Shame: Spiritual Suicide
Book Review

Feather pen


We live in a society that is terrified of feelings. In the addictive system that characterizes our culture, feelings are avoided through the institutionalization of shame and the use of the addictive process. Both are diversions. Both are taught and supported by external forces. Each feeds upon and reinforces the other. Alternatively, shame is used to avoid facing an addiction and then the addiction is used to avoid facing the shame. Both are used to distort, deny, or divert feared and unwanted feelings. The use of the addiction as a "fix" to avoid experiencing shame is a temporary solution; it merely results in compounding the problem by increasing the shame. And so the cycle continues.

Acceptance of shame as a useful technique is based upon the acceptance of systemic addiction in our society. Anne Wilson Schaef exposed our entire society as an addictive organism in her book, When Society Becomes an Addict. She describes an addictive society as one in which social problems are denied, the majority of the population are not able to achieve personal fulfillment, individual lack of success is regarded as a personal flaw, the importance of feelings is denied, and unsuccessful people are shamed. All of society operates within the addictive paradigm and holographically the components mirror each other as well as the larger system and its relations with other societies and the universe. This results in individuals, families, organizations and the entire society all operating additively. Shame is necessary within an addictive system.

This is what one woman, who came to see me initially about anxiety attacks, had to say about the way she experienced shame: "When I experience shame I feel as though I am looking at the world through shattered glass. Nothing is clear. I cannot hear anything that is said. Colors blur. My mind goes blank. All my attention is riveted on hiding my deficiency. It seems as if everyone can see right through me--and can see that I am inadequate as a human being. At that point, all I know is that I must hide. I must divert everyone's attention from my inadequacy. Sometimes I disassociate so as not to feel. Sometimes I lash out in a 'rage attack' as a diversion. It has devastated my self-esteem."

Many of the people I have worked with during the past 20 years were plagued with shame. None came with the express purpose of dealing with shame but as we worked together shame often surfaced. I learned how to recognize and name it. The more I learned about shame the more I saw it as very different from feelings such as hate, love, anger, fear, happiness, or joy. It has a bigger presence in one's life than these feelings. It takes over. It operates like an addiction. Addiction is any process over which we are powerless. Then I began to see that shame supports addiction and addiction supports the experience of shame.

The Two Major Flaws in Traditional Approaches to Shame

In reviewing what others have written about shame, I came upon the work of Helen Lynd, whose book,Shame and the Search for Identity, was published in 1958. In it, she briefly describes how shame is holographic. Every other serious work on shame written in the United States since 1958 quotes Lynd, but none seems to understand or to follow up on her ideas regarding the relationship of shame to the holographic universe. None, until Anthony Sutton in Breaking Chains, makes the leap from the focus on the individual or family to the more inclusive systemic focus. None questions the legitimacy of using shame as a control tactic. Therein lies what I believe are the two major flaws in most theories about—and treatment of—shame.

1. Shame is accepted as a necessary element in a society that wishes to control its population. This idea is based on the philosophical belief that children and adults need outside forces to regulate their actions. Studies on shame have usually focused on the difference between "healthy, necessary" shame and "unhealthy, debilitating" shame. These studies do not question the legitimacy of the cultural belief that social control of the individual and the use of shame as a control are necessary. I find the acceptance and use of shame as a necessary component to control society to be rooted in the addictive paradigm. In this paradigm, which was described by Anne Wilson Schaef, all of Western society operates additively. That is, our culture is founded on a hierarchical, control-driven world view in which the primary principle is that humans must be molded away from their natural instincts. This molding away from natural instincts occurs through disassociation.

What is not commonly recognized is that the act of disassociation is abusive. This is equally true at the individual, family or system level. We can see that disassociation on the individual level often leads to not knowing what is good for you and what is harmful. Disassociation can be seen in blackouts, accidents, addictive behaviors, and other dysfunctional behavior. Dissociation from the larger system means disconnection from nature and the world at large. When individuals and groups are disconnected from nature and themselves, they are incapable of discerning what is good for the system. This lack of discernment has fed, among other things, into the plunder and rape of the environment in most industrial societies.

2. During the past 10 years, the connection between shame and addiction has been firmly established. What has not been recognized is the connection between systemic addiction and systemic shame. This is a serious flaw in most psychological thinking because it leads to focusing only on individual and family shame which is, at best, a band-aid approach to dealing with shame. Systemic shame must be examined if recovery is to occur.


Shame is an unacknowledged national epidemic that is wreaking havoc on our entire society. Until it is acknowledged, challenged, and treated, we will continue to experience spiritual suicide on a massive scale.

Shame: Spiritual Suicide exposes the hidden costs of the shame experience. Virtually everyone in our culture has experienced shame at one time or another. Many of us, however, experience shame as a formidable underlying force ready to rear its head without warning. Shame results in disconnection: from self, from others, from the universe, from a Higher Power. When experienced on a regular basis, this disconnection leads to spiritual suicide, the death of the spirit.

Spiritual suicide can be recognized once we know what to look for. On an individual basis, spiritual suicide manifests itself through profound hopelessness. People who are spiritually dead often chose to live on the edge, always pushing the limits of danger, abusing themselves and others, vainly searching for meaning only to be consistently disappointed. Non-recovering addicts of any kind are classic examples of spiritual suicide. On a larger scale, group or societal spiritual suicide can be seen in the way we treat our planet and its resources. Pollution, crime, epidemic drug and alcohol abuse, discrimination, institutional sexual harassment are all examples of a society moving into spiritual suicide. Physical destruction and eventual death is the logical progression following spiritual suicide. People, both individuals and groups, who are no longer connected to their spirit cannot remain functional on this planet.

Shame by its nature demands secrecy and diversions. Shame: Spiritual Suicide breaks down the barrier of silence and shows how shame can be transformed, how a person or group can reconnect and again become spiritually whole.

Shame: Spiritual Suicide challenges the commonly accepted attitudes regarding the role of shame in creating a "controlled" society. The planet is on the verge of a new way of experiencing the world. Quantum physics is teaching us that disconnection and the illusion of control are not part of a natural environment. This work looks at many disciplines: quantum physics, the new science of chaos, psychology, medicine, religion, education, and economics to point out the development of a new paradigm in which shame has no function or value.

In a country plagued with rampant suicide, especially among our very young and very old, we would be wise to consider the connection between Shame: Spiritual Suicide and the act of physical suicide.

Vicki Underland-Roscow, Ph.D., Author

Vicki Underland-Rosow, Ph.D., is a Living in Process facilitator, a mediator, a teacher, organizational consultant, lecturer and author. Her Ph.D. in Human Systems from the Union Institute focused on the treatment of addictions. She received a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Michigan and a BS degree in Corrections from Mankato State University. Dr. Underland-Rosow has worked with individuals, groups, families, and organizations for over 25 years. For the past 13 years she has worked and trained with Dr. Anne Wilson Schaef. She has served on the faculties of the University of North Dakota, the University of Minnesota, Metropolitan State University, the College of St. Catherine, and the University of St. Thomas. She and her family live in the Minneapolis area.

Ramdom Thoughts and powerful quotes

James Michener

This is the journey that men make to find themselves

If they fail in this it doesn't much matter what else they find...

Money..Position..Fame...Many Loves...Revenge...

All are of little consciences.

For when the tickets are collected at the end of the ride...

They are tossed into a bin marked failure.

But, if a man happens to find himself...

If he knows what he can depend upon to do...

The limits of his courage...

The position from which he will no longer retreat...

His Boundaries!

The degree to which he can surrender his inner life to a woman...

The secret reservoirs of his determination...

The extent of his dedication.

The depth of his feeling for beauty, for honesty.

Then he has found a mansion which he can inhabit with dignity

All the days of his life.

Christopher Morley

Buckminster Fuller, one of the most creative men of our time, loved to quote Christopher Morley's poem about childhood:

The greatest poem ever known Is one all poets have outgrown: The poetry, innate, untold Of being only four years old.

Still young enough to be a part Of Nature's great impulsive heart, Born comrade of bird, beast and tree And unselfconscious as the bee-And yet with lovely reason skilled Each day new paradise to build Elate explorer of each sense, Without dismay, without pretense!

In your unstained transparent eyes There is no conscience, no surprise: Life's queer conundrums you accept, Your strange Divinity still kept....

And Life, that sets all things in rhyme, May make you poet, too, in time-But there were days, 0 tender elf, When you were Poetry itself

Ramdom Quotes and Thoughts

Quotes from John Bradshaws and Terry Kellogg's PBS series "The Family"

Of all the people you will ever know in your life, your the only one who you will never lose." ----Jo Coudert.

"You do not need to be loved, not at the cost of yourself." -----Jo Coudert.

The ego will continually draw us backwards, towards the level where the unmet need exists, until the need is met.

Co-dependence is a "conflict of Gods". One has no inner life.

Co-dependence is a spiritual problem. It is spiritual bankruptcy.

Co-dependence is core addiction. It is a diseased form of life.

A person believes that his identity lies outside himself in substance, activity or another person.

He has found another god. He has sold his soul and become a slave. Co-dependence is the disease underneath any substance addiction.

Co-Dependence is always a symptom of abandonment, neglect, abuse, and enmeshment.

It is a loss of one's inner reality and an addiction to outer reality.

Society itself thus becomes the ultimate dysfunctional family system.

As children growing up in a dysfunctional system we developed survival behaviors that in the end left us powerless and spiritually bankrupt. We gave up our own reality in order to take care of our parent's or the needs of the family system. In short we survived by not being there. We learned to control people by becoming caretakers, by being stars, heroes, and the heroines, by being lost children, by being perfect, by being the problem, or the rebel or the scapegoat, by being surrogate spouses, or being our parents parent, by being little parents, etc. In every case we developed a dependency on things outside ourselves to the point of self-neglect. We learned all the defenses in order to cover up the pain of being shamed, alone and self-ruptured.

"Your children are not your may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you For life goes forward not backward"

Children, who need their parents' time, attention and direction for at least 15 years, do not get it. They are abandoned. abandonment sets up compulsivity. Since the children need their parents all the time, and since they do not get their needs met, they grow' up with a cup that has a hole in it. They grow up to be adults, but within them is this insatiable little child which. never got his needs met. This hole in the soul is the fuel that ignites the compulsivity. The person looks for more and more love, attention, praise, booze, drugs, money, etc.

The drivenness comes from the emptiness.

Compulsivity is set up in families.

The pattern is clear. Sham-based compulsive people create needy marriages and engender families in which children are shamed through abandonment. The victimized children from these marriages become equally compulsive and continue the cycle.

The original culprit is the poisonous pedagogy.

Parents who are not separated from their parents, (they have not done the work necessary to break the fantasy bond, they haven't done their family history,} they are covering up their shame with their own fantasy bonded ego defenses, their own rigid roles and their addictions, and they become shameless. Acting as if they know it all, criticizing, controlling, condemning, blaming and punishing, these parents play God. Such shameless behavior necessitates that the children carry the shame.

Children idealize parents through the fantasy bond and therefore they will pass the rage, hurts, loneliness and shame of their abandonment onto their own children. Instead of passing it back where it belongs, they pass it on. Thus the vital need for us all to honestly get our history straight.

Delusion and denial keep away the "legitimate suffering," which comes with the feeling, the pain of emptiness and aloneness. Compulsive addictive behaviors are not about being hungry, thirsty, horney, or needing to work. They are about mood-alteration. They help us manage our feelings. They distract us or alter the way er are feeling so that we don't have to feel the loneliness and emptiness of our abandonment and shame.

"We are as sick as our secrets." " We are as sick as our secrets"
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And Always Keep In Mind The Most Important Factor

  "What we live with we learn,
and what we learn
we practice, and what we
practice, we become...
and what we become
has consequences"...
AND almost always, I have
found, who we become
has little to do with who
we were meant to be.

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(Est. 4.15.96)

DISCLAMER: Before you start to look at the material that I have assembled for you I want to make clear that I claim very little original authorship here. Even where I don't give credit I probably should because there are very few original words of wisdom left in recovery. I want to especially thank Terry Kellogg, whom I do believe has a lot of original stuff, John Bradshaw whom I believe has the ability to synthesize others material better that anyone I know, and I guess if we wanted to be completely accurate we should not quote the serenity prayer out of content nor without giving credit to the author. I also want to give permission to anyone to use anything on this site for the benefit of recovery as long as they do not make any more money off of it. This offer only extends to what I have the right to give.

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