“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” – Dr. Brene Brown
I’ve echoed this idea before: I think getting past your shame is a Hero’s Journey.
I found out something new about myself just trying to explore why I couldn’t stop eating chocolate. Bam! Pirates swarming the ship. There it is: shame. To be fair to the pirates, I was doing an exercise specifically designed to uncover hidden beliefs.
Shame is something you can’t even say out loud. Shame causes you to hide your secret from others, but also from yourself.
You stubbornly stick to the story of what you use to hide your shame: Isolation? Partying? Sarcasm? Jokes? Cynicism? Drinking? Eating? Buying stuff? [Insert any deflection device here]
And it works, for sure. Mine’s worked for me.
It works so well, I actually buy into “This is how I am.” “This is just what I do.”
It works so well, even I can’t see the shame.
All you see is your deflection device, and you think that is the problem.
Fascinating, aren’t we? And powerful! So powerful that we can feel or do something that we are so ashamed of, that we’ll create something new to hide our shame from ourselves. That’s how bad we think it is. [Spoiler alert: it’s not.]
So, now what? I can’t undo what I did. I can’t seem to un-feel how I feel.
I think the first step is what I did to find your well-hidden shame.
There are a lot of tools and techniques to get past the deflection. Fake it out, as it were. I use Avatar tools, but here’s another.
One way is to respond quickly to a prompt or question and notice the thought or image that flashes. You have to pay attention to the feelings that arise and be willing to let the feelings tell you where your shame really is.
When you respond quickly to prompts like these, the shame will usually come up.
I can’t ever tell anyone that I…
I won’t ever speak about…
I am most ashamed of…
I am going to make up an example. Let’s say you grew up poor. You did your best to hide this from our schoolmates and only your best friends knew what your house looked like. You affected sarcasm and disdain for any activity that cost money you didn’t have. You had a caustic remark ready for anyone you thought had more money than you or was more casual about money. You have since worked very hard to “make something of yourself” and have “enough” money. By most people’s measurement you are now rich.
However, now you can’t turn the sarcasm off – which comes off as mean and heartless, and there hasn’t yet been “enough” money no matter how much you make. You would like to be kinder and more generous, but just can’t seem to change.
When you respond to a prompt like: I can never tell anyone…
You see your dad sitting in the backyard, drinking a beer and talking with his buddy about how unfair his boss is and why he was docked pay for a mistake and why it’s not his fault… and on and on… and you feel a choke in your throat as you think, “It’s never his fault. I hate him.”
Then you realize, you are ashamed of being poor, but you’re more ashamed of your father and you just realized you’re ashamed that you hate your father.
How can you ever say that to anyone, even yourself? You think: I am bad. There is something wrong with me. A normal person does not feel this way.
The feeling of shame -> judgment of self -> abusive self-talk -> fear of anyone seeing how you feel -> stubbornly cling to response to the fear and illusion-creating behavior.
“Being stubborn gives you a false sense of a strong self.” Mona Miller
Then what? What do you do with your new information?
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Dr. Brene Brown
Bringing your shame out into the open by sharing what you have found is the key to destroying shame and its blocking power. That is why the AA Step 5 is so powerful and life-changing for many. You say all the worst of yourself out loud and that listener just nods, listens, and hugs you when you’re done.
You don’t have to join a 12-step group. You just have to pick the right person to share your story with. Pick someone with compassion and discretion.
You don’t have to tell everyone, and you don’t have to badge your shame. Keep your privacy and boundaries intact.
When I uncovered a shame just recently, I went out in the backyard to say it out loud. It was HARD. But once I said it aloud, then I could write it down in the workbook I was using. I could feel a lot of my tightness loosening. I have since told a close friend.
I see now how much of my self and my actions I have filtered through this shame. At first I was exhausted, but today I woke up feeling better than I have in quite a while.
Saturday I received a text from a friend showing me a picture of his new son. Baby was, of course, adorable with that “Where the heck… What the heck…” look on his face common to newborns.
This friend has a lovely family with a wife, step-daughter, and two sons. This is not at all my idea of him! My idea of him is stuck from over twenty years ago. In my head he is still the person I would call a “rake.” Some admiration, some judgment. Sticky identity. Hmmm.
But enough about him. What does this have to do with me?
This is actually a good question.
What does it say about me, my identity, that keeps him stuck? What is my identity that holds him in his? When I say “his” I mean my idea of him. Probably not his own idea of himself or anyone else’s idea of him.
If you want to drive to Denver, you need to know where you’re starting from to plan your route accurately. If you think you might be lost, you need to stop and find some reference points.
Where am I to still see him that way? That’s what popped into my head last Saturday as we texted back and forth, and I looked at a new human being with half of his DNA.
I knew it would be necessary for me to un-stick my identity of me from back then to allow his to be current. I’ve been running through some attributes to see what felt most solid.
Gadabout: traveled only a little
Went around curves really fast: too scared to do that
Worked hard to change: afraid I haven’t changed at all
…. oh. Only matters how it feels, not whether or not it’s true.
More work to do, if I can be brave enough to do it.
from my Zen Page-a-Day® calendar this week:
“”I have arrived, I am home”is the shortest Dharma Talk I have ever given. “I have arrived, I am home” means “I don’t want to run anymore.” You need that insight in order to be truly established in the here and now, and to embrace life with all its wonders.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
This is one of go-to poems when I am doing a walking meditation. I loved seeing it come up on the calendar with a little more insight to it.
This post is about our reflections. Those wonderful people who hold up the gorgeous, polished mirror for us every day.
This morning I listened to a friend talk about how her low self-esteem and how her family enforced the idea that she was never good enough. I thought, “It’s sad that her parents gave her that belief, but it’s even sadder that she still believes it.” I wanted to ask why she still bought into that. (Ironic that I was invalidating her, too.)
I realized then that she was a reflection. How do I do that? How do I spout decades-old beliefs about myself as if a) they were true or b) I couldn’t change them to whatever I wanted?
I know how the mind works and its pre-disposition to the negative, to the habit, and to the usual pattern. BUT, if I do some simple math and accounting and add up the time for all of the “bad” things I’ve done and have been done to me, they maybe add up to one day (with some contingency) total. But let’s say one day. Now comparing this one day to the over 22,630 days I have lived up until now, why would I add one more second to that side of the ledger? Why? More importantly, why would I be the one doing it?
Time to shift my attention. Thanks, Reflector.
“When you remember you are the ocean, you’re not afraid of the waves.” Tara Brach
I might paraphrase and say, “…you’re not afraid of the size of the waves.” Or I might change my point-of-view and wonder why I am not laughing and riding the waves.
I know her point is to remind me that I am source. I am the ocean and the waves are only experiences of “me.”
At some point this past weekend I heard a phrase that struck me so much I told my phone to remind me of it. “Humans advance when they remove themselves from the center of the universe.” Sadly, I didn’t note who said it or what podcast I was listening to when I heard it. Apologies to the speaker.
I thought that if that’s true, it would apply at the micro/personal level, too: I can advance [only] when I remove myself from the center of the universe.
This morning a quote from Cheri Huber landed in my email.
“Disidentifying and stepping back enough to see the difference between the human being and the ego-identity is critical to “saving” the human being.” – Cheri Huber
I remember reading a similar idea — that the ego-identity will kill the host to be right. As anyone who in a twelve-step program knows.
I practiced widening back after encountering these quotes. (I am doing it now!). I shifted my viewpoint to my higher self. Then I shift it to “minding the edges.” Minding the Edges is an Avatar ReSurfacing tool.
I say, “This is weird.” Saying that is a way to ‘create what I am experiencing.’ Try that one!
As much fun as I have ranting lately, I have been moved to some action.
Read my post on Poetiosity.