Home   Listening-Prayer.com > Curses > Defining a Shame Curse

Defining a Shame Curse

Breaking a Shame Curse © 2009 by George Hartwell M.Sc. (revisions 2012) 

George Hartwell M.Sc. is a Christian counselor with a masters degree from the University of Calgary, 40 years experience and who integrates prayer therapy into his professional counseling practice.

To learn About George or his professional practice see: George's Professional web site, Christian marriage counselling, Christian phone therapy, and Christian Marriage Retreats.  To e-mail George click on:

(About George - professional therapist, Professional-practice-home   Christian-Sex-Therapy-home, Christian Marriage Retreats)  

What is a Shame Curse?  Definition of a Shame Curse. 

A shame curse is strong messages of rejection and negation by a significant group - one's family or peers.  The words and behavior of this reference group has the same effect as a curse because one is forced to a negative belief by the way you are treated.  Ultimately, it leaves one with the feeling that one does not have the right to exist - what I mean by shame.

A family (church, work place, school or village) throws a 'shame curse' when they  treat a person as if they do not belong.  Sometimes the youngest child is given no voice in family matters even when they grow up.  There opinions, decisions and wisdom is given no value, weight or honour.

Being treated by a reference social group as if you did not belong, with little or no say and very little honour or value is the shame curse in action.  It is a failure of love.  It is a failure to uphold you, encourage you and love you to life.

The shame curse is a message from those who should by life-giving; instead they send a message of death.  Shame curses send messages to the target victim.  Whether intended or not the message is to die rather than to live.  Shaming is a death curse whose poison brings a person down and 'curses' them to less than the abundant life that Jesus brings and God intends. 

What is a curse?  General Definition of a Curse.

Curses direct negative energy and thoughts toward a person that create death (sickness, harm, relationship breakup, poverty).  Hate is that negative energy and it is the opposite of the positive energy of love.  Sometimes this hate is related to envy or jealousy toward a competitor or rival.  Hate is the energy of the dark side; the energy of killing and destroying.

Both the intent and the effect of curses is to tear down someone, to destroy them, to humiliate, to call down punishment upon them, to get revenge.  This relates to the evil one -  the thief - who Jesus said is out to rob, kill and destroy (John 10:10). 

For more complete definition of a curse look at: What is a curse?  See also HealMyLife.com: what is a curse?

What is Shame?  Definition of Shame and Shame Curse.

Shame involves a core belief that one does not have the right to be alive.

Parents have been given the gift of life by God.  God's very breath and Spirit gives us life.  Parents have the delegated responsibility to act like god and continue to breath life into their child.  Their love, their touch, their words, the home they create give breath to their child.

A parent betrays this trust when they withdraw life support from their child.  They take their child's breath away with their rage, their hostility, by creating a home without safety and love. 

Examples of how the Shame Curse is set up against a Child

1.  Snarly 'anger' rather than love.  "My mom was very mean or angry all the time.  She never smiled and always felt unsatisfied with everything me and my siblings did. Mother would sit and snarl at me almost everyday in disgust."  Result: "I was afraid of her and I felt that she hated me."

2.  Punitive discipline rather than verbal rebuke.  "She would always punish us by spanking us and she rarely (if ever) talked to us regarding something we did wrong."

3.  Mother who goes absent in a bad mood.  "She came home from work every single day mad and would slam pots and pans when she cooked.  Or, just go to her room and slam the door and never come back out that evening. "

4.  Parents who do not want their children to have fun.  "She always seemed jealous that me and my siblings had a carefree life and did not work. She did not want us to have any fun and made us get up early on the weekends---6:30 am and yanked all the covers off of us and opened the blinds."

5.  Parent chooses some, excludes others.  "Mother had favorites were my younger brother and my older sister.  She would let the rest who was her favorites by doing put downs regarding the rest of us.  For example, she would cook breakfast for my younger brother Milton and tell the rest of us to fix our own with our lazy selves."

6.  Parent's attitude and tone: "My mom's overall tone or attitude that was depicted by me was you are not worth the time or effort. Or, I don't have worth and value and there is nothing special about me.  I always felt rejected by her and she seemed intent on me knowing this and I felt very unloved and unpleasing." 

7.  Lack of warm affection: "She could not give proper hugs to any us and it felt unloving. Mother would just put her arms around us and pat us hard on the back and release us."

8.  Abusive language: "Mother made me feel ashamed.  She and my older sister would joke about me and my sister and say inappropriate things about our menstruation beginning etc."

9.  Loss of voice: Whatever I said was not given consideration by the family.  My opinion did not matter.   "I remembered that I had lots of ideas about how things worked, and was always excited to share them with people. However, my parents were always busy, and I had no one who would listen. It was also a rule in the house that children should not meddle with adults’ conversations and not answer back.  The odd thing was that my mom was always opening up to me about family problems, but I was not expected to say anything; only listen. I was always reminded to behave and just be quiet.  I realized I must have been denied my voice in reaction to being forbidden to speak when I wanted or needed to."

Four Outcomes of being subject to a Shame Curse.

1.  Loss of the Right to Life:  The shame curse begins to create the core belief that one does not have the right to live.  A child so betrayed by his or her parents begins to lose the confident sense that they have a right to life; that their life has tremendous worth before man and God.  They may become apologetic about their existence.  They say: "I am sorry" way too much as if apologizing for their existence. 

While a shamed person will 'apologize for living' a loved person will not.  Love relationships have affirmed their right to be alive.  They have healthy self-esteem; will value themselves.   .

2.  Taking Blame for Abuse:  Shame issues can come up when an abuse victim talks about the belief that "I am to blame for what had happened."  "I always felt that I was the reason she was upset because she never explained why she was unhappy all the time."

3.  Not entitled to Good things: The shame core belief results in the loss of any sense that you are entitled to good things.  The victim begins to expect bad things to happen in their life.  This comes out when you say: "I don't deserve good things."  "I don't believe I deserve happiness."  Or I deserve a "rubbish" life.  This can result in self punishment, accepting bad things, living with injustice, self-sabotage.

Christians may dwell on the idea that they have committed the unpardonable sin.  Not true by the way, it just becomes an obsession because of the experience of living subject to the shame curse and developing the core belief that you are bad and do not deserve good things.

4.  Loss of Hope:  Loss of hope is the loss of the belief that life is good, that God is good, that people are good and that it is a blessing to be alive; that "all things work together for good to those who love God."  Romans 8:28.

5.  Oppression.  Curses may cause one to be under demonic harassment and oppression.  I sometimes suggest breaking a curse by pleading for a peace bond from heaven.

6.  Fear and Hiding:  "I was afraid of mother and would run and hide everyday I heard her coming onto the porch from work.  I had fear of punishment from authority figures in subsequent years."

7.  Try to gain love:  "I tried to spend time around my mom by watching TV and walking to the store with her for groceries.  I must have watched over a 1,000 movies with her and she never ever affirmed me or treated me as valuable or loving.  I felt very sad and depressed that she did not."  "I surmised that if I would be good, someone would love me.  That did not work."  (People Pleasing.)

8.  Disengagement:  I just slept all the time or laid down and closed my eyes. I would live inside my head and stay in my room.  I recall saying, "forget them all, I don't need anybody." 

9.  Give up and shutdown:  I recall saying, "forget them all, I don't need anybody."  I pretended I was from another family and they would one day come and get me.  I then gave up altogether on ever being loved in my home.

10.  Go to Sleep:  "I just went inside my head like I did in my home with my mom.  I gave up on getting love from anyone.  When being loving so that I will be loved did not work, and doing things to be loved didn't work.  I then decided be perfect then I would be loved.  This went on  for years and years. 

I went to sleep by going inside myself.  I shutdown and did not act as my real self which is soft, kind, warm, trusting, open, loving.  I became angry, critical, or nitpicky and very competitive with others. Mainly with my spouse and we would argue about everything and nothing he did was ever good enough.  I complained all the time.  I was hurt inside and I acted out a lot."


Breaking a Shame Curse

Breaking the shame curse is not a one time action.  It cannot be done on the surface because the core beliefs will be deeply imbedded.  It requires therapy that takes some time to identify the core beliefs and the experiences they are rooted in.  Prayer therapy should go through experiences at different ages in the person's life to root up the core beliefs with God's revealed truth through Listening Prayer Therapy (a form of professional prayer counseling).

Personal Reflections on the Shame Curse

The concept of the "Shame Curse" may be an original one so here are some reflections on how I began to think about this.

As a prayer therapist I have been publishing ways to deal with curses especially using the Jesus in Between Prayer.  This has required me to think about and define what is a curse.

As a couple therapist (marriage counselor) I help life partners establish life-giving relationships and heal or exit non-life-giving relationships.  This has required me to think about and define what makes up a life-giving relationship and the opposite, which we can call a shame-based relationship.

Put these two interests together and I begin to talk and write about relationships that are like curses.  The 'shame curse' is the traumatic effect of every relationship with life partners (family) that is not life-giving.

This discussion can be tested Biblically in terms of the description of the kind of relationship that God wants with His people.  John 15 - the Vine and the Branches - is one such biblical description.

The same terms and concepts used in this discussion can be used of a religious group, of a local church, of a denomination.  The discussion can be broadened into whether work places are life-giving or not, whether villages (local communities) are life-giving or not and whether nations are life-giving or not.  However I will focus on family relationships - the family a child is raised in and the love relationship with our life partner in adulthood.  What we call marriage is what the Book of Genesis describes as a "man leaving his mother and father and cleaving to his wife."

Shame relationships take away one's right to be alive.  One is not encouraged and affirmed by shame relationships.  This can happen through sexual abuse or by a spouse or family system that does not value your ability, your opinion or your contribution.  You are over looked by the other members of the family or your peer group.

Peer groups may avoid a peer, may throw in verbal abuse and sometimes physical abuse.  The result - the message the person gets in their emotional brain (heart) - is to believe that I have no right to be alive.

COMBINATIONS:  Suppose a family treats the youngest child as the 'baby' of the family and, therefore, without significant honour or respect.  Then combine that with the school peers excluding and verbally abusing the child.  This combination "shame curse" will be even stronger in the persons' life, even more deeply written in their heart.

A father (my father) had little time for children.  He was such an intellectual and 'thinking' was held in such esteem that he did not esteem his children.  Children couldn't think, so, in his mind, they are not worth his attention. 

My dad also used to yell at me: "THINK, you stupid cluck!"  His voice, his disdain, sent a shame message in my emotional brain.  Such verbal abuse - name calling - by parents, peers or siblings deepens the shame message; strengthens the shame curse.  When a client says: "Father would never really listen or take notice of me," that, too, can act like a shame curse.

If we are under a shame curse, our life will manifest or express that curse.  This is especially true if it created core beliefs in our emotional brain.  Shame beliefs may sound like: "I deserve to be punished."  "I am not good enough." "I'm a bad person."  The person will have difficulty having good things happen in their life.  They undermine success.  They accept a poverty life. 

How does one live out the feeling of not being good enough?  At school this belief or lack of belief in oneself can keep one down.  You under perform.  Then, because you don't do well, you become afraid to try to build a life that is positive and happy.

The shame curse is like a message from those who should love you to life.  Instead of a life-giving message they send a death message.  Between the lines the shame messages are telling you to die, not live.  Shaming is a death curse whose poison brings a person down and 'curses' them to less than the abundant life that Jesus brings.

Living with a Non-Affirming Spouse as a Shame Curse, as absolute hell. 

Geraldine describes life with a non-validating husband - an Avoidant Personality - he "avoided communication, responsibility, intimacy, any kind of interaction other than grunting, grumbling or saying whatever he thought would be what I wanted to hear.  We never went anywhere, did anything, had visitors.  Anything I wanted to do was answered with 'not my thing, go with your friends, go with the kids'. Not a shred of support, kindness, or genuine anything."  This sounds like a relationship that would act like a shame curse, something that would take the life out of one's spirit.  She describes the impact this way:

"After all those years of trying to live according to his expectations - which really meant staying out of his way, putting up with his moods, paying his bills and keeping his household running - I am realizing that I don't know who I am.  I have been trying to fit into what I thought was expected of me, and now the marriage is over, it's a matter of trying to work out if anything of me is left, is genuine, is still what I want or do I reinvent myself.  It's absolutely devastating.  It's not just the loss of a marriage and the dream and all the unfulfilled wishes, it's the loss of my self, my identity - I have been invalidated for so long I have to re-establish my right to exist in my own way. This may not make a lot of sense to you - but the physical feeling was like being gutted (imagine an animal having it's insides cut out) - there was a huge emptiness and a loss of connection to whoever, whatever I thought I was."

For further discussion of the Shame Curse a woman discussed the impact of a 'shame curse' childhood on both her and on her husband.

"Pointing the Bone" by a witch doctor as a shame curse

I picture a small tribe.  The witch doctor hates someone.  Everyone joins with the witch doctor in 'pointing the finger' at the person subject to the shaman's dislike. The person sickens and dies. 

Australian aboriginals "point the bone" and chant a curse.  The whole tribe removes the right to life.  "Bone pointing" is a method of execution used by the Aborigines. It is said to leave no trace, and never fails to kill its victim.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdaitcha

For more about curses on this site:   Introduction to Breaking Curses  What is a curse?  How to Break a Curse.  Protection from Curses,   inner-healing prayer for shame and for a detailed discussion on the "HealMyLife" site see: Types of CursesBreaking CursesDeliverance from Curses.

The Shame Curse is by © George Hartwell M.Sc. 2009, George Hartwell M.Sc. is a Christian counselor with a masters degree in clinical psychology and 30 years experience in private practice.  To learn all About George or his professional practice see: George's Professional web site, Christian marriage counselling, Christian phone therapy, and Christian Marriage Retreats.  To e-mail George click on:

Listening-prayer Home      How to do listening prayer   prayers for money-finances   Healing Prayer 
How to pray for protection     Healing prayers for cancer   Biblical Basis for listening prayer

Review of my definition of a curse:

A curse is sometimes defined as "the invocation of supernatural power to inflict harm upon someone or something."

My definition of curse is much broader.  In the Bible account of creation, God breathed His spirit into mankind to give us life.  God's Spirit forms our spirit.  Our (God given) spirit is the fundamental level of mind, self and consciousness.

Therefore any manifestation of our spirit has the potential to curse or bless.  Jesus clued us in to the fact that hateful feelings are like a curse 'like murder.'  Spoken words give breath to our thoughts (breath and spirit are closely related) and either blessing or curse. 

Christian Marriage Counselling: