Can I Move Past Toxic Shame? With Dr. Gregory Jantz [Episode 255]

Move Past Toxic Shame Dr. Gregory Jantz

Shame is to the soul what cancer is to the body. It eats away at our self-esteem, erodes our relationships, and keeps us from moving forward in life. In fact, toxic shame is often what drives addictions, anxieties, and depression.

But the good news is that freedom is possible. And that’s what we’re exploring today with author Dr. Gregory Jantz. He’ll weave together reliable psychological principles with biblical truths to start you on the path of wellness and peace.

As we talk about his book, Freedom from Shame: Find Healing for Your Most Toxic Emotion, Dr. Jantz exposes shame for what it really is, where it comes from, and what happens if it’s left unaddressed.

But, be encouraged sister, because he also shares some key strategies for overcoming shame beginning with a very practical first step that’s rooted in your faith.

So, if you’re weighed down by shame or have begun to believe the lies that you’re defective, unworthy, and flawed, then my friend, it’s time to break free!

Meet Dr. Jantz

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center in Edmonds, Washington and is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He’s also a best-selling author of 40 books and a go-to media authority on mental and behavioral health, appearing on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Move Past Toxic Shame? With Dr. Gregory Jantz [Episode 255]

Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, 4:13ers! This is Jennifer Rothschild, and I just have a question... Do you need luggage? Because if you need luggage, I have the luggage you need. I have used it for years, and I affectionately call it my hugging luggage. It is actually called TACH, as in attached, T-A-C-H. TACH is a small business, smart concept, and great product. The luggage is designed with these innovative velcro wings that extend from either side of one piece of luggage and will attach or wrap around the sides of the piece of luggage that you place in front. And so what happens is that they attach and they move as one unit, smooth and easy to maneuver. I travel between 30 and 40 times a year and TACH is always with me. I love it! They come in a light version. They come in a hard shell version also. Either one is excellent! So, since I love TACH luggage, I thought you might love it too. So, go to, that's T-A-C-H, to check it out. Now, I am off to Italy. Ciao!

Dr. Gregory Jantz: It does affect how we see ourselves. Sometimes people develop a belief that I just deserve all these bad things. My life will never change. I was abused because, well, I deserved it. And you begin -- that's why I say, shame is the liar. It begins to really put you in a place where you don't know what's true about yourself.

Jennifer Rothschild: Shame is to the soul what cancer is to the body. It eats away at our self- esteem, it erodes our relationships, and it keeps us from moving forward in life. In fact, toxic shame is often what drives addictions, anxiety, and all sorts of bad stuff. Well, the good news is, my friends, freedom is possible, and that is what we're going to explore today with author Dr. Gregory Jantz. He's going to weave together psychological principles with biblical truths to start you on the path of wellness. So here we go.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Now, welcome your host, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, everybody. We're glad you're back. I'm Jennifer, here to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you live this "I Can" life. K.C. and I are so glad you're here.

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Things get better in the podcast closet when you show up.

K.C. Wright: It's true.

Jennifer Rothschild: But I got to tell you something. I'm leaving. I am leaving you people.

K.C. Wright: Don't leave us, please.

Jennifer Rothschild: I am leaving you. But only for two weeks.

K.C. Wright: Okay. We will miss you.

Jennifer Rothschild: Because I'm going to Italy.

K.C. Wright: Oh, my goodness.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes. It's finally time. You know, K.C., I told you I've been packing for a month.

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, it's finally time to close the suitcase and leave. So here's what we're going to do, our people. When we finish recording this episode, you and me, K.C., we are going to look through some of our old episodes.

K.C. Wright: Ooh, the oldies but goodies?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes. Because we have done some bonus episodes. And not everybody listens to those bonus episodes, they miss them. So you and me, we're going to pick two bonus episodes --

K.C. Wright: Love it.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- and we are going to make them our encore episodes. All right?

K.C. Wright: Okay.

Jennifer Rothschild: So you guys are going to love these, so...

Besides, I think K.C. needs a break -- okay? -- because he's about to be on his own. And if I got to go to Italy, if I get to go to Italy, he needs a break too. So we're going to give K.C. a break too, so that he can have some time off, and we're going to use those encore episodes. So y'all will need to tune in and see what we pick, because I can guarantee you, you're going to love them. So if you missed them before, you're going to be so happy to hear them. If you've heard them before, you're going to be happy to hear them again. And besides, you also need to tune in to hear how K.C. does without me. Okay?

K.C. Wright: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: I think you're going to do great without me, my friend.

K.C. Wright: I'm just so excited you're going to Italy.

Jennifer Rothschild: I know. I'm going to bring you olive oil.

K.C. Wright: I mean, this is a -- oh, thank you.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

K.C. Wright: You know what? That is one thing -- well, I love many things about you.

But she is so sweet. She's always bringing me treasures. Like, when I come to the podcast booth, there's always a little gift, something. That's very thoughtful of you. You don't have to do that. But I love free stuff.

Jennifer Rothschild: I love buying you little fun things too, K.C. In fact, we will have to tell them in -- well, I think -- let's wait till I get back from Italy. But we will need to tell them the latest thing I gave you.

K.C. Wright: The ultimate gift?

Jennifer Rothschild: The ultimate gift.

K.C. Wright: The gift that keeps giving?

Jennifer Rothschild: That keeps on giving, right. It's a funny story, and y'all will need to tune in. So when I get back from Italy, we will tell you.

Okay. But right now, we're talking about something very practical.

K.C. Wright: Okay.

Jennifer Rothschild: Got to be honest. I thought -- when I looked over this book, I thought, hmm, I don't know if I deal with shame. And then I looked over the book and I had this conversation, I thought, ooh, I probably do. And I think we all do.

So I think we need to introduce our guest, Dr. Jantz, so that we can start talking about shame. And this is going to be a really life-giving conversation.

K.C. Wright: Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center in Edmonds, Washington, and is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He is also a best-selling author of 40 books and a go-to media authority on mental and behavioral health. He's appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and even CNN, and today he is a 4:13er.

Jennifer Rothschild: He's finally made it.

K.C. Wright: Mm-hmm. Yes. Move over, ABC and CBS and NBC. All right? This is where it's big.

So get comfortable. The doctor is in. And don't we need this conversation?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, we do.

K.C. Wright: Dr. Jantz and Jennifer are talking about his book "Freedom From Shame." So here we go.

Jennifer Rothschild: Dr. Jantz, we are going to start with the big S word, shame. Okay? So I want you to tell us what shame is and why you call it the most toxic of emotions.

Dr. Gregory Jantz: Shame is such a funny word, Jennifer. It's a word that goes, okay, I know I heard this word in my childhood, like, "Shame on you" or -- and it's a word that's misunderstood. I do say it's the most toxic because of what it does to us. Shame says you're no good. Shame says you'll always be this way. Shame says you're unlovable. Shame says God can't love you. Shame is really -- a liar is what it is. Shame.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, it is a liar and -- but it is a real thing, we deal with it.

So I know also in your book -- which I'm glad is very short because, you're right, we can't dive into something that difficult for too long. So you say that shame has various roots. And you just barely mentioned something about childhood, so give us some of these roots of shame.

Dr. Gregory Jantz: Sure. When I think of shame and how I got traumatized in such a way that it really affected my sense of self and my identity and who God made me to be, I think, okay, had to come from some traumas. Trauma. Now, trauma could be even a significant loss growing up: a loss of a parent, a divorce, emotional abuse, comparisons. Shame can originate from significant sexual abuse, sexual traumas, physical abuse, bully behavior. It's either one significant trauma that really shaped your identity or it's a series of traumatic events that continued to shape your identity.

Jennifer Rothschild: You know what's interesting, that I don't know I associated quickly, is -- you keep associating shame with identity. So is there identity loss or confusion? Or what is it that -- when our identity gets messed with that creates shame?

Dr. Gregory Jantz: You know, it does affect how we see ourselves. Sometimes people develop a belief that I just deserve all these bad things. My life will never change. I was abused because, well, I deserved it. And you begin -- that's why I say, shame is the liar. It begins to really put you in a place where you don't know what's true about yourself.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and I think of the vulnerability of children. So let me ask you this. Do people who may have been shamed or felt shame when they were kids, do they become, like, grownup shamers?

Dr. Gregory Jantz: Yes. If I have grown up with this toxic emotion of shame, feeling that I'm defective, I'm probably -- probably choosing relationships in my life that are destructive. I may have great difficulty feeling intimate or close with anybody because shame keeps me from being close. I may also find great difficulty in trusting and trusting individuals. That's shame.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and I have observed sometimes when I will hear a parent, maybe what I would call -- and I don't know if I'm using the word correctly -- but what I would call shaming a child in order to try to motivate them toward, you know, even good behavior. So I would love your thoughts on that. When someone is shaming another person, what does that sound like? What are some of the phrases they use or what are some of the signs that someone is using shame as a manipulative tool in someone else's life?

Dr. Gregory Jantz: Oh, here's a good one. Comparisons. Why can't you be more like your sister? Look at her. She looks great, she's beautiful, she's doing well in school. Why can't you be more like her? Okay, that's one.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Dr. Gregory Jantz: And that message could be given to you over time. Did you see your sister's score on her test? How good she did. Now, why can't you get test scores as good as that? So the message is ongoing, and it's etching away at any sense of self and self-esteem. You're being taught that you're less than good. You're being taught that you are indeed not good enough and you'll never be good enough.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and if we don't get a handle on this, like, if we don't recognize what it is -- well, actually, you put it this way. You say that if we don't deal with shame, that unaddressed shame is going to lead to other harmful consequences. All right? So what are some of those consequences?

Dr. Gregory Jantz: Well, I mentioned one. One is really a consequence of having difficulty in relationships.

Another consequence could be lifelong struggles with depression and anxiety. It's like, man, I just can't seem to ever get out of depression, this chronic depression, or anxiousness in my relationships, anxiousness about my future, the fear of even being alone even though I can't seem to have close relationships. So this is why this is so difficult, is how it distorts reality. You may find yourself struggling with addiction and addiction issues secretly. Maybe it's alcohol or a food addiction and you're trying to keep all this under wraps and quiet. It's a secret addiction.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and it seems to me that -- I mean, even if you look in the Garden of Eden, shame does make you hide, and you try to hide in other things.

And you mentioned something already earlier, too, that I want to circle back to. You talked about kind of how it messes with our confidence, especially if you're growing up with some adult shamers in your life who are comparing or doing it even in a subtle way that they think is motivating. All right, but let's say that's how you grow up. Okay. So it does seem to mess with your confidence, then. So how are people who are really struggling with shame, how are they conditioned to just not believe in themselves? It's not just in what they can do, it's just, like, inherently in themselves. How does shame do that to us?

Dr. Gregory Jantz: Yeah, it undermines our confidence. It undermines our abilities. It undermines our sense of value. And I look at three basic human needs. We all have the need to feel accepted and loved. If I have shame, I don't feel accepted and loved. We all have the need to feel understood and connected, that I have value. And shame teaches you that, no, you don't really have value and you never feel understood by people and you're afraid to share maybe hurts, you're afraid to share who you are. So those are some of the things we look for.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. So let's say someone right now is resonating with this and they're like, okay, I think I -- I have some shame that I didn't even realize was, you know, the undertow in my life. But I'm in a relationship with someone who probably exacerbates my sense of shame. All right? And I can't change them; I need to work on me. So you mention something in your book -- you talk about self-compassion. So I'm curious how self-compassion might be an antidote to shame. Does it bring any healing to us? How does that play into this?

Dr. Gregory Jantz: Right. Self-compassion -- and this is not to make an excuse. But self-compassion is a way of looking -- okay, I was traumatized. I had some things that happened in my life that were unfair, unjust, and they did have an effect on me. Self-compassion is just the beginning step of understanding that trauma had effects, and just an understanding of that so that I can now move towards healing or towards recovery. But self-compassion is what you would do for another person. If another person came to you and said, Here's what happened to me, I was so brutally traumatized over and over in my childhood, you probably would have a great deal of compassion for them.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

Dr. Gregory Jantz: And this is what we're saying as a starting place that you need to have for yourself.

Jennifer Rothschild: So even if you're not feeling it from anyone else, you can show that same love and acceptance and understanding towards yourself. And I think shame deceives us into thinking we're not even worthy of that. So that's such a good word, Dr. Jantz. I appreciate that.

And so -- okay, I want us to get very practical. So someone might have a very skewed understanding of their identity because of shame, they might be dealing with a lack of confidence, you know, the whole nine yards. Okay. So how can someone begin to replace those filters that they use to view themselves?

Dr. Gregory Jantz: Okay, how do I replace filters? I may need to get some kind of outside help. There's a time where -- if I have had things in my childhood, if I have had things that are really, really difficult and I've not really dealt with those, I'm going to suggest -- I want you in the hands of great care, of a counselor that understands this, of a professional that can walk you through really not only the effects, but the steps to recovery. How am I ever going to arrive at a place of forgiveness? How am I ever going to be at a place where I can begin to rebuild my sense of self? That's what I want you to do. It's going to need to be working with somebody -- especially if you've had a lifelong struggle with depression, a lifelong struggle with anxiety and troublesome relationships, and maybe dancing between addictions. Okay. We've got to get the right kind of help to you so this can be dealt with.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Yeah, there is a place for that. I mean, we are sorry counselors for ourselves. We can have the information, but that doesn't mean -- we need a stronger, more insightful, wise person to help guide us through. Obviously your book is a great place to start. But, yes, there is no substitute for getting some wise, compassionate professional help. We will have a link on the Show Notes so listeners can get connected to some strong counseling in their areas.

But one of the things that I thought was interesting also, Gregory, in your book, you connect -- and you just mentioned this. Okay? But in your book, you connect forgiveness, gratitude, and shame. So tell us about this connection.

Dr. Gregory Jantz: When I'm full of shame -- and maybe I've never labeled it as that. I don't know what to call it, but I'm calling it shame today -- then I probably don't have a very optimistic picture of my future. I probably am not feeling much gratitude or gratefulness. I probably woke up this morning and just -- I'm going to get through another day. I don't feel any of that gratitude. What happens is as I begin the process of forgiving the things that have happened in my life -- and forgiving does not mean excusing. As I begin to layer by layer practice that forgiveness, as I begin to really deal with bitterness and resentments and experience what it means to let go as I practice self-forgiveness -- sometimes that's the tough one. As I do these things, I will begin to see gratitude re-enter my life. I will wake up with a positive anticipation for my day. I will find that, yes, I have energy for relationships. I will be more compassionate towards others.

Jennifer Rothschild: So can a person who still is in this place where they realize shame is this thing in their life, can they still -- even while they're experiencing some shame in the healing process, can they still choose to forgive and choose to have gratitude, and can that affect the shame and the healing?

Dr. Gregory Jantz: Yes, it can.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. So it's not just a result of the lack of shame that then you're able to forgive, it's within the hard place of shame?

Dr. Gregory Jantz: Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay.

Dr. Gregory Jantz: It really is.

Jennifer Rothschild: I think that leads us, well, to our last question, Gregory. Because I listen to this and theoretically I love it. But then I'm acquainted with myself and I realize how limited I can be. And so the last question would be this. Most of our listeners are Christians. So how does their faith, their relationship with God, help someone move past shame?

Dr. Gregory Jantz: You know, it's one that you're going to have to extend some faith. It's scary because you feel unlovable. You feel like God does not really love me. I want to believe it. And so it is a step, Lord God, show me. Give me the wisdom, give me the discernment to know what I need to deal with in order to have healing, in order to have recovery. It is a prayerful approach. Even when you feel that maybe God doesn't care, God's not listening, I want you to extend those prayers of great faith because there is something that begins to happen. And maybe you need to do this the old-fashioned way, take out a 3-by-5 card and actually write -- maybe it's a verse or two. I want you to go outside. I want you to go for walks every day. I want you to pull that verse out of your pocket and say it out loud. I want you to begin to practice saying God's Word, and just over the next month, let's say, let's see what happens.

K.C. Wright: So I'm going to repeat what Dr. Jantz just said. At least repeat it in my own words. Okay?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: You may feel God doesn't love you, but faith says, "God does love me." So pause right here and say that out loud. Put your hand on your heart. If you're driving, don't do this. Okay? But just safely, if you can, put your hand on your heart and say, "God loves me."

Jennifer Rothschild: God loves me.

K.C. Wright: Those are healing words.

Jennifer Rothschild: They really are healing words. And we need to repeat the truth to our stubborn souls. Or I shouldn't say "our." My stubborn soul is definitely how I would describe my soul. But we do need to repeat those truths to our souls. So as Greg suggested, you can write on a card a verse or two and then just go outside, walk every day, and repeat those truths out loud.

K.C. Wright: Yeah. Begin to practice saying God's Word, and over the month you will see that God's Word does not return void. His Word is living and it will give you life, because life is found in the Word.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, that is the truth.

Wow, wasn't this some good stuff today, our people?

K.C. Wright: So good, yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: It really was good. So remember, if you need help, though, with this, if this has really unearthed some hard things in your life, of course, we're going to link you to Dr. Jantz' book at And also at the Show Notes, we're going to have a link to get you connected to a counselor in your area, if that's something that you need.

K.C. Wright: All right, our people. We love you -- and we mean it -- and never want you to forget that you can get rid of toxic shame. You know, the enemy of our souls wants to keep us on that treadmill of guilt and shame. But today that stops.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yep.

K.C. Wright: You can get over whatever is bringing you down. Because here's truth -- we replace lies with truth -- you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: I can.

K.C. Wright: And you can.

Jennifer Rothschild: You sure can.

K.C. Wright: Now, can we talk about Italy again?

Jennifer Rothschild: Who?

K.C. Wright: Italy.

Jennifer Rothschild: Italy. Yes.

K.C. Wright: Can we talk about it again?

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, sure. What do you want to talk about?

K.C. Wright: Well, I mean, can you share, like, your destination, or where are you going and how -- I know it's two weeks, but...

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, ready?

K.C. Wright: I can already just smell Italian food while you're getting ready to tell me more about it.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. So we're going to Rome, Pompeii, Capri, the Amalfi Coast, Florence, Venice. I can't remember what else.


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