This process is often instinctive and unconscious.
Toxic shame can also manifest as feeling that you are secretly bad, and that even the most inconsequential mistake is a sign of this hidden badness, so you deny or try to cover up or profusely apologize for even the most insignificant imperfections.
(This shame-fueled apologizing for insignificant acts often blocks a person from fixing genuinely problematic behaviors.)
Apathy is when you don't care or don't know that it's wrong. Maybe it even feels really good, maybe it even feels right.
Let's tackle toxic shame first.
Fighting the Fumes of Toxic Shame
The only way to do so is to realize that any bad stuff found within you was put there by Hashem Himself.
You don't need to feel like your negative qualities and tendencies reflect on the real you.
Your negative qualities and tendencies do NOT reflect on the real you.
Many (maybe even most) people feel like their negative stuff is the real them.
This means they think that when they are down, exhausted, overwhelmed, or in any kind of negative situation, then their negative reactions are the real them coming to fore.
Meaning, they feel that they're just sitting on this volcano of bad middot and trying to keep everything undercover, but then it comes exploding and spilling out.
And then they feel frustrated and despairing because no matter how hard they try, they hit turbulence or a pothole, and everything just comes apart as if all their middot work hasn't done a darn thing.
(This is for people who are aware they have bad middot AND realize what those bad middot are AND actually try to overcome them — which is actually a good sign. Some people are so steeped in blinding darkness that they don't even do that much.)
But your emotional lava flows and hot ash clouds are not the real you.
Yet if you think that the negative stuff are the real you, then it's too much to do a cheshbon hanefesh.
You'll see something negative that you feel or have done, and immediately try to stuff it back down or run from it or justify it or just pretend it's not there.
But Hashem put it there. It's not your fault.
Confess & Request
That is true, but only partially.
Eventually, you can't help noticing that there are people who have been through whatever you've been through (or worse), yet responded much better...
...which either inspires you or depresses you or bemuses you.
Hashem gave you your personality traits AND He gave you the experiences that would challenge those traits.
Maybe you've even undergone traumas which mashed down your good traits and ballooned up your bad traits.
Well, guess what? That's also from Hashem! You have nothing to hide before Him.
Yes, it's private and you don't need to necessarily share it with others.
But sharing it with Hashem? Go right ahead!
Saying to Hashem: "I'm envious/petty/sadistic/lazy/gluttonous/anything else" is actually a beneficial act. Yes, it's uncomfortable, maybe even torturous. But it's a cleansing pain, like putting an alcohol-based tincture on a cut to prevent infection and get the cut healed faster.
Secondly, when you state your bad middah, you can immediately ask Hashem to take it away from you, i.e.: "Hashem, I DON'T WANT TO BE LIKE THIS!!!! I REJECT THIS MIDDAH! I REJECT THIS YETZER HARA! TAKE IT AWAY FROM ME, PLEASE, BECAUSE I DON'T WANT THIS!!!"
And you actually get rewarded for doing just this.
This sweetens any judgement hanging over you.
There's a concept in Judaism that once you've said something "below," meaning that you've admitted a wrong, then in Shamayim, they have no power to punish you for it.
Because you're dealing with it. You're taking care of it.
You don't need a push or a wake-up call. You're doing it already.
And no one expects you to jump from wallowing at the bottom of a pit of muck to reaching glorious heights of pristine righteousness in one a day or even within one decade.
That's not how Hashem set things up and that's not the expectation of the Beit Din Shel Maalah (the Heavenly Tribunal).
Yet it's important to remember that this isn't black-and-white or bibbity-bobbity-boo wand-waving.
Sometimes, you'll do this once and get answered/fixed right away.
(And in that case, it is Heaven-sent bibbity-bobbity-boo.)
Yet other times, you'll need to do this repeatedly for years before you make a serious leap upwards.
And the process can also be anything between immediate and decades-long.
Yet other times, you'll think Hashem has totally fixed you in one area, but it'll come back much later, leaving you feeling like "What the heck?!"
But as long as you're actually doing it, you're winning (no matter how much it may feel like you're losing).
Plop Your Burden on Hashem
You can't just say, "I'm a glutton and I really don't care!"
Except that you actually kind of can. Sort of.
I'll tell you from personal experience that you can say, "I'm a (fill-in-the-negative), but I know I'm not supposed to be. The problem is that I really like being/doing (fill-in-the-negative) and I actually don't feel so remorseful about it, even though technically, I know that I should. On the contrary, I really enjoy it! Yet I know that I should feel bad about being this way. Can You help me out here, please?"
Again, Hashem knows you're like this.
He knows that you're not particularly remorseful, or don't see what's really so bad about whatever you're doing, or that you simply don't have much of a conscience and even enjoy it.
This could be anything, BTW.
For example, it could be that you are a secular Jew (or a lapsed religious Jew) who has just found out about the importance of keeping Shabbat, but you simply don't enjoy Shabbat as much as you enjoy transgressing Shabbat.
Not out of spite, but maybe you just really enjoy jet-skiing, and being out in the water and the sun feels spiritual to you while sitting at a table in someone's small living room feels kind of blah in comparison.
Say that to Hashem and ask Him what to do about it, or just ask Him if He would please take care of it for you.
Again, Hashem made you like that. Whether via your innate nature or upbringing or a combination of both, He made you into a person who prefers jet-skiing to Shabbat.
Take it to Hashem and plop it down in front of Him, and let Him deal with it, i.e.: "I know I'm supposed to love Shabbat, Hashem. But I just don't. What should I do? Can You please help me to get where I'm supposed to be? Because I'm just not feeling it. I'm just not there."
Anyone on any level with any issue can do this.
- Some people really like hurting others.
- Some people even like beating up others.
- For some people, life is never so good as when they are plotting against others.
- Some people love lashon hara.
- Some people can't stand the thought of never getting a heroin high again because nothing else feels as good to them.
- Some people cannot relinquish a feeling of control, even to Hashem.
- Some can't let go of self-pity or petulance or the feeling of superiority.
It feels like their lifeline and they don't know what to do without it.
Another example: A lot of overweight people hate being overweight, but they really like binging. They want to lose weight, but the actual binging doesn't bother them, despite Chazal saying that overeating is a bad middah even when it doesn't lead to obesity.
This dynamic pretty normal.
So even if you don't want to stop (for whatever your reasons), you can still give that to Hashem.
How to be the Ongoing Winner
Hakadosh Baruch Hu [The Holy One Blessed Be He] holds absolutely no hakpadah [strict judgement, condemnation] against a Jewish person who possess evil traits and lusts.
Hakadosh Baruch Hu does not come in accusations about this since He implanted these within him, and He brought us down here for this purpose.
If so, regarding what is the hakpadah?
The hakpadah occurs when the Jewish person does not strive to seek out the path and the counsel as to how to get out of [those evil traits and lusts].
Therefore, there exists the iron rule:
"As long as a person engages in battle, he is always called 'the winner' [hamenatze'ach]."
(Ahavat Kedumim, p. 170)
What's the best thing to do to overcome the toxic shame and apathy that blocks you from your true potential and from fulfilling your soul's mission?
- Realize that ANYTHING negative about you, anything that has ever caused you to do anything wrong, has been implanted in you by Hashem. It's not you.
- Know that your negative traits are not the real you.
- Know that your good points are the real you.
- Admit your negative traits/inclinations/actions to Hashem, even if it makes you cringe, or even if you don't feel bad about them.
- Ask Hashem to help you with whole mess.
May we all succeed in completing our soul tikkun without trials or tribulations.