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Healing the Shame that Binds You

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  8,535 ratings  ·  207 reviews
“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 mill
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 15th 2005 by Health Communications Inc (first published October 1st 1988)
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Regina Tula Have you forgiven yourself for the way you are and the way you feel about what ever subject elicits this reaction? Or if it's an other person who is c…moreHave you forgiven yourself for the way you are and the way you feel about what ever subject elicits this reaction? Or if it's an other person who is causing you to feel this way, have you considered the source of who they are and what they mean to you, to elicit such a reaction? Just something to think about. (less)

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 ·  8,535 ratings  ·  207 reviews

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Feb 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-growth
This book is a fundamental text in the field. What I found most helpful was understanding that shame-based families operate in a set of dysfunctional rules. Understanding that is the key to uprooting them from your psyche (or at least not taking them seriously).

It also helped me understand the physical experience of shame and how it shuts down your whole system - it binds to the emotions or sensations you were feeling at the time you were shamed, so when you feel those emotions again, the shame
Natalie Cardon
In the category of self-help books for depression and anxiety, this was definitely a book that completely altered my outlook on life.

I have to warn that the first part delineates the problem, and the second half delineates the solution. The first part can be very tough to get through. But it is necessary to understand the extent of toxic shame. And once you get to the solution part, there are some great things & it's worth it.

I recommend this book for not only people struggling with depression
Lisa  Romano
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
When you are stuck inside a closed family system, you do not know you are not normal. Because the entire organism is ill, you think like the other members of your family, in spite of how wrong you feel within. It is not safe to complain. You are expected to be compliant, and worse--to be grateful.

Healing The Shame That Binds You explains in poetic detail the not so easy to see dynamics that create shame and guilt in closed dysfunctional family systems.

When my life was falling apart, and my famil
Aug 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
If something has helped you to live a happier, more fulfilling life, I won't judge you if it's weird. By that I mean that I am glad that this book exists because it seems to have helped many people. That said, I would not suggest this book to anyone.

TLDR version: Everything is shame! If you died of cancer, it's toxic shame that killed you! (In the book it was not cancer, but the rest is literal.) Not to kink-shame, but the bro gets way overexcited about shame.

Long version: Somewhere in between "
Jonathan Karmel
Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book gave me a lot to think about. I don't doubt that it is true that a lot of behavior that is "off" is caused by shame, but I can't believe that all of it is. For example, isn't some addiction just caused by the addictive nature of the substances? Anyway, here are some ideas from this book that I thought were interesting.

Toxic shame makes you not love yourself the way you are, so you need something outside yourself to feel whole. You obsess on this thing outside yourself. Instead of just
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most enlightening and interesting books I've ever read. But it loses 1/2 a star (and that's generous) for having a title that could send you into a world of shame all on its own. Could you read this on the subway? I did, but I bought a purple book cover for it in order to do so. ... The book talks about how, starting with the story of Adam and Eve, shame has always been at the root of all our undoings. And yet our society continues to use shame as an attempted form of discipli ...more
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life. I'm almost a different person. What this book taught me let me shed shame, and the accompanying terror and anxiety, at least the non chemically motivated kind of anxiety. There's even a section on nlp that helps you alter those shame spiral bad memories that come back over and over, so they never surface without your consent. I am not a self-help book person, but this book is beyond good, I recommend it to anyone who's ever said ihatemyself i hate myself ihatemyself an ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
I stopped reading at page 30.
The ideas are worthy, but the author repeats his concepts again and again - and again! And in doing so, he makes me wonder about his need to convince himself.
The author sounds still obsessed with his own demons: this makes for a heartfelt sharing, but not for an objective viewpoint. And he wants to explain everything with shame, every ill and every neurosis: I distrust any unique explanation, especially when it's about complex phenomena - you know the saying, "When
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
A hot mess of influences from attachment theory, psychodynamic theory, addiction literature, trauma, etc. Bradshaw definitely appropriates a lot, but I was okay with it, and the 'self-help' tone was not unbearable. I appreciated his observations of toxic shame and how it grows out of dysfunctional family dynamics. My favorite chapters were "Liberating your lost inner child" and "Integrating your disowned parts." The former had a guided imagery mediation/exercise that I used with a client success ...more
Sep 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If shame causes everything, then what does it even mean?

According to this book, shame - toxic or healthy - is the root cause of every type of human behavior ever. The writing is grandiose, vague, and so convinced of its own thesis that it offers no more than declarative statements as evidence of itself. Avoid! PS: doesn't help that this guy thinks atheism is a manifestation of "spiritual bankruptcy" caused by toxic shame.
Apr 10, 2015 rated it liked it
I'v never heard who John Bradshaw is, so I decided to watch some videos of him. To be honest, I didn't really gain much trust in him after watching his speeches. A recovered alcoholic, without any psychological degree, who really could have talked a bit less loud – that's what I remembered the most about him. Although he notices his own past mistakes, I couldn't shake the feeling that he was not honest. I was really skeptical about the book's ratings.

This work, as noted by some other people, is
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A MUST READ to understand the shame-based thinking that runs the psyche, not just for those dealing with addictions or compulsive behavior, but those who are still living with wounds from dysfunctional origin families... What lies beneath the symptoms of destructive behaviors, eating disorders, compulsions, addictions, abuse, control or co-dependence issues, and other self-defeating or self-limiting behaviors stems from the shame based thinking and beliefs we learned from the families we grew up ...more
Jun 11, 2008 marked it as reads-on-hold
While a definite "must read" for me, this one is really difficult. I've been bound by shame for most of my life - the last couple of decades to an incredible degree. Sifting through all of that and learning to unravel those ties is a very slow and painful process. Bradshaw's book is an incredible tool for this journey.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through now. Some sections/pages are easier to read than others. I may need to add this one to my personal library. I can see needing to re-read or refere
Adrienne Ridgway
Nov 02, 2012 rated it liked it
I read this book when I was in college studying psychology, or shortly thereafter. I remember this being a REALLY GOOD book at understanding how shame is such an integral part of our shadow selves. If someone is feeling like they have deep, dark secrets or there is something wrong with them or that they are a bad person, or if they are struggling with addiction this book goes a long way in explaining where that can be coming from and how to heal it.
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mr.Bradshaw does a great job clarifying the purpose humans feel shame and how it can be useful.’s only useful in very limited ways compared to how most folks allow it to rule their lives these days. He also does an excellent job helping with ways to free ones self from the toxic shame that is so prevalent in our world. This is a good read.
Tory S. Anderson
This review is of the 1988 edition. A thought-provoking read in which John Bradshaw introduces some valuable concepts and terminology. It is centrally concerned with one's relationship with themself, wherein lies the defining characteristics that can be healthy or toxic shame. In my religious parlance it is concerned with humility, what Bradshaw calls healthy shame:

Healthy shame is the psychoilogical foundation of humility. It is the source of spirituality. - p. vii

During the course of the boo
Rebecca Grace
Mar 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help, psychology
All I can say, is that this is one of the best books I've ever read, period. No matter what you're going through, no matter what hurtles you face, large or small, this book delves straight into the heart of every issue, and believe me, it covers every issue you can imagine. I don't want to give too much away, take too much away from the book itself by sharing its wisdom, when I think you should definitely check it out for yourself. You don't need to be searching for inner-peace, answers to your ...more
Juanita Johnson
Nov 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Without a doubt a must read for anyone working a 12 step program. My only wish is that I had access to, and the willingness to read, this book before I began having children. This books reminds us that everyone is formed from not only our own actions but things that happens and is passed on from our parents. This book provides proof that you can not save another, before saving yourself. It offers resolution in anger between parents and I and the ability to see who they were and how much they lov ...more
Dec 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Joanna by: My fellow Queen Janice
This is the first book I have ever read based on self help and I am hitting myself over the head for not reading it sooner! What an eye-opener it has been and how quickly it has changed things about my life. The book has an excellent bibliography, one that I intend to use to the fullest extent. I am on the last chapter of this book and I have to return it to the library soon but I'm thinking of buying it because it is the most important book I have ever read in my life. I owe it all to my litera ...more
Sep 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
I read most of this book and scanned quickly the unbearable parts of it. It was recommended by someone who found great worth in the book. I do believe this book would be very helpful to those who carry shame from their youth because of any of several reasons. The author is a noted psychologist and has experience many of the troubles he describes and knows how to best help those who need it. To be honest, I just couldn't relate to these things, although I recognize that many people would and need ...more
Jun 28, 2015 added it
I got a lot out of the theory of toxic shame but the exercises are just ridiculous. I've spent many hours, weeks , months and years trying this stuff but have never had my results from it.... In fact, it just made me feel more hopeless.
Aug 07, 2015 rated it liked it
The definitions are a bit too inclusive and vague. Nevertheless, I think techniques listed in this book could be useful in therapeutic setting.
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book for understanding the nature of psychological problems, diagnosing their causes, and working towards resolving them.
Tim Skinner
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book at least once every year and recommend it to anyone struggling with guilt, shame, and controlling people. Bradshaw is one of the preeminent writers on emotional health.
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Outstanding book on coping and healing from toxic shame.
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. Listened to the audiobook. This was helpful to me and so full of information and practices I will want to revisit it.
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book. Really helped me see the difference between healthy and toxic shame. Has excellent ways of overcoming shame and our shame cycles. I would highly recommend this book!
Initially NO
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crisis-healing
I got a lot out of this book. Made me think of how when an abuse, such as psychiatric abuse is dismissed as 'nothing' or 'lying' or 'exaggerating', the mind of the psychiatric survivor tries to come up with ways of communicating to the abuse to a society in denial, a society that strangles the truth.

John Bradshaw talks about how when people cannot speak, or are subjected to denial and abuse the p112, 'Confused feeling' is then 'converted into a thought pattern.'

The automatic defences, if continu
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this for my counselling course and am so glad I did. Apart from the religious references (and the ironic shaming of atheists, which only happened once near the beginning), I found it absolutely fascinating. It explains the difference between healthy and toxic shame, where toxic shame comes from, how it is multi-generational and so passes down the line until someone breaks the cycle, and how your family relationships and assigned role within your family-of-origin impacts your development a ...more
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a textbook for my Understanding Shame and Addiction course. It's one of the most helpful self-help books I've ever read. A deep insight that "toxic shame" is at the core of human nature. The book talks about what the signs of shame are, how they are induced in us growing up by family members, and how to get healed emotionally and spiritually. It's an insightful point that spiritual problems and sexual problems usually occur together. The chapter on sexuality and spirituality is a must-re ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

John Bradshaw has been called "America's leading personal growth expert." The author of five New York Times bestsellers, Bradshaw On: The Family, Healing the Shame That Binds You, Homecoming, Creating Love, and Family Secrets. He created and hosted four nationally broadcast PBS television series based on his bes

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