessions. As a clinician I have seen people express deep-seated anger at their parents (and I am talking well into middle age). From my experience as an in home counselor for a mental health agency, which is often mandated counseling, I also got to see firsthand the impact traumatic events had on the development of children. Many children who experienced trauma during their formative years developed debilitating anger. How this anger presented varied but the impact being detrimental to a client’s mental health would always hold true. I often wondered how these experiences would impact these youngsters in their adulthood, long after I would be gone from their lives.

Growing up with unstable parents is inevitably hard. Living in an unpredictable home environment can be severely traumatizing. It is all to easy to blame one’s upbringing for the problems that follow us through life.

Parents are an easy target to dump blame on. I struggle as a clinician to pinpoint down an exact age where parents need to stop being so central to treatment–is it by college? One’s 20s? 30s? Never? There is no clear-cut answer. And while it is not beneficial to blame your parents for all your problems, there’s no doubt that parents and other caregivers are pivotal figures in a child’s development. We also can see for some people, the impact is still very much present in their adult lives. The effects of a difficult childhood can linger long after it is over.

Our early childhood experiences do shape us to a large extent. For many of us our earliest memories are positive–times filled with great love and affection from our parents or caregivers. Many of my earliest memories in life are of much affection from my parents and of me constantly asking my father, “UP” (up as in to carry me around because I loved being carried by “daddy”–probably a bit passed the age I should have been asking!) These are fond memories I hold dear and the feelings of love from that time I can still feel within me.

Children need to feel loved and valued. If they don’t, it will almost certainly impact their mental health and well-being.

Yet the sad reality is many people experience disruptive and harmful events that hinder their psychological and emotional development. Example of such events include parental divorce, death of a parent, frequently moving and switching schools, abuse (physical, mental or emotional), parental mental illness, and poverty.  Many times childhood adversities are interrelated. For instance, a parental divorce can lead to a change in socioeconomic status for many families. Research has found that people who experienced “ACEs” are at a much greater risk to develop mental health issues in adulthood include being a greater risk for suicide.

ACEs are “adverse childhood experiences” that can bring on struggles for a person in their adulthood. ACE is well-studied part of developmental psychology. Sadly people with a history of ACEs often pass on the dysfunction to the next generation. These are events beyond a young person’s control. Many times in transgenerational family therapy the counselor examines the interactions of clients across generations as a method to understand and explain current problems within the family system, as well as predicting future difficulties. A genogram can map out family relationships across the generations.

I copied and pasted below a Adverse Childhood Experience questionnaire for you to take to see how many you may have experienced.

While you were growing up, during your first 18 years of life:

1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often …
Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you?
Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often …
Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you?
Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever…
Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way?
Try to or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal sex with you? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

4.Did you often feel that …
No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special?
Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
5. Did you often feel that …
You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you?
Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
7. Was your mother or stepmother:
Often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her?
Sometimes or often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard?
Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs?
Yes No If yes enter 1 ________

9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill or did a household member attempt suicide?
Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
10. Did a household member go to prison?
Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
Now add up your “Yes” answers: _______ This is your ACE Score

Many people may take this questionnaire and answer one or none. Other people, regardless of race, socioeconomic background, or gender, may find themselves checking off yes to quite a few adverse childhood events.

So why does this matter?  For one, such adverse events impact the development of one’s identity which takes place across the lifespan. If you experienced the aforementioned events in childhood, most likely basic survival took over for you, which impedes the normal development of self.  Worse as a child we have no frame of reference. Thus one experiences this dysfunction as normal because the behavior of their caregivers is all they know. Often people get stunted at the age of said trauma. That is why as a therapist we may diagnose someone at being at the emotional development of a 12-year-old yet their chronological age is 45.

The task of identity development is challenging enough in and of itself when one comes from a safe, secure, upbringing. If one is struggling with the after effects of development trauma, the process will be especially difficult to master. The adult consequences of trauma are vast–often resulting in substance abuse issues, depression, anxiety, behavioral issues, difficulty in personal relationships, and difficulties with maintaining employment. Often our childhood trauma impacts the way we are effectively able to parent out own children.

Furthermore, we see broken adults come from homes where abuse-physical, emotional, mental was present and are more likely to develop complex post traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD).

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (cPTSD) is characterized by difficulties with emotional regulation, consciousness and memory, self-perception, difficulties in relationships with other people, distorted perceptions, and negative effects on one’s  life.

Even if you find you have not experienced the adverse childhood events of the questionnaire, none of us grow up unscathed from pain and hardship, in whatever form it presents in your life. Learning how to deal with negative emotions and experiences are a part of growing up. You grow up every day, no matter what your age.

No matter what your past, it is NEVER too late to better your life with positive experiences and overcome the long shadow of childhood adversity. Don’t get stuck in the past which hinders your ability to live the life you want in the present. It is important to remember even in adulthood such events can be remedied. Counseling can help you to process and overcome the trauma of one’s childhood. Often we need to work through the pain in order to release it. Repressing it, denying it, or suppressing our feelings will not remedy the situation. If you are willing to put in the work, you can tap into your inner resiliency and lead a happier, healthier life.


Dislike vs. Hatred: Why We Feel These Emotions Towards Others


Why do certain people irritate us or rub us wrong while others don’t?

You can be the most loving, kind, down to earth, open-minded person on the planet and STILL get extremely annoyed by certain people.

There are billions of us on the planet. The fact is we are not going to get along with everyone.

I can remember years ago studying Carl Jung who famously said, “Everything that irritates us about another can lead up to an understanding of ourselves.”

This may be a tough idea to get behind for many of us. For instance, if we don’t care for someone who is selfish, we wouldn’t think we dislike this individual because we, ourselves, are in fact selfish.

Yet Jung purported that if you are open enough to the idea, what you dislike about others, can teach you about yourself.

I think it is easier to apply this when the shoe is on the other foot. What I mean by this is it is easier to apply this theory when other people project their negative qualities onto us instead of when we are projecting our negative qualities onto someone else. I remember a couple of times in my past when people projected onto me the qualities that were in fact their own. Before I was trained as a psychotherapist, in all likelihood I  would have reacted. Being in this profession, I am cognizant of when someone is projecting and knowing this, I feel no need to react (although  being human I do slip up from time to time and always kick myself for doing so)!

There is no need to react or defend ourselves against other people’s projections. Those projections are theirs. We do not need to OWN other people’s stuff.


Usually when someone is projecting, they are trying to offload their negative qualities onto you.

Thus when someone is dumping their disowned feeling on you, if you are conscious enough, you cease the need to react at all.

The fact is everyone is your mirror. 

According to Jung, we all have a shadow self.

The shadow is irrational, prone to psychological projection, in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognized as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else (Jung).

Our shadow is an innate part of ALL of us, yet the vast majority of us are blind to its existence. 

Many of us do our best to hide our negative qualities, not only from others but from ourselves. Thus we often criticize and condemn others to ensure the focus does not fall our destructive tendencies and fault. 

Many of us are only conscious of our persona. The persona is the social mask we as individuals present to the world. It is the public image of someone.


Underneath the mask we show to the world, our shadow remains unconscious and can wreak havoc in our life.

The Shadow is all the thoughts and emotions we repress as being socially inappropriate. Rage, envy, jealousy, schadenfreude (the pleasure we derive from another person’s misfortune).  This is all shadow material.  The more we repress shadow material, the more of a hold it has on us.

But what about if we are talking about people we don’t merely dislike but people we hate?

See when we dislike someone, we simply avoid this person. We don’t feel the need to rage about them, yell at them, fixate on them. We do not want to get into a back and forth with them. Dislike suffices. We just move on with our life and limit our contact with this person as much as humanly possible.

Hatred is a whole other animal. Hate often arises because we see another as an “enemy.” In this enemy we see a part of ourselves we hate. Yet whatever we hate about our “enemy” can be explained by simple fact: they trigger dormant feelings of shame and inferiority.

The more insecure you are, the more you feel attacked by others, regardless of whether they are in actual attacking you or not.

How insecure you are will play a factor in whether you merely dislike someone or if you hate them.

Dislike vs. Hatred

Let us differentiate between mere dislike and hatred. When you dislike someone, you rather NOT be around them. You do not want to interact with them because it is unpleasant. You do not wish ILL on this person and if anything you feel apathetic for them. Many you even pity them because you recognize how unhappy and miserable they are by their behavior. When you dislike someone, you don’t care to give them much thought or energy.

Disliking people is normal throughout life. Yet for the most part, we are going to be neutral towards people. We will not like them NOR dislike them.

Hatred, on the other hand, means you consider a person an enemy and a threat. Thus you are invested in their destruction. You wish ill on them and want to see them destroyed.

When you hate someone:

~you obsess over them. You will gossip and smear them to anyone who listens. You cannot let go of what they said or did.

~you feel good when something bad happens to them. If something good happens to them, you try to minimize it or dismiss it.

~you try to convince others of how horrible and evil this person is. You think people must know the “truth” about him or her. You desperately seek confirmation from others about how horrible this person is.

Long story short, the difference between hatred and dislike is the former involves time and effort while the latter involves apathy.

Personally, I have people I dislike but hatred to me is not something I allow myself to engage in because I am conscious of the fact it would just make ME miserable and unhappy. It also takes WAY too much energy and time to hate someone (and who has that?!) It destroys the person who feels it not the target of contempt and disdain. I believe is certain situations we all are capable of feeling hatred towards another person in passing but this emotion is not a fixture in our lives.

In psychologically unhealthy people, hatred may be felt by anyone who dare challenges their worldview or opinions (any famous figures coming to mind?!)

When you hate someone you feel compelled to verbally spar with them not because you want to win but you don’t want to lose. (Once again, people we hate trigger in us shame and inferiority). A person you just dislike, you don’t care to get into it with them. To you, it isn’t worth the energy. If you dislike someone, you aren’t being triggered by shame and inferiority. The person’s behavior just rubs you wrong (maybe they are in fact just obnoxious). And hey, if Jung has taught us anything, it is that we TOO can be obnoxious and rub people wrong!

Although most people would never acknowledge it, people who hate other people generally hate someone who they feel threatened by or triggers their feelings of inferiority.

You usually hate someone who exposes or highlights your issues, baggage, and insecurities. 

If you hate someone, you feel that this person is trying to expose your flaws to the world. Hatred is a very irrational emotion. The fact is most people are not interested in exposing your flaws (unless they are abusive or a bully). Most of us are just trying to hide our own flaws.

Hatred is a slippery slope. It is not wrong to get threatened or angry with other people, yet in taking it to the level of hatred, you are dwelling and ruminating on your own hate.

If we hate someone, we feel they are diminishing us. If you feel this emotion, it is time to begin the process of release.

Counseling may be a good place to start to weaken the grasp this toxic emotion has on you.

Hate will not go away on its own. You need to actively work at releasing its toxic hold on you.

Hate makes us want to fight. Dislike makes us want to not engage.

Hate makes us irrational. Dislike makes us rationalize.

Hate makes us want to smear the person to ANYONE who will listen. Dislike makes us not even care to mention the person’s name because they aren’t on our mind.

Hate makes us want to seek revenge. Dislike makes us avoid the unpleasantness of dealing with this individual.

It is possible to move from hatred to dislike.

Release the judgements.

Move on with your own life.

Being compassionate can mean walking away without saying ANYTHING. Often no answer is the best answer.

When we are at peace with ourselves, we stop being at war with others.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822


How We Manage Our Shame


In a previous post, I discussed shame and how OTHERS may try to shame us, the reasons why, and how shame has its roots in one’s upbringing.

Equally important is how we are able to manage our own feelings of shame towards ourself as it is pivotal to our well-being. Shame can undermine our relationships and often runs our lives without us even knowing. Shame is a silent killer if you are not able to recognize its powerful presence in your life.

Everyone experiences shame. For healthy people, the shame they feel passes.

For others, shame is an emotion they try to cover up with other emotions-anger, aggression, passive aggression, rage, envy, jealousy, anxiety.

Shame is something we may to try to project on other people–terrified of being judged we may attempt to point out the faults in others to keep the spotlight off our own imperfections.

Perhaps we become self-deprecating. We may shame ourselves as a way to acknowledge our faults and failures before anyone else can point them out.

narc 1

Shame can also be such a fundamental part of our experience that it shapes our sense of self and identity.

Many people who struggle with shame develop into one of the two distinct personality types: the narcissist or the codependent.  (A codependent cannot be a narcissist, but a narcissist CAN also be codependent). These personalities are based on an undefined self. In both, shame and control are intricately tied together. Narcissists and codependents rely on OTHER people for their sense of self.  Each of these personalities place a lot of importance on what other people think of them.


The only way to over come these shame based personalities is to give up your attachment to control, you will find your shame disappearing.

For narcissists, they hide their internalized shame with an outward expression of arrogance, contempt, rage, and criticism towards others. Narcissists lack empathy.  These are people who very much live in fear of being found out. Narcissism is the mask they use to cover up their deep-rooted feelings of self-loathing and toxic shame.


Narcissists are famous for unloading their shame onto others with insults and put downs. By making others feel bad about themselves, a narcissist can ease their own pain. Shame is the cause of their aggressive, mean-spirited behavior.

This shame based personality type truly feels they are right and you are wrong and that you are an idiot in comparison to them (obviously you feel GREAT being in their company).

A narcissist will battle to the death if they feel their sense of self (their false sense of self) is challenged. Narcissists can dish it out but hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned!

narc e

Another shame based personality type is the codependent. Codependents try to control their internal feelings by controlling other people, events, and circumstances.

codepndent 2

For codependents,  their shame is also internalized, but expressed outwardly in a different form than the narcissist’s.  Similarly, a codependent’s sense of shame leads to other painful feelings and destructive behavior. With codependents, their shame plays out in care taking, passive aggression, people pleasing, control, resentment, and non-assertive communication. Codependents can’t speak their minds and similarly to narcissists, have a tendency to blame others. Often they are martyrs who are proud of their giving, self-sacrificing, long-suffering, and a selfless devotion to you (something they will hold over your head when it suits them).

Codependents try to be puppet masters pulling strings behind closed curtains. They are super focused on others. Their desire to feel needed is intertwined with the desire to feel important.

Codependents vacillate between feelings superiority and inferiority. Shame can come out as jealousy, envy, or judgement of others. By diminishing others, a codependent gets a superficial boost to themselves and get to hide their feelings of shame from their self.

If you are ruled by shame you may find yourself isolated–from family and friends. You may be cut off from your own authentic feelings which for you are too scared to feel.

Both narcissists and codependents hate to feel their feelings and the subsequent vulnerability that expressing our true self entails.

Vulnerability is very threatening to narcissists and codependents alike.


Codependents and narcissists as you can see are BOTH sides of the same coin.

Outside of the more extreme personality types of narcissism and codependency, shame can present in others way in our lives. Shame can affect how we function in relationships.

If you struggle with shame and control, you may find you either under-function OR over-function in your relationships.

While most people understand that balance is key to a fulfilling relationship,romantic or otherwise, it seems that many of us can’t escape the trap of either under-functioning or over-functioning.

Signs you overfunction in your relationships:

~You worry a lot

~You struggle with controlling behaviors

~You do for others what they can do for themselves

~You love to give advice (feeling a sense of responsibility for others and how things turn out)

~You are concerned with managing your image

~You moralize (moralizing is the tendency to harshly judge certain behaviors)

~You triangulate (triangulating is a manipulation tactic where one person will not communicate directly with another person, instead using a third person to relay communication to the second, thus forming a triangle)

~You overparent—both your kids AND other adults (taking care of others is a way to keep you from having to pay mind to your own issues)

~You take on the role of care-giving

~You try to change others

~If someone does not stay in sync with you/agree with you (how you think, how you feel)–you can’t be friends or in a relationship with them

Signs you underfunction in your relationships:

~You set goals and don’t follow through

~You let your partner make the decisions

~You ask numerous people for advice rather than make decisions on your own

~You let others do for you things you can do for yourself

~You struggle with addictions-food, alcohol, drugs, etc.

~You frequently are physically or emotionally ill

~You become less competent under stress

~You are underemployed

~You self-sabotage

~You zone out to tv or video games

~You seem lazy or unmotivated to others

Whenever someone is underfunctioning, someone else is overfunctioning.


Narcissism, codependency, overfunctioning, and underfunctioning all have their roots in shame based feelings. These are ways our feelings of internalized shame manifest in our lives.

Shame and control go hand in hand. When you give up your attachment to control, and instead choose compassion toward yourself and others, you will find your shame dissipate.

If you explore it carefully, if you navigate shame with compassion, you find the comfort that comes from no longer hiding from yourself—or keeping yourself hidden from others and the world.


The Psychology of Shame: How It Destroys

When was the last time you felt shame? Maybe you were embarrassed in front of your boss, or you felt guilty because you didn’t get done what you promised. Perhaps you can think back to being a child and being told, “Shame on you!” Or another classic version, “You SHOULD be ashamed of yourself!” Whatever it was, you’ll remember it wasn’t a good feeling.

Shame can be a way to teach lessons that we think someone needs to learn. Naturally during childhood, it is commonplace for the adults in our lives, such as our parents and teachers, to teach us lessons about right and wrong. Times were different a generation or two ago. Children were to be seen not heard. These adults likely meant well, but may have used shame to try to teach good values, not realizing they were instilling the genesis of inadequacy. We now know, from years of research, that shame is not an effective way to implement a change in children’s behavior.  You are bad, you are stupid, why can’t you be like your brother. These types of messages hurt and are ineffectual.

If we can see that shame is not effective in modifying children’s behavior, we must be mindful that the same holds true for adults. You see in life many things bother us- people most of all. Our natural response to this is to blame the other person and try to fix it. And by “fix it” this usually means change THEM (not try to change ourselves because YEAH, RIGHT).  We  attempt to alter the person into something we consider “right” or at least something that will not bother us. Thus you can see how we all, consciously or unconsciously, try to influence how others in our world behave.

Having “influence” is commonplace in politics and the professional world. Perhaps you have even read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Trying to exert influence is a very real factor not just in our professional relationships but our social relationships.  We all remember as teens having the one friend our parents referred to as a “bad influence.” Nowadays, as the case may be, you recognize yourself trying to “influence” your husband to eat better. Or maybe when you try to “influence” your kids to get their homework done. Or being the friend who tries to “influence” your other friends to go to the gym (and skip happy hour). Maybe you’re the son who tries to “influence” your mother to get an in home aide to look after her. In both direct and indirect ways, we all are trying to be influential in our own right.

The reality is we all want some level of control over our lives and to be influential in the lives on those we surround ourselves with. Whether we try to use our influence for good or bad is up to us.  There are many ways we try to exert influence. Shame can be a tactic people use to influence the behavior of others. It is also the base of most destructive behavior.

The experience of shame is universal. It is a powerful state of being. We all have experienced “shaming” behavior in our day-to-day lives.  The boss who says they are disappointed in our proposal. The friend who said they would never wear that. The waitress who says they can’t believe you can eat all that (this one actually happened to me–I CAN eat all that and I did!) The thing about shame is it is not really an effective way to influence behavior. Shame can only work if the person truly cares what we think of them.  Thus shame may work with our spouse but it will not work with our coworker who can NOT care less what we think of him.

We all to a lesser degree have been on the receiving end of shaming behavior Many times it is innocuous in the way it is meant or delivered.  The waitress, the friend, or your boss may have meant nothing malicious by it. Yet shaming is also a technique used by abusive people to distract from their own bad behavior.  Perhaps you experienced toxic shame before– someone belittling your achievements, ideas, efforts.  Trying to make you feel less than just as you are. As a clinician, I see shame as being a common abuse tactic experienced by clients, many who have survived abusive relationships. All types of relationships can be abusive not just romantic relationships. In hearing the stories of those who have struggled with this form of abuse, it has shown me how abusers often rely on shame, as a tactic to keep victims down. Shame can be an attempt to silence people who are not strong enough to stand in the strength of their voice.

Brene Brown, who has done extensive research on shame, has called it a silent epidemic.

shame 2

The truth is shame has the potential to be one of the most painful emotions we can experience. Shame is not that something you did was bad. Shame is you ARE something bad. Inferior. Inherently flawed. Less than.

When someone tries to make you feel like you should be ashamed of yourself, they are expressing contempt.  Shame is a way to diminish another.  It is a way of showing the shamee that to destroy you is a non-issue.  Thus when someone is trying to tell you shame on you what they are REALLY saying is shame on me. Because when someone tries to shame you, they are trying to transfer their hurt and pain onto you. Shamers are projecting their OWN shame, their own painful emotions. Attacking another is a way to disown the uncomfortable feelings they are experiencing. Abusers do this often to people they perceive as weaker. Unless you have a developed, strong sense of self it will be a struggle to not OWN the STUFF being thrown at you, when someone is offsetting their pain.

(Keep in mind,  we often shame ourselves–different post with more on that to follow).

There are many ways we try to shame OTHERS–teasing, eye rolling, name calling, sarcasm, yelling, expressing disapproval. Some people even resort to public shaming-to humiliate their victim to others—online posts, group texts, Instagram pictures—the Scarlet Letter-ing of our time. This type of behavior is extremely common during the adolescent years but still prevails amongst adults who have not developed passed an adolescent on an emotional level. Such behavior gives the shamer a feeling of superiority and communicates to the shamee a sense of unworthiness.

Anyone who is trying to shame you is not open to communicating with you in any real or meaningful way. The shame game is a way to manipulate and punish.

The only way to win in these situations is to not play.

shame 5

As a therapist, I have witnessed the powerful way that shame can fuel rage in children and adults alike. Whether this anger is directed outward at others or inward at oneself, this anger can act as a distraction from experiencing shame and the feelings that come along with it. Often when triggered by shame, we feel other self-conscious emotions such as discomfort, inadequacy, guilt, embarrassment.

Many of us can shake off the feeling and keep it moving. But others find it incredibly difficult, and it affects how they turn out.

Shame may work in the short-term but it comes with more detriments than benefits. It will hurt the relationship between the shamer and the shamee in the process. Being shamed causes us to lose respect for whoever OR whatever it is shaming us. Shame is at the root cause of many relationship problems. 

People who try to shame you are trying to get what they want at your expense.  Shame is a way to try to control others, by trying to trigger their need for connection, with the threat of disconnection. Such behavior is designed to get you to act according to someone else’s rules. Shame is a way of shutting the other person down.

The sad thing is there will always be people who try to shame you.

No matter what you do right or wrong, you don’t deserve to be humiliated or made to feel ashamed. If someone wants to make you feel this way,  recognize you are not dealing with a healthy person.

It is natural for decent people to find certain behavior unimaginable. You can’t imagine anyone can act in such a manner or say such a thing. Shame can be good in this sense–it is the “I couldn’t live with myself if I acted like that, did that, thought that” feeling.  Healthy shame is necessary.

Underneath shame there is a desire to be heard, validated, understood, and loved. On a continuum shame is at one end and feeling supported at the other.

Shame is not a productive emotion. If we are empathetic people we usually do not want our words to cause harm. Words are powerful. They can build up our relationships with others. Or tear them down. I have a sign in my office that says:

“Think before you speak: Is it….true? Is it….helpful? Is it….necessary? Is it….kind?”

Here’s to the practice of being mindful of our words BEFORE speaking them.