Shame is an issue which constantly comes up in Counselling and Therapy sessions. I have always found the book 'Healing the Shame that binds you' a great recommendation to clients to give an overview of shame can dominate our lives and stop our healthy connection with our authentic selves.
Shame is often described as being 'the master emotion'. See this blog entry here which describes the power of shame and how it can control us.
Healing the shame that binds you gives a great distinction between healthy shame and toxic shame. A healthy sense of shame is seen to be very healthy and very desirable to the human condition. This is identified as the attitude of 'I made a mistake'. It is often related to the healthy inner child and the idea of falling over or making a mistake and then getting back up and carrying on again and giving things another go.
Through upbringing however or conditions which may not have been favourable to us in nurturing this this state we often instil an idea of 'I am a mistake'. This is where the authentic self is abandoned and rather a false self takes over and plays a role to fit in with the dysfunctional family system. This is said to be a shame based role.
Shirley Smith in her book 'Set yourself free' gives a good discussion of different shame based roles we may take on board in the family. In a shame based role we have totally abandoned the authentic self and have taken on board an idea of shame of 'I am a mistake'. These two polarities are often worked with in Counselling through support and nurturing to help the client work with what has happened and create the distinction within themselves of 'I made a mistake' versus 'I am a mistake'.
Here is a link particularly in relation to healing the shame of the inner child. Here is another link particularly for romance in relation to shame in approaching women. Although some of the authors writing I do not agree with the discussion around shame in this context I found excellent as he relates it to a fear of rejection and again links back to Healing the Shame that binds you.
A good question to ask yourself is if you operate in an 'I made a mistake' or 'I am a mistake' modality and what are you going to do about it?