In my over 30 years working with people as a therapist and a coach, shame, and particularly, toxic shame, is at the root of more issues than any other emotion. It is also the thorniest emotion for many people as they have no idea how to rid themselves of shame. Many cultures imbue sexual activity and sexual relationships with layers and layers of shame. Unpicking cultural and familial patterns of shame often takes patience, courage and tenacity.
We experience shame when we cannot own something we have thought, felt, or done or some part of ourselves. Guilt can be appropriate when we have done something we know is wrong and harmed ourselves and/or others. It serves the purpose of getting us to look at the wrong and highlighting the wrong so that we can make amends, change our behaviour/ Shame is toxic. It comes from conditioning via our upbringing, via our cultural group, via the overarching society. This shame doesn’t serve a purpose. It keeps us trapped and makes it impossible for us to live in fullness and authenticity. The difference between shame and guilt: Shame is ‘I am bad/wrong’ and guilt is ‘My behaviour is bad/wrong’.
Dr Lori Beth Bisbey is a registered psychologist, sex & intimacy coach, professional speaker and published author. She has been working with individuals, couples and polyamorous groups for over 30 years to help them create and maintain their ideal intimate relationships. She writes non-fiction about sex, sexuality, gender, relationships of all kinds, kink, non-monogamy, BDSM and authority transfer based relationships and sexual trauma in her own blog, for a variety of relationship websites, and for a number of print publications. She also writes erotic short stories.