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Is Shame Hereditary?

There are many traits, characteristics and afflictions we tend to inherit from our families, our addictions being chief among them. We can inherit thought patterns, emotional responses and behavioral patterns from our families, many of which we don’t understand because they weren’t originally ours to begin with. Very often these patterns are subconscious, and beneath our conscious awareness. We feel unable to make sense of them and to discontinue them when they’re hurting us and bringing us down. Can shame be hereditary?

One of the most destructive and debilitating emotions we inherit is our family’s shame, the self-hatred and self-deprecation our family members experienced and then passed onto us. When we feel ashamed of ourselves, we feel consumed with guilt, remorse and regret. We can’t forgive ourselves. We’re not compassionate, patient or understanding with ourselves. We become self-destructive and self-sabotaging. We’re deeply insecure, and we reject ourselves. Sometimes as we’re healing, we feel intense shame but don’t know why. We can’t pinpoint a source of our shame. We don’t know what its origins are. We might have things we feel guilty about and that we regret, but we’re filled with so much deeply rooted shame that it very well may have come from somewhere else, something deeper than just the things we’ve been through and the mistakes we’ve made. Our shame isn’t always just the product of our own personal experiences. It can be so overwhelming and so painful, and can take over our lives so intensely, that it often has roots in something much deeper, something we have yet to explore.

Many of us inherit the shame of our family’s transgressions, the atrocities they committed, the pain they were forced to witness and experience. We feel all the shame our ancestors felt, both from things they did and from the internal beliefs they developed that they were shameful, inadequate and unworthy because of their traumatic experiences. When we feel deeply ashamed of ourselves but aren’t sure why, we may be experiencing the layers of our familial shame that have been growing, festering and compounding over years and lifetimes. We very well may be inheriting the intergenerational shame of our families that has yet to be healed.

Working to heal ourselves as we’re recovering from addiction and mental illness means healing our shame. It means forgiving ourselves, forgiving our families, and forgiving the people that have hurt us. It means developing more compassion both for us and for our families, and for the people that may have wronged us in the past. It means having a clearer understanding of human nature – it is part of our journey to make mistakes, to do things we regret and to accumulate shame, and it is also a part of our journey to reconcile our shame and to heal it with forgiveness and love.

At The Guest House Ocala, we have personal recovery experience and over 12 years in the recovery industry. We have helped countless people recover, and we’re here to help you too. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.