I (Jerry) have struggled with generalized anxiety for the majority of my life. Although I wish I could tell you that it is totally gone, I would be lying! Yes, many areas of my soul and spirit have had major healing over the years, but I still am working on this area.
We recently came across an article posted on a blog from another counselor, and she wrote about the connection between shame and anxiety. It was very good and we wanted to share it with all of you. Here is what she wrote:
Abuse and trauma, including major losses, are considered foremost causes of anxiety. We can feel anxiety about our finances or serious medical diagnosis, but most anxiety is shame anxiety, which is apprehension about experiencing shame. It’s caused by traumatic shame that has been internalized from the past, usually from childhood. Shame anxiety affects our self-esteem. We worry about what we say, how well we perform, and how we’re perceived by others. It can make us very sensitive to real or imagined criticism from ourselves or others.
Shame anxiety may manifest as social phobia, or in symptoms of codependency, such as controlling behavior, people-pleasing, perfectionism, fear of abandonment, obsessions about another person, or as an addiction. Worry about our performance on the job, an exam, or speaking before a group is apprehension about how we’ll be evaluated or judged. Whereas men are more vulnerable to shame anxiety about loss of work, women worry more about their appearance and relationships. Men in particular, have shame anxiety about failing or not being a good provider. Perfectionism, too, is an attempt to achieve an imaginary ideal in an attempt to be accepted by others. (Taken from “The Biggest Cause of Anxiety” by Darlene Lancer, LMFT)
Did you notice that the shame she writes about is not the “I did something bad” type of shame (true guilt) but rather the “I am bad” (toxic) shame? It is “identity-based” shame, not “behavior-based.”
Interestingly, so many of the symptoms that she identifies are no longer major issues for me. I am grateful for the healing that the Father has done over the course of my life. So why is anxiety still an issue? I believe that it is the result of what Darlene refers to as the “traumatic shame that has been internalized from the past, usually from childhood.”
So what do you do if you have anxiety and you have many of the symptoms that connect it to toxic shame? There are different therapeutic approaches, but we strongly believe that we must allow God to take us back to areas of childhood wounding where this started and allow Him to bring healing to these areas. We must grieve the impact of these wounds and ultimately forgive those who allowed toxic shame to enter—either through their overt abuse or due to the absence of loving actions.
And what can we do when we are no longer aware of the roots of our anxiety and shame (i.e. acts of commission or omission occurred too early in life to recall)? We allow our symptoms/struggles to lead us to the likely places where healing is needed. And in faith, we walk with the Father into those early places and we love and embrace those parts within—just as He does. We extend grace, love and truth to those places where the lies of shame were sown into our hearts. And we confront these lies and replace them with the truth of who God says we are. Remember, we are His own children whom He loves and whom He likes!
Until next time . . .
NOTE: If you or someone you know is in need of finding a safe place for emotional and/or spiritual healing and restoration, please contact us at The Father’s Heart Intensive Christian Counseling Ministry through our web site at www.fathersheart.com or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
We are located in the North Georgia Mountains in a retreat-oriented environment and have established opportunities for ministry to individuals or couples for time periods as little as a few hours to as long as five days.