Shame: A Festering Wound of the Soul



It’s the core of our experience with a psychopath. We experience shame when we’re with a psychopath, and we experience shame when it’s over.

Psychopaths are experts at shaming us in so many ways.  Even after they’re gone, the shame continues as we wonder how we allowed ourselves to be treated so poorly, how we accepted less and less until there was nothing good left,  but still couldn’t let go.

When our relationship with a psychopath started, it seemed like the best thing that ever happened to us. Finally, we were truly loved and appreciated. But then something terrible began to happen. As time went on, it seemed our faults and weaknesses made us unworthy of that love. Being slowly and painfully judged, rejected, and found unworthy by the one who we believed loved us, and whom we loved, led us to feel deep shame.

But now you know you were manipulated, so you know you didn’t deserve the shame you were made to feel. For that very same reason, you don’t deserve the shame you’re feeling now. When you get that, you take a giant step forward.


What is shame?

Shame is the feeling of deep humiliation not for what we’ve done, but for what we are.

Shame can destroy lives. It damages your self-worth, and it’s hard to live a good life when your self-worth is non-existent.

When we feel comfortable enough to take risks and expose ourselves emotionally to someone we believe we can trust — and then experience judgement and rejection instead of empathy — we feel shame.

“Shame is a soul-eating emotion.”

~ Carl Jung

What heals shame?

“Empathy is the antidote to shame. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: Me Too.”

~ Brene Brown

Empathy is something we did not, and could not, get from the psychopath. And empathy is exactly what is needed now to heal from the harm done by that lack of empathy we experienced.

That’s why validation is so important for a victim. And that’s why victim-blaming is so damaging, whether it comes from someone else or from yourself.

Things like, “how could you be so stupid?” or “how could I be so stupid?” are devoid of empathy. They are also devoid of any understanding of how psychopathic manipulation works, which is why it’s vital to learn how you were victimized. If you understand that, you will not blame yourself any longer. When the blame is gone, the shame goes right along with it.

“Dark forces are no match for the light of love, acceptance, self-respect and, most of all, courage. Truth, courage and love of oneself bring shame into the light, where it cannot survive. Love of self, self-forgiveness and the pursuit of emotional healing are soul-affirming, the universal elixir to the cancerous condition of shame.”

~ Ross Rosenberg, MEd, LCPC, CADC

♥ Are you still experiencing shame or have you moved beyond it?  


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25 thoughts on “Shame: A Festering Wound of the Soul”

  1. Empath

    I have a rainbow of emotions the psychopath left me with,and shame is right along with them. Being raised by two p-paths I feel like I shoud of known better. The worst feeling besides the shame that I struggle with is that I am the one completely disfunctional. Because all I meet are these devastating people, and I stay around the familiarity of them. Will I always be damaged? This thought eats my soul.
    Good work Admin, you gave me some brain food for today !

    1. Admin

      I hope you’ll digest that brain food completely, and that it will be very nourishing.

      It’s worth repeating: “Love of self, self-forgiveness and the pursuit of emotional healing are soul-affirming, the universal elixir to the cancerous condition of shame.” I sincerely hope you will experience these things. You are worthy of love, from yourself and from others.

  2. Grace

    I’ve been feeling a lot of shame lately. Like how will I ever be o.k. I too came from a dysfunctional upbringing and seem to find unhealthy people to work my issues out with.
    The good news is I also have a lot of HEALTHY people in my life. This last experience is going
    to take time to recover from. Cruelty is the word that comes to mind. P is still using other people to harm me, and of course no one understands and I can’t tell anyone because they’ll
    think I’m making it up or crazy. i’m detaching in every way I can, have even considered moving.
    Luckily I do have some healthy people I can count on. I’m sure I’ll get better and the shame will lessen, it just takes time. Thanks for this great article, your pictures are so accurate of how this makes us feel.

    1. Admin

      It does take time. I’m glad you have healthy people you can count on. Thanks for commenting on the photos! It’s not always easy to find just the right ones, because they also have to be in the public domain so they’re free to use. I wish you all the best.

  3. Frances

    What can you do when it is your family the ones that do not understand your shame and the pain you are feeling for being in this relationship, which is not easy to end, and are not emphatic or validate you. They just want you to ended just like nothing and you feel like crap because they are constantly judging you and don’the see you with respect anylonger.

    1. Admin

      I’m sorry you’re not getting support from your family. I understand how much that hurts. Most people who have not been in an abusive relationship simply don’t understand the effects it has on the victim, so they aren’t able to provide the support that’s needed. If you’re still in this relationship, they most likely don’t understand that because abuse destroys self-esteem and self-confidence, it makes it harder to end the relationship because you need self-esteem and self-confidence to do so. They’re probably unaware that they’re hurting you even more. If you’ve tried explaining these things to them and it hasn’t done any good, accept that they can’t understand and get support from others who do. A support group offered by your local domestic violence organization, and a therapist who specializes in abusive relationships, can be good sources of support and validation for you and will also help you to free yourself from your situation. I hope you’ll do these things, because you’re worth it and because you need some support and empathy to help you move forward. (((HUG)))

  4. Jenny

    Dear Admin
    My psycho has just married another lady and the sadness has been emense .
    I just can’t work out , with all the amuse and challenges I faced with him , how another women entered the arena and stole what I thought was my prize .
    I not only have to deal with the aftermath of loosing the person I most loved ever in my life , the shame and humiluation of the behaviour I endured and now I sm having thrust in my face , how wonderful this new nice lady is ?
    He is highly intelligent and would criticise my intellect and that I was not his equal and yet I have held very high paid executive jobs . His new wife is a shop assistant in a food store . There is nothing wrong with this , of course , and I am sure she is nice , but how has this happened ?
    The worst is he continues to text , vack now to 20 a day ,email and tell me he must have replied from me .
    I asked if he would meet me for a coffee to discuss and I suppose for me have closure , but he says there is no purpose at the moment – he may start to see me next year when he is ready and not before .
    I thought he had gone , that his finale was to Marry someone else but he still wants to control me too . My real shame is that I still love him deeply and read these texts he’s sending .

    1. Admin

      I’m sorry to hear what he’s putting you through. I know how painful it is when they move on to someone else, and the fact that he’s sending you so many texts and emails makes it worse. Don’t let him thrust it in your face any longer. Block him from texting and sending emails, and don’t check up on him on Facebook. Seeing him won’t bring closure — it will only open the door wider. When you have absolutely no contact with him, it will give you the time and space you need to start thinking clearly about all of it. Don’t let him continue to control you and your emotional well-being. It’s not doing anything good for you, and in fact it’s harmful. It’s hard to cut the last ties, but one day you will be very happy you did.

  5. gia

    thankyou thankyou thankyou ! I woke up this morning with a deep sadness. the P resurfaced after 5 months and I picked up the phone. what a mistake! this will help me somehow get away again, before he gets his threatening claws back in. sometimes we don’t want to believe that’s what they are because they are so convincing at putting the blame on us. I started thinking maybe hes right, but then I realized the manipulation and the fact he had absolutely no EMPATHY to what I had suffered, anxiety fear and now i am on meds. i just want to feel myself again.

    1. Admin

      I’m glad to hear this will help keep you away from him. The lack of any empathy is the giveaway. Stay strong!

  6. janes

    i feel ashamed of my IGNORANCE OF Ps
    I ‘ve been using my anger from my experiences with Ps toward benefical actions such as reading the P REPALENT TOOL MANUALS such as Boundaries, PsychoPaths & Love, Emotional Rape, Who is Pulling Your String, Without Conciense, 30Covert Manupulation Tactics & rest of the great P free living manuals:)
    i am almost done with Pschopaths & Love book as well. i will be commenting on Amazon soon. Watch out !
    i have been running into a buzz word/ reoccuring situation such as
    Ps focus on us to exploite our strenght & weekness , we focus on our weakeness and blame our selves for everything that goes wrong with Ps.
    * WE MUST BE LOADED WITH WEAPONS OF MASS P DESTRUCTION AT ALL TIMES (All of these lethal Torches/Books- Ps hate the Light most)*

    1. Admin

      I agree, it is very important to understand psychopaths and how they work! When we do, we can repel them in the future, and we also learn we weren’t the problem, and the blame/shame stops.

      One of the things we learn is what kinds of things they exploit to reach their goals, though, so in that sense it’s also important to put some attention on ourselves. Since Ps exploit weak boundaries, or our cognitive bias, etc., working on those things will also help us avoid them.

      “WE MUST BE LOADED WITH WEAPONS OF MASS P DESTRUCTION AT ALL TIMES” Now I have a mental image of you as Tank Girl:

      1. Admin

        I just want to add that learning about ourselves, and doing things like developing boundaries, isn’t about self-blame at all. It’s just another way to protect ourselves.

        “if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

        But in an even bigger sense, they’re things that help us to live a better life in general. If there’s a good part somewhere in what we experienced, this is it.

  7. deborah

    Dear Admin,
    Once again thank you for an eye opening blog.
    In my case due to being hynotised and put into a trancelike state I see how the playing field wasn’t level. I’d never been hypnotise before so how can I beat myself up over becoming involved with such a sick individual? It appears to me from all the research I have been doing since February,that this natural instinct of the psychopath isn’t discussed enough if ever! I know this is what I experienced. He knew I wasn’t attracted to him and he wasn’t going to be able to get close to me otherwise. One day after getting off the phone with him, I felt like I was in La land and how I was feeling was exquisite/euphoric. But within a couple of hours I started to experience anxiet y and felt the need to speak to him and hear his voice.We live in different countries. My life was surreal after speaking with him, I’d daydream about him nonstop. Lie awake at night thinking about him for hours and hours. I became addicted to him.This is without ever having consumating our relationship. He got thousands of dollars from me.
    I’ve not experienced the blame game nor his attacking me verbally
    but certainly his tedious game playing and one thing I came to realize is He’s boring. He isn’t sensual/sexy infact rather a prude. It is exactly for this reason I refused to make love to him. With this type of attitude I discovered he had, I came to the realisation he didn’t love me nor cared about me.
    Because our cultures are at polar opposites I thought, at first, this was the difficulty we were facing. But then through a great deal of research I came to see what the problem was. The man I was involved with is a charismatic psychopath. Very dangerous. I wouldn’t be alone with him nowadays. Thank goodness we live in different countries. But with all that said and done, I miss whatever it is we had or didn’t have.
    My best friend still can’t grasp it nor anyone else who’s not experienced it. It’s just TOO out there. If only individuals who have had what we thought were these Amazing relationships with psychopaths could accept what was done, most likely throughout the relationship that they were hypnotised/put in a trance like state, perhaps they would be able to put the shame they are experiencing to bed.
    It is not our faults! Shame ain’t all that it is cracked up to be.
    I’m in a twelve Step program and have been for over 23 years and have had to do lots of work in this area.
    Thank you once again.

    1. Admin

      Thanks, Deborah, for sharing your experience. It is through learning about psychopaths that we realize shame is unwarranted. When we get to that point, we’ve made a huge leap forward in our healing. When someone is experiencing shame, it simply means they have more to learn. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people willing to perpetuate it, either due to their innocent ignorance or for a more sinister reason. Even on websites supposedly like this one, there’s plenty of victim blaming. That does nothing to help anyone. It keeps people stuck in a bad place where healing can’t happen.
      The P I knew was also a powerful hypnotist, as many or maybe all of them are. But as you said, it’s too far out there to grasp. That’s OK, as long as we know the truth.
      Thank you for your comment.

  8. Joyce M. Short- Author, Carnal Abuse by Deceit

    The general theme running through most of the comments to this post is shame for the attachment as well as shame for the inability to detach, and fear that it will happen again.

    It’s important to realize that attachments are largely chemically based. We are not conscious of the addictive quality of brain chemistry because we don’t see it, taste it, imbibe it, or even, know it’s there. But it is. Our oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine are stirred by romantic overtures. Instead of downing a shot of vodka, we’re drinking a shot of trust as we engage with a psychopath.

    Our friends and family also drank those shots. And many of us, because we suffered with an addiction, fed them information that prolonged their wrongful acceptance of the pyschopath in our life. My own sister, who did not live in the same state with me since the time I was 15, and who I may have seen an average of once every three years, has deemed herself an expert on what took place in my life. And it’s not in any way consistent with what actually happened. In fact, even recently she told me that I am “mistaken” and am “misinterpretting” what happened to me. So I can relate to the pain of others whose family invalidates the harm that they suffered.

    BTW, there is nothing to misinterpret about the fact that he told me he was single when he was married or that he was 8 years younger than he claimed. (I liked older guys at the time… life changes you.) He lied about his religion, education, military service, etc.

    I understand that you simply can’t control how judgmental your family and friends are. I don’t bother with people like that any more. And yes, I feel I lost my sister. I can’t abide to be around her. It’s just too painful.

    What I’ve come to understand, however, is that I have some exceptionally good friends. They are the non-judgmental folks who truly care for others, including me. and I try to be that non-judgmental support for people who rely on me. My sister only cares about being right and having her way, regardless of the pain she causes me. She’s a disappointment.

    When it comes to fearing that you’ll be hoodwinked again because there is something about you that attracts psychopaths….

    That thing that attracts them is your caring and empathy. They can spot it from across the room. They have oxytocin radar. The good news is that you are wiser now. You know there are psychopaths in the world. You know how they operate. Even if they slip into your path, you will only walk along with them for a short while. You’ll figure it out BEFORE you give your heart away.

    Live in reality. Don’t avoid the contradictions you hear from them. Trust your instincts. And don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. Everyone wants to be loved. Psychopaths misuse your desire for love and affection to harm you.

    Stay safe!


    1. Admin

      Great points, Joyce.

      “My own sister, who did not live in the same state with me since the time I was 15, and who I may have seen an average of once every three years, has deemed herself an expert on what took place in my life. And it’s not in any way consistent with what actually happened.”

      The people who do this were also duped by the psychopath. I tried to get a couple of people to see that, but it was useless. They just went on with their invalidation. I let them go, too. I didn’t want people who were so judgmental and lacking in empathy in my life any longer. I’d had more than enough of that from the psychopath. But I agree, it was a huge disappointment.

      “The good news is that you are wiser now. You know there are psychopaths in the world. You know how they operate. Even if they slip into your path, you will only walk along with them for a short while. You’ll figure it out BEFORE you give your heart away.” I couldn’t agree more.

      You stay safe, too, Joyce. Thank you for your comment.

  9. India2013

    Perhaps I can’t sense shame, simply a pervasive sense of worthlessness clings to me.I wrangle more with a delusional hope…as if he might wake up one day, if I only do enough etc. I have read widely and realise it’s all futile and I am sliding further away from reality into the comfort of dissociation, but that absurd psychopathic/ trauma bond holds me in its grip.

    1. Admin

      Shame damages your self-worth, so your pervasive sense of worthlessness could very well be a result of it.

      Even if you realize it’s futile, it takes a while for our heart to catch up to our mind. It’s good that you’re aware that the bond still has you in its grip. Remember that if this person is a psychopath, there is no one there to love, no one to return your love. You are worthy of more than an illusion. But the bond doesn’t break from hearing that. Keep reading, to remind yourself every day. Don’t have any contact with this person — the space will allow you to begin to think clearly. Best of luck to you! Don’t give up.

  10. Megan

    So much shame. Shame while with him, when he’d hurl his insults or his degrading comments at me…and then shame now that it’s over and I look back and recall just how badly I was treated, and how I allowed it.

    I talk about it with others, and sometimes friends can’t hide their disgust or stunned silence at some of the comments I tell them he made to me. “He SAID that?!” Or “How were you okay with that, Megan?” Those comments make me want to curl up into a ball and hide from the world. Because I truly don’t know.

    I don’t know how I stayed with a man who flirted so shamelessly with others, commented on their – ahem – assets so bluntly and crudely in front of me while others were around, who called me out on my flaws in front of others (clearly he figured out the most humiliating thing he could do to my introverted personality was air my dirty laundry in front of others)……..I think of certain memories and become a shrinking violet.

    I’m hoping it’s all just because it’s so raw and new. I’m hoping eventually I can let go of some of these unproductive and damaging feelings. (I also hate knowing how much he’s affected me, and yet knowing he’s probably not impacted at all by my absence; or if he is, it’s only because he’s irritated he didn’t get the payout he was expecting from my business, that we ended before it really took off.)

    Oh so many conflicting emotions…….

    1. Adelyn Birch

      It comes down to the age-old question, “why does she stay?” Your friends don’t understand; people who haven’t experienced it just don’t get it. They weren’t emotionally involved, so they were always able to see things objectively. But when you’re the one stuck in the middle of that tangled mess, it’s a very different story. There are powerful emotional and psychological forces at work, because of the intermittent reinforcement that’s part of an abusive relationship. The abuse happens periodically instead of continuously, and this creates a powerful bond known as a trauma bond: “powerful emotional attachments are seen to develop from two specific features of abusive relationships: Power imbalances and intermittent good-bad treatment.” That bond is also called a betrayal bond or Stockholm syndrome. Also, ongoing emotional and psychological abuse wears down your sense of self-worth and confidence, which makes it much easier for us to put up with mistreatment, and easier for the abuser to get away with it. Had you been able to think clearly, you would not have allowed it to happen. This is easily proved by your looking back at it now with bewilderment and asking yourself how you could have let it happen.

      You’re in the thick of it right now, and experiencing many conflicting (but equally intense) emotions. As you heal, those counter-productive thoughts and feelings you’re having will resolve. If they don’t, that means you haven’t healed; you’ve only accepted living with negative beliefs about yourself, and that will have a negative effect on your life. Learn all you can about trauma bonds so you can resolve the shame you feel.

      Have compassion for yourself. I know it’s hard right now, but self-compassion is powerful healing force. At this point you may not see that you deserve to have compassion for yourself, but you do xx

      The Self-Compassion Effect

  11. Mary

    Shame hurts so deep. When you feel it because of early programming and when someone engages in the act of shaming and directs it at you. I have such a long standing relationship with shame. And I think the reason I am still here is because I am not afraid to face it. But I have been criticized for this, for facing the past and dealing with it and being open about it in some very harsh ways very recently. The person who aimed the shame gun at me and fired it right in my face by pushing the meanest buttons he could muster including putting me down as a woman in a way that revealed deep down he hates women like white supremacists hate other ethnic groups is my drummer in the band my husband and I started many years ago. He tore me down. And I am trying to build myself back up and make an important decision. Forgiveness is great for people who never had the concept used against them by an abusive person. I do not forgive abusive behavior because though I know forgiveness and reconciliation are distinct concepts semantically speaking they are strongly linked and misused concepts in cases of abuse. Abusive people demand reconciliation as proof of forgiveness and this is happening in this situation too. This drummer who acted this way to me acknowledged what he did and asked for forgiveness (the ONLY reason I chose to communicate with him again) and I accepted his apology though I told him toast can never be bread again at the same time I accepted his apology. He thinks this means we are going to get together and play music again and though I am strongly drawn to his amazing musical ability as a fellow musician (as is my husband the guitar player) I do not want to be around him anymore after the way he treated me (my husband fully supports and respects me but he feels two ways about it too.) Trying to have a band is more complicated than a crash course in quantum physics. And there is another reason I forgave him. He is very close to the edge and though I don’t ever want him to hurt me again I also do not want him to hurt himself. We musicians tend to be wounded souls he is no exception. Deeply wounded soul. I just do not know if it is a good idea to let my concern for his well being become more important than my concern for my own well being. Because man that hurt in a way that can never be the same again. I think in all honesty this will end up in a compromise. He is so fun to play music with we probably will jam with him again. And after losing a bass player to suicide I don’t want to take music with the best he ever played with away from him either. See he was talking like the bass player whose not here anymore because he finally did it. And things got so hateful when I suggested letting go of substance abuse habits might help him stop thinking that way. He has been found out and is being forced to seek help by doctors. I feel like I need to be real careful how I proceed for his sake and my own. If we do jam with him again I think it needs to be at my house where he has no access to his preferred substances. But man today I feel like I just want to walk the hell away. Because I can’t control what he does and I trusted him as a friend and a person who respected women, I talked with him about some very deep personal stuff and he used it against me in some of the meanest ways I ever felt.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      What he did was a serious violation of your trust and exceptionally abusive. I understand why you’re giving it so much thought, but maybe you’re giving it a little too much. These things stood out for me:

      I talked with him about some very deep personal stuff and he used it against me in some of the meanest ways I ever felt

      pushing the meanest buttons he could muster including putting me down as a woman in a way that revealed deep down he hates women

      that hurt in a way that can never be the same again.

      Another thing that stood out is this: “We musicians tend to be wounded souls he is no exception.” In response, I say the only intelligent way to make judgements about people is to base those judgements on their patterns of behavior, and not on what we think the reasons for their behavior might be.

      It’s not a good idea to let your concern for his well being become more important than your concern for your own well being. From what you’ve said, this guy really hurt you. I understand it’s complicated by playing music together, etc. I know you’re a kind person who wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. But because of the seriousness of what he did, I’m not sure if I would if I were in your place. If you do give him another chance, realize that you’re taking a risk. Chances are that he’ll do it again. Has he even offered you a genuine apology and expressed remorse???

      Good luck with it, Mary.

      “The single most important empowerment tool is to ‘accept no excuses’ for hurtful, harmful, or inappropriate behavior.”

      ~Dr. George Simon

  12. Mary

    Thank you. That was useful and encouraging along the lines of what my gut is telling me to do. And it is funny you ended with a George Simon quote as he is the guy I like to look up when I encounter people who behave hatefully. I just looked up his video on understanding the disturbed character. I went to a good friend’s house today to take my mind off things and one of the things I did to empower myself is to agree to try out a drummer her and her mom want me to meet. They tell me the guy doesn’t do drugs or drink, which is exactly the direction I want to go in the band. I have been in the scene long enough to know nothing gets accomplished when musicians are in it for the party.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Mary, I believe you’re doing the right thing. I know it’s not easy; even as I was writing my response, part of me was saying “aw shucks, give the guy another chance!” No, because the way that guy ripped you to pieces—while using something personal you’d confided in him—was truly hurtful and harmful, *purposely so*, and you’d even said yourself it was so bad you would never be the same. When we grow up with abusers, we tolerate too much. When we finally develop boundaries, it’s not easy. We feel guilty about them or we question ourselves. It takes practice to be able to take a stand for ourselves and protect ourselves, but after we do it a few times we realize it’s well worth it. I hope your husband will support you in this decision. George Simon is fantastic, and I quote him often here. He gets it, and he can get it across to others. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy. I wish you the best of luck, Mary! I think you’re moving the band in the right direction.

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