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Healing the Shame that Binds You: Recovery Classics Edition [Paperback]

John Bradshaw
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 15 2005 Recovery Classics

This classic book, written 17 years ago but still selling more than 13,000 copies every year, has been completely updated and expanded by the author.

"I used to drink," writes John Bradshaw,"to solve the problems caused by drinking. The more I drank to relieve my shame-based loneliness and hurt, the more I felt ashamed."

Shame is the motivator behind our toxic behaviors: the compulsion, co-dependency, addiction and drive to superachieve that breaks down the family and destroys personal lives. This book has helped millions identify their personal shame, understand the underlying reasons for it, address these root causes and release themselves from the shame that binds them to their past failures.

Frequently Bought Together

Healing the Shame that Binds You: Recovery Classics Edition + Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing Your Inner Child + Bradshaw On: The Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem
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Product Description

About the Author

John Bradshaw is a counselor, speaker and one of the leading voices of the recovery movement, especially inner child and family issues. His classic books include Healing the Shame that Binds You (1.3 million copies sold), Bradshaw on: The Family (1.2 million copies sold) and Homecoming (3 million copies sold).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


The Problem—
Spiritual Bankruptcy



We have no imagination for Evil, but Evil has us in its grip.

—C. G. Jung

Introduction: Shame as Demonic (The Internalization Process)

    As I've delved deeper into the destructive power of toxic shame, I've come to see that it directly touches the age-old theological and metaphysical discussion generally referred to as the problem of evil. The problem of evil may be more accurately described as the mystery of evil. No one has ever explained the existence of evil in the world. Centuries ago in the Judeo-Christian West, evil was considered the domain of the Devil, or Satan, the fallen angel. Biblical scholars tell us that the idea of a purely evil being like the Devil or Satan was a late development in the Bible. In the book of Job, Satan was the heavenly district attorney whose job it was to test the faith of those who, like Job, were specially blessed.

    During the Persian conquest of the Israelites, the Satan of Job became fused with the Zoroastrian dualistic theology adopted by the Persians, where two opposing forces, one of good, Ahura Mazda, the Supreme Creator deity, was in a constant battle with Ahriman, the absolute god of evil. This polarized dualism was present in the theology of the Essenes and took hold in Christianity where God and his Son Jesus were in constant battle with the highest fallen angel, Satan, for human souls. This dualism persists today only in fundamentalist religions (Muslim terrorists, the Taliban, the extreme Christian Right and a major part of evangelical Christianity).

    The figure of Satan and the fires of hell have been demythologized by modern Christian biblical scholars, theologians and ­philosophers.

    The mystery of evil has not been dismissed by the demythologizing of the Devil. Rather, it has been intensified in the twentieth century by two world wars, Nazism, Stalinism, the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the heinous and ruthless extermination of Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhism by Pol Pot. These reigns of evil form what has been called a collective shadow, and it has been shown how naïve and unconscious the people of the world have been in relation to these evils.

    The denial of evil seems to be a learned behavior. The idea of evil is always subject to denial as a coping mechanism.

    Evil is real and is a permanent part of the human condition. 'To deny that evil is a permanent affliction of humankind,' says the philosopher Ernst Becker in his book Escape from Evil, 'is perhaps the most dangerous kind of thinking.' He goes on to suggest that in denying evil, humans have heaped evil on the world. Historically, great misfortunes have resulted from humans, blinded by the full reality of evil, thinking they were doing good but dispensing miseries far worse than the evil they thought to eradicate. The Crusades during the Middle Ages and the Vietnam War are ­examples that come to mind.

    While demons, Satan and hellfire have been demythologized by any critically thinking person, the awesome collective power of evil remains. Many theologiams and psychologists refer to evil as the demonic in human life. They call us to personal wholeness and self-awareness, especially in relation to our own toxic shame or shadow, which goes unconscious and in hiding because it is so painful to bear. These men warn against duality and polarization. 'We must beware of thinking of Good and Evil as absolute opposites,' writes Carl Jung. Good and evil are potentials in every human being; they are halves of a paradoxical whole. Each represents a judgment, and 'we cannot believe that we will always judge rightly.'

    Nothing can spare us the torment of ethical decision. In the past, prior to the patriarchies of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, it was believed that moral evaluation was built and founded on the certitude of a moral code that pretended to know exactly what is good and what is evil. But now we know how any patriarchy, even religious ones, can make cruel and violent decisions. Ethical decision is an uncertain and ultimately a creative act. My new book on moral intelligence calls these patriarchies 'cultures of obedience,' and presents an ethics of virtues as a way to avoid such moral totalism. The Jews who killed their Nazi guards or SS troopers coming to search their homes are now considered ethically good, no matter what the absolutist moral code says about killing. There is a structure of evil that transcends the ­malice of any single individual. The Augustinian priest Gregory Baum was the man I first heard call it 'the demonic.'

    It can begin with the best of intentions, with a sincere belief that one is doing good and fighting to eradicate evil, as in the Vietnam War—but it ends with heinous evil. 'Life consists of achieving Good, not apart from Evil, but in spite of it,' says the psychologist Rollo May. There is no such thing as pure good in human affairs. Those who claim it are seriously deluded and will likely be the next perpetrators of evil.

    As I pointed out in the preface to this revised edition, the affect shame has the potential for the depths of human evil or the heights of human good. In this regard shame is demonic. 'The daimonic,' says the psychologist Steven A. Diamond, 'is any natural function which has the power to take over the whole person.' Shame is a natural feeling that, when allowed to function well, monitors a person's sense of excitement or pleasure. But when the feeling of shame is violated by a coercive and perfectionistic religion and culture—especially by shame-based source figures who mediate religion and culture—it becomes an all-embracing identity. A person with internalized shame believes he is inherently flawed, inferior and defective. Such a feeling is so painful that defending scripts (or strategies) are developed to cover it up. These scripts are the roots of violence, criminality, war and all forms of addiction.

    What I'll mainly describe in the first part of this book is how the affect shame can become the source of self-loathing, hatred of others, cruelty, violence, brutality, prejudice and all forms of destructive addictions. As an internalized identity, toxic shame is one of the major sources of the demonic in human life.





The Healthy Faces

of Shame (HDL Shame)


Everyone needs a sense of shame,
but no one needs to feel ashamed.

—Frederick Nietzsche


    Because of its preverbal origins, shame is difficult to define. It is a healthy human feeling that can become a true sickness of the soul. Just as there are two kinds of cholesterol, HDL (healthy) and LDL (toxic), so also are there two forms of shame: innate shame and toxic/life-destroying shame. When shame is toxic, it is an excruciatingly internal experience of unexpected exposure. It is a deep cut felt primarily from the inside. It divides us from ourselves and from others. When our feeling of shame becomes toxic shame, we disown ourselves. And this disowning demands a cover-up. Toxic shame parades in many garbs and get-ups. It loves darkness and secretiveness. It is the dark, secret aspect of shame that has evaded our study.

    Because toxic shame stays in hiding and covers itself up, we have to track it down by learning to recognize its many faces and its many distracting behavioral cover-ups.


    The idea of shame as healthy seems foreign to English-speaking people because we have only one word for shame in English. To my knowledge, most other languages have at least two words for shame (see Figu...

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy book to read Dec 1 2003
By A Customer
If any part of your childhood (or adult life) was or is dysfunctional, this is a must-read book. I wish I could tell everyone how important it is to get a book like this and read it until everything in your past and present begins to make sense. It took me a while to "get it," but now I see how important it is to understand that everyone in the family has to play certain roles to keep the dysfunctional family dysfunctionally functioning. When you read this book you'll understand why everything happened in your family the way it did. Thanks, John Bradshaw, for explaining the dysfunctional family so clearly - and showing how to change your life forever by healing the shame that binds you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful!! July 16 2009
Healing The Shame That Binds You - is for those of you who are ready to take an honest look at the way shame has affected every aspect of your life. Our society uses shame almost everywhere, and this book will show you how sick this has made all of us. We are so sick, and it's SO normal, we don't even see it!! This book will open your eyes, as it did mine. It was hard for me to read, because it hurts to see how sick I've been for so long.... But in order to deal with something, we have to see it first right?! So now I see it, and I will be dealing with my toxic shame, so that I won't pass it on to my children. I highly recommend this book to every person who is on the path to happiness, and who is ready and willing to look at something that is almost totally ignored elsewhere.....our relationship with shame.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For All Those Living In the Shadow of Shame... June 27 1999
Many suffer from the damaging effects of Toxic Shame. A little-explored subject, it causes one to feel defective from the core of one's being. The roots of shame come from abuse and dysfunctionality in the family and early socialization in school. People then tend to measure their worth against external standards and feedback and when it is negative or lacking, can feel a devasting loss of self. Whether perpetrated on an overt or covert level, the damaging effects can last a lifetime, leading people into mental illness, addiction, and crippling disfunctionality.
Bradshaw gives a diagnostic and thereapeutic vocabulary to those who desperately need it. Some people are shamed by the same people over and over again (ie: spouses and family) and need the tools with which to cope. Based on the twelve-step paradigm, Bradshaw shows us how to recognize the signs of toxic shame and how to (with the help of a therapist and/or healing community) eventually overcome it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hit home March 11 1999
By A Customer
I was amazed at the clarity of what Bradshaw wrote and how I could relate to it. So many things make more sense now. I'm not saying that it fixes you, that still requires personal work, but it sure did explain alot of my own behavior.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Healing March 7 2014
By Dianne
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Haven't totally finished and not as easy as otherbooks read. Sure once finished I will learn more!

Thansk you for your concern
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational Nov. 22 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
For me John Bradshaw has been a positive influence, opening my eyes to my family dynamics and helping me with counselling my clients. I suggest everyone take advantage of this information offered by amazon.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Healing the Shame Sept. 3 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a hard book to read but is well worth it. It's a great starting point and gives great advice.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More stars, please Aug. 6 2004
By A Customer
I love Bradshaw. He's really only a handful of people who tell it like it is and I credit him with changing my life for the better. As a man now in his forties, having grown up in the south, I know all too well about shame and what it does to the mind and body. Before I knew better, I would see movies and read books about individuals who had gone through difficult things, movies and books such as "Sybil" and "The Bark of the Dogwood," and think, "yeah? So?" only to realize years later that my point of reference was so far off that I couldn't determine what was "normal." Now, many years after therapy and working on myself, I can honestly recommend this wonderful book. If you're suffering and feel soul-sick, this is the book for you. Let the healing begin.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Shame is shame
When the author describes the damage of shame he is right on. However, he describes shame as a normal healthy emotion. It is not. Read more
Published on May 27 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Stars Come and Go, But Bradshaw Still Shines!
Even though John Bradshaw's star has waned and has been replaced by Dr. Phil's stardom (a good behavioral therapist), "Healing the Shame That Binds You" remains a classic "Know... Read more
Published on May 25 2003 by American Gadfly
4.0 out of 5 stars Taking the healing process to the next level.
Healing The Shame That Binds You is an integral read for anyone going through a recovery process. The concept of shame is intangible and esoteric, which makes this book a harder... Read more
Published on April 1 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Ready to change?
If I could read only one book of this type, this would be the one. The first half of the book helps you uncover how much shame is threaded throughout your existence and day to day... Read more
Published on July 21 2002 by "ebmccauley"
5.0 out of 5 stars Will You Love and Accept Yourself for Doing That?
This is a powerful question to ask youself, and those around you, in the face of self-defeating thoughts and comments. Read more
Published on March 27 2002 by Carmen Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars retrieve your soul from hell
it is no exaggeration to say this was the most helpful self-help book i've ever encountered. for a long time i was always a seeker but could never get to the bottom of the "soul... Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2002 by Orva Schrock
4.0 out of 5 stars Marginally better than "Bradshaw On: The Family:"
I actually wanted to give it 3 1/2 stars, but as that isn't an option, I chose to round up, because the book does have alot of good points. Read more
Published on Sept. 16 2001 by Ms Diva
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