Childhood Post Traumatic Shame CPTS Definition

CPTS is my new term for Childhood Post Traumatic Shame.

This is a suggested new term for a specific form of childhood trauma disorder. It is not exactly Complex PTSD, nor DESNOS, nor the same as Developmental PTSD.

This is a draft definition, and I welcome feedback. 7-23-2014.

What is Shame for the purpose of this definition? [This section is being re-written and will be reposted shortly. This definitionis inadiquate and the important dynamics are missing. WT]
The premise of this definition if that shame is an an instinct by which the young learn to effectively socialize.
Shame is the quintessential social emotion underlying social threat, comprising a family of negative feelings ranging from mild embarrassment to severe humiliation. It is the painful self consciousness
or anxiety about negative judgment, unwanted exposure, inferiority, failure, defeat and worst of all rejection and abandonment. Shame is signified by defensive postural responses including body slumping, gaze aversion, turning away of the face, and dissociative stupor.

What is CPTS? When the instinct of shame fails and becomes toxic.
CPTS is a condition in young children, developmentally up to 6 or 7 years old who experience a traumatic event followed by shame that goes unresolved. The instinctual shame reaction occurs during or after an traumatic event when a child begins to blame themselves for what’s happening to them or going on around them. However the shame can be resolved by the intervention of a caregiver who reassures the child with attention, love or explains the traumatic event was not their fault and thus resolves the shame. When the shame is not resolved the child is left with overwhelming feelings and subsequent thoughts that they have failed to either protect themselves nor have they avoided the shame driven sense that they have been rejected, abandoned and therefore proven to be unworthy. When the shame is not resolved in turns into toxic shame and the child develops Childhood Post Traumatic Shame. This shame experience continues with them into adult life.

Negative and shaming cultures make it worse.
If this powerfully negative experience continues unabated, but they survive physically, they will have no recourse but to attempt to bury these overwhelmingly negative feelings so they can function. Also since they feel natural shame, they will want to avoid contacts that exacerbate the sense of shame. Their situation will be even worse to the extent that their culture adds to their shame by directly blaming them or making demands on them that add to their shame when they can not comply successfully.

The natural result of failed shame is to hide.
Children will likely then resolve this deeply ingrained psychological experience by hiding what manifestation they can, avoiding re-shaming circumstances and in extreme cases will withdraw from normal participation.

The core experience remains unchanged, irrational and thus inaccessible.
To the extent they do otherwise develop and grow, they will likely be unable to either directly access the shame trauma experience since it will remain hugely painful and irrationally intransigent to any logical change or reduction. As a consequence CPTS results in hidden and long festering psychological torment, frequent efforts to avoid the memories or feeling associated, and when necessary, acting out behaviors to alleviate the excessive and uncontainable symptoms, such as self-loathing, self-hate, self injurious behaviors and thoughts and other methods to divert their awareness or dull the pains such as addictions, avoidances, reckless diversions, and violence where seemingly sanctified.

Unrelieved, it torments, limits and undermines their functioning and prevents help or recovery.
However, along with the apparently logical coping efforts, it is likely that the victim of CPTS will in spite of their best efforts, continue to have deep-seated thoughts and beliefs, particularly about themselves and any peri-traumatic associations that remain irrational, sometimes bizarre and illogical in comparison to their best mental abilities. These ongoing and unrelieved contradictions drive them to more adaptive but avoidant behaviors more frequently that to any direct attempt to find help and resolution for the conditions they experience and feel and actually believe with all their best rationalizing abilities that they are too shameful and undeserving to get any understanding or help. After all in their child’s experience core self, they feel they were the bad one, the demon child, the unforgiven by god or family, so why or how could they dare to expect or hope for anyone else to not be disgusted with them.

A few get help.
Yet, some do manage to find enough trust or need that they do bring some of the symptoms or need to those least likely to re-traumatize by re-shaming.

However, most remain hidden, unknown and un-helped.
However, it is a fact that most such people do not seek helm and even if they do, are exceeding difficult to help given the core irrational shame belief, feeling and experience.

It is all our problem.
The hidden role of instinctual shame, especially when it goes bad and therefore remains unrecognized, needs to be understood and addressed by all those who care about children at risk, whether yet heard or cared for. The children and the adults they become are the least able to ask or benefit without our understanding the role of shame that goes bad.

Walter Teague, LCSW-C 7-23-2014 wteague @

This copy provided for Workshop Attendees by Walter Teague, LCSW-C
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