Walking Sacredly

Fire / European Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)

I AM all life

All life AM I

Fire walking 

With each step


© Salem Islas-Madlo 2016

“Let us move on, and step out boldly, though it be into the night, and we can scarcely see the way.”     ~Charles B Newcomb

“Move and the way will open.”     ~Zen Proverb

*photo by Alex Hyde, Alex Hyde Photography

There is Something Wrong with You


My Name Is Toxic Shame

I was there at your conception

In the epinephrine of your mother’s shame

You felt me in the fluid of her womb

I came upon you before you could speak

Before you understood

Before you had any way of knowing

I came upon you when you were learning to walk

When you vulnerable and needy

Before you had any boundaries

My Name Is Toxic Shame.


I came upon you when you were magical

Before you could know I was there

I severed your soul

I pierced you to the core

I brought you feelings of distrust, ugliness, stupidity, doubt

worthlessness, inferiority, and unworthiness

I made you feel different

I told you there was something wrong with you

I soiled you Godlikeness

My Name Is Toxic Shame.


I existed before conscience

Before guilt

Before morality

I am the master of emotion

I am the internal voice that whispers

words of condemnation

I am the eternal shudder that courses through you

without any mental preparation

My Name Is Toxic Shame.


I live in secrecy

In the deep moist banks of darkness

depression and despair

Always I sneak up on you, I catch you off guard

I come through the back door

Uninvited  unwanted

The first to arrive

I was there at the beginning of time

With Father Adam, Mother Eve

Brother Cain

I was at the Tower of Babel

the Slaughter of the Innocents

My Name Is Toxic Shame.


I come from ‘shameless’ caretakers, abandonment,

ridicule, abuse, neglect—perfectionistic systems

I am empowered by the shocking intensity of a parent’s rage

The cruel remarks of siblings

The jeering humiliation of other children

The awkward reflection in mirrors

The touch that feels icky and frightening

The slap, the pinch, the jerk that ruptures trust

I am intensified by

A racist, sexist culture

The righteous condemnation of religious bigots

The fears and pressures of schooling

The hypocrisy of politicians

The multigenerational shame of dysfunctional family systems

My Name Is Toxic Shame.


I can transform a woman person, a Jewish person, a black person

a gay person, an oriental person, a precious child into

A bitch, a kike, a nigger, a bull dyke, a faggot, a chink,

a selfish, little bastard

I bring pain that is chronic

A pain that will not go away

I am the hunter that stalks you night and day

Every day everywhere

I have no boundaries

You try to hide from me

But you cannot

Because I live inside you

I make you feel hopeless

Like there is no way out

My Name Is Toxic Shame.


My pain is so unbearable that you must pass me on to others

Through control, perfectionism, contempt, criticism, blame,

envy, judgement, power, and rage.

My pain is so intense

You must cover me up with addictions, rigid roles, reenactment,

and unconscious ego defenses.

My pain is so intense

That you must numb out and no longer feel me.

I convinced you that I am gone—that I do not exist—you

experience absence and emptiness

My Name Is Toxic Shame.


I am the core of co-dependency

I am spiritual bankruptcy

The logic of absurdity

The repetition compulsion

I am crime, violence, incest, rape

I am the voracious hole that fuels all addictions

I am insatiability and lust

I am Ahasverus the Wandering Jew,

Wagner’s Flying Dutchman, Dostoevsky’s underground man,

Kierkegaard’s seducer, Goethe’s Faust

I twist who you are into what you do and have

I murder your soul and you pass me on for generations

My Name Is Toxic Shame.

-originally by Leo Booth, adapted by John Bradshaw-