Monthly Archives: April 2015


Hi all

I read a quote this morning which really resonated with me.  I have talked about the voice of shame and talked about listening for another voice.  This speaks to what I am talking about:

From the Heart; may it Go to the Heart  –   Beethoven

If we think heart to heart and speak heart to heart we are speaking a different language from shame.  If we allow ourselves to even begin to imagine what the heart would think and speak in different situations, we begin to dance to the voice of love.  That voice is diametrically the opposite of shame.

If my heart connects with your heart and that leads the way in my life, then I am moving out of shame.  Just think how that could make our world a more peaceful way to be.



The voice of kindness

One of the things I encourage people to do when healing from shame is to begin to discern the different voices in their head.  The voice of shame is harsh and unkind.  It may sound like truth, but only because you have heard it your whole life and have become identified with your shame core.  The voice of Love is kind and supportive.  It builds you up and NEVER tears you down.  It is a voice that is always there but often has not been truly heard or acknowledged.

Usually the voice of shame enters more dominantly on the left or right side of your head and the voice of Love will enter on the other side.  As you begin to listen, the voice of Love may sound very soft and be hard to hear.  That is because you are not used to listening for it or hearing it.

As you listen to the voices in your head and discern which voice you are hearing, you can begin to develop the “ears” to hear the voice of kindness.  When you hear the voice of shame you can then literally turn your head in the opposite direction.  As you do so, ask yourself, “what would the voice of love or kindness say to me if I was listening?”  Then be still and listen.  Love comes in stillness.  It is peaceful.  It is kind.  It is worth listening for and it is worth listening to!

You can ask a question and listen to how the voice of shame responds.  You can ask a question and listen to how the voice of Kindness responds.  To heal from shame we become willing to listen to the voice of love, even if we don’t believe it at first.

A little willingness goes a long way.

Peace to your heart.


Change “one” thought

Ahhh- sometimes it can seem like so much or too much, as we really go solidly into a healing process.  So, it helps to pick “one” thing to focus on.  Changing just our thoughts won’t be the total process of healing shame, but it is part of the process.

Sometimes when I am writing my “morning pages”- a term from Julia Cameron’s Book, “The Artist’s Way”, I will stumble onto a thought that totally amazes me.  I realize it is my thought and I become very aware it is a thought I DO NOT want to carry around anymore.  For instance, a thought I realized I did not want was how I subtly (or not so subtly) want my husband to do certain things to show he loves me.  ACK- even as I write it I cringe.  So, the new thought is:  “What if, the way he is and shows he loves me is absolutely perfect- now- and always!”  It completely shifts the energy.  Now I notice all the ways he shows he cares and loves me as opposed to looking for the certain ways I designated the way I wanted things to be.

Changing that thought feels so good and peaceful.  It is between myself and me (well, except for all who read this blog!)  I look for ways to create more peace in my life.  This is clearly one way.



One of the important tools I use in healing shame is in teaching our basic human rights and empowering people to live from them.

I can’t think of a right much more important than:




It is in living from our personal truth and empowering self with our truth that we are able to turn away from our shame. However, that is not always easy to do.   People tend to believe that their truth “should” fit for other people. Even when trying to be open or loving it is so easy to somehow communicate to someone else a better or different way to believe.


I love to step into different subcultures and just listen to people share. I begin to hear their belief system. I hear their opinions and their biases and hear what they support and what they don’t support. What an amazing process. We have so many ways of looking at and interpreting the world.


I get to determine what “truth” fits for me. I get to live my life in the way that mirrors my truth. I don’t need to defend it. I just get to live it. It empowers me away from shame.


There is no “one” way to live. I develop my value system and I live from that.

Peace to your heart!


Shame Cycle

When our shame gets triggered a very predictable and destructive shame cycle begins.  A shame cycle can last for decades or for a short time if we can learn to identify it and intervene on it.

What I mean when I say, “our shame gets triggered”, is that something either internal or external sets off the old shame core beliefs.  So, if deep down I have a belief that I am “not enough”, and that is not healed, then something someone says or does, or something I think can trigger the old feelings of not being enough.  It would not be so bad if we knew when that happened.  However, most of the time our shame gets triggered and we don’t know it.  That coupled with shame of our shame makes it really hard to stop the ball from rolling down the hill and becoming more destructive and more intense as it rolls.

Once our shame gets triggered, three things happen simultaneously.  We are triggered, we move into a defensive posture, and we shut down from our real feelings.  We may look like we are having all sort of feelings.  However, the reaction is really a coverup for the underlying feelings.  We may be ranting and raving and look really angry, but underneath we may be really hurt or scared.  The hurt and scared do not show to the outside observer or self.

Once those three things happen, we drop into a self defeating behavior.  The really really hard thing here is that until the shame is resolved (hard to do if we don’t know we are in it), we live in this self defeating place.  The things that may be productive or helpful elude us.  As we live in the self defeating space we reinforce the shame.  This place’s hallmark is feeling very out of control.  Our behavior may be very out of control or our inner critic may be out of control.

Eventually we try to get control again.  We make plans and strategize or make amends or send flowers, but we haven’t come to terms with the shame that got triggered.  So, the “getting control strategy” may bring temporary relief, but we are destined to trigger again.

I will be building on this in future blogs and my book spends a great deal of time talking about the shame cycle and how to dismantle it.  However, for now, let it suffice to say, that it is really helpful to know when we are in a shame cycle.  If we can name it we have begun to move in a different direction.  It gives us a chance to begin to use the tools that we are learning to intervene on shame.

More to come!


I have noticed that when I expose my shame I feel very vulnerable.  I am showing my underbelly.  I am letting someone else know where I feel stupid or less than or unworthy.  At that time I am risking being misunderstood and if that happens, re-experiencing the shame.

It helps to really have that awareness and have it in the context of shame so that I pick carefully who I will share my shame with.

Early in my work as a therapist I did not let people know when they shared their shame, mistakes, history, with me, that they may feel very vulnerable.  So, I learned that people, after they shared, did not always know how to come back and see me again.  I would have people come in and see me and share deeply.  At times they would do that before they knew me very well and before they had a trusting relationship with me.  I would feel very honored they had shared with me and very puzzled when some of them did not come back.  What I learned was that after they had exposed their secrets and shame, they did not know how to come back.  They were afraid I would judge them harshly.  That is what they were already doing to themselves and so they projected that on me.

I learned to tell people from the beginning of my work with them that once they started sharing with me in a deep way, they may feel very vulnerable and have a hard time coming back to see me.  They may think I was judging them and would not want to work with them.  I told them that I would not be judging them, that I would be very honored when they shared and that I would very much want to see them again.

Letting people know they would feel vulnerable was very helpful.  I suggest that when you share your shame with people you let them know you are vulnerable and let them know what you need from them as you share. (Sometimes it helps to ask people to not interrupt, or to ask them to not judge, or to just honor that you are not blaming them but just trying to heal you own shame.)

This is part of why I talk about creating safety around sharing shame and secrets.  It is why we pick carefully when we share the stuff where we are really vulnerable.

Peace to your heart!

I have the right to Be Myself

In the healing of shame it is quite helpful to learn our rights.  One right that I an encouraging people to claim is:  I have the right to be myself.

Let me back up a bit.  Growing up is where we learn what either builds our self esteem or doesn’t  It can be a bit threatening in a family system or school system to truly encourage a child to be themselves.  It is easier to maintain order and the illusion of control if I try to cubby hole you.  Then I can teach you in a way that will funnel you into being a certain way.  To truly encourage a child to develop their natural abilities and strengths can leave the family or school without the resources of skill sets to really support the child in the way that best fits for them.

So, we can often be left having yearnings or dreams that don’t get met.  Part of healing shame is to notice where we have holes in our learning and begin to consciously fill in the holes .  If you notice you are doing something that just does not fit for you and truly want something else, you can begin to work with your inner self and give self the message:”You have the right to be yourself.”

I grew up in a home where my mom was a teacher.  I went to college and became a teacher.  Too bad I didn’t get to be a student teacher before the end of my degree, because it turned out it just was not what I wanted to be.  It took me awhile to really acknowledge this and to begin to open to what it was I really wanted to do.

I believe my fulfillment in life has been much deeper because I switched professions and allowed myself to do what I felt my inner guidance directed me to.  My Dad said to me once, “you picked the one profession I know nothing about!”  So, if I had waited for him to steer me in the direction of psychotherapist and public speaker, it wouldn’t have happened.

I have the right to be myself!


One of the things that can keep us from peace is to “personalize.”  In his book, “The Four Agreements,” Miguel Ruiz has an entire chapter on not personalizing.  He talks about not personalizing ANYTHING.  Whatever someone else says or does is about their script, their perceptions, what they learned and their own template of what is important or good enough.  When we personalize we make everything about self.

This is very much the case with shame.  If I have a shame core belief that “I am not enough,” then I will not only hear it wherever I am, but I will project it onto you and make it about you.  So you behave in a certain way and I make it about me and give it the power to control how I feel about myself.

It is a sure way to be in hell.  It is a sure way to stay out of peace.  And, it can be Extremely hard to not do.  I think it becomes harder in our intimate relationships.  We have more of a tendency to make the other persons behavior about self.  That is one of those beliefs that bears scrutiny.  First, ask yourself,” is it really is true?”  Then ask,” is it is a belief I really want to hold onto?”  Then find a more peaceful belief to replace the original one with.  If I can begin to move in the direction of not personalizing what you do and say, I have more control in my life.  I am not giving you the power to define me or upset me or help me feel better.

Don’t Personalize Anything- now there is a challenge for all of us!

Develop an Inner Guide- Maude

One thing we all have is “Inner Wisdom.”  It lives in the quiet center of our heart.  I have come to believe that when it comes to healing shame it can be extrIMG_0536emely helpful, if not mandatory, to develop this part of self in order to heal.

I have done several things over the years to develop this part of myself.  I will share one here today.  I have an inner wise woman.  I can sit in quiet and imagine talking to a very old, very wise woman.  I can bring questions to her and receive answers.  I sometimes sit with her and just communicate with her in the silence.  Sometimes I grab some paper and a pen and have a dialogue with her on paper.  The more I have done this, the easier it is to remember to do it and to experience her answers.

Back when I turned 50 I was given a doll.  She was this amazing old woman.  I named her, Maude.  Now I had an image and a name for my inner wisdom.  Now when I want to connect with that part of myself I picture Maude.  This is a picture of her.

She is amazing and she really represents inner wisdom.  Sometimes she says things to me which are so different than my more unconscious self would say.  I know it is coming from a different part of me.

So, if you consciously work on developing your inner wisdom, you can do it without a visual of your inner wisdom or with one.  Over the years I have had people share with me many interesting representations of their inner wisdom

By the way, when my book comes out you will see that it is co-authored by Maude.  She has some very interesting additions to my writing.   She sometimes says the hard and bold things!

Have fun developing your inner wisdom.  It can help so much in healing shame.

Poem- If I wanted a Swing

I would want a swing,

If I wanted a swing,

that didn’t know how high to go, and wouldn’t learn.

That welcomed the sweetness of the air flowing fast,


Saw the clouds upside down with new faces and pictures where  they hadn’t been,


called to every old spirit that wanted to swing but hadn’t or wouldn’t and said,

“get on and fly into the sun with me.”


If I wanted a swing I would want a swing that drank in the sky,

drunk with light!

Barb Tonn