The root of so many psychological issues is shame. We all feel shame from time to time, and it can be a helpful emotion in making sure societal norms are adhered to. It’s when shame becomes a state of being that it becomes toxic.

The narcissistic parent will shame others tactically so that they will put the narcissist first and obey the narcissist’s every demand in order to avoid more shame. What better way to have complete control over another person than getting them to the point where they have shame for simply existing? The narcissistic parent is a master at creating toxic shame. They have time and motive to chip away at their child’s opinions, ideas, confidence, and identity. Once the narcissistic parent does this, they have all the power. The child is paralyzed with fear of being exposed, so they do whatever is expected of them by their parent.

Shame is so internalized by children that it can become a baseline from which they function. Shame also creates other challenges and struggles such as chronic anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. A child who’s been systematically shamed will often be very impressionable since they have been taught not to trust themself. Shame can lead to rebellion in the child, although they will not likely lash out at the parent as that is too dangerous. The child will generally turn that rebellion inward by engaging in self-harm or substance abuse to escape the way they feel about themselves. When stuck in this pattern, the child cannot win. As they grow into adulthood, the child carries all of this pain and shame with them and this can be expressed as mood disorders, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, CPTSD, among others. Shame can be destructive and needs to be addressed and treated so that you can heal and have healthy relationships with others, and more importantly, with yourself.

About the Author: Brenda Stephens

Brenda Stephens, LPCC, LMHC, LPC: Brenda is a therapist, speaker, coach, and author working with survivors of narcissistic abuse for the past 16 years. We aim to help survivors heal, reclaim their lives, and learn how to avoid toxic relationships.



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