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My Name Is Toxic Shame

I was there at your conception

In the epinephrine of your mother’s shame

You felt me in the fluid of your mother’s womb

I came upon you before you could speak

Before you understood

Before you had any way of knowing

I came upon you when you were learning to walk

When you were unprotected and exposed

When you were vulnerable and needy

Before you had any boundaries

My name is Toxic Shame

I came upon you when you were magical

Before you could know I was there

I severed your soul

I pierced you to the core

I brought you feelings of being flawed and defective

I brought you feelings of distrust, ugliness, stupidity, doubt, worthlessness, inferiority, and unworthiness

I made you feel different

I told you there was something wrong with you

I soiled your Godlikeness

My name is Toxic Shame

I existed before conscience

Before guilt, before morality

I am the master emotion

I am the internal voice that whispers words of condemnation

I am the internal shudder that courses through you without any mental preparation

My name is Toxic Shame

I live in secrecy

In the deep moist banks of darkness, depression and despair

Always I sneak up on you 

I catch you off guard

I come through the back door

Uninvited, unwanted

The first to arrive

I was there at the beginning of time With Father Adam, Mother Eve, Brother Cain

I was at the Tower of Babel, the Slaughter of the Innocents

My name is Toxic Shame

I come from “shameless” caretakers, abandonment, ridicule, 

abuse, neglect, perfectionist systems

I am empowered by the shocking intensity of a parent’s rage

The cruel remarks of siblings

The jeering humiliation of other children

The awkward reflection in the mirrors

The touch that feels icky and frightening

The slap, the pinch, the jerk that ruptures trust

I am intensified by a racist, sexist culture

The righteous condemnation of religious bigots

The fears and pressures of schooling

The hypocrisy of politicians

The multigenerational shame of dysfunctional family systems

My name is Toxic Shame

I can transform a woman person, a gay person, and Oriental person, a precious child into

A bitch, a bull dyke, a faggot, a chink, a selfish little bastard

I bring pain that is chronic

A pain that will not go away

I am the hunter that stalks you night and day

Every day, everywhere

I have no boundaries

You try to hide from me but you cannot

Because I live inside of you

I make you feel hopeless

Like there is no way out

My name is Toxic Shame

My pain is so unbearable that you must pass me on to others

through control, perfectionism, contempt, criticism, blame, 

envy, judgment, power, and rage

My pain is so intense

You must cover me up with addictions, rigid roles, 

reenactment, and unconscious ego defenses

My pain is so intense that you must numb out and no longer feel me

I convinced you that I am gone – that I do not exist 

you experience absence and emptiness.

My name is Toxic Shame

I am the core of co-dependency

I am spiritual bankruptcy

The logic of absurdity

The repetition of compulsion

I am crime, violence, incest, rape

I am the voracious hole that fuels all addictions

I am instability and lust

I twist who you are into what you do and have I murdered your soul. 

and you pass me on for generations

My name is Toxic Shame

Poem by Leo Booth & John Bradshaw