Breaking Up with Shame

BREAKING UP WITH SHAME 

Exposing our hidden selves

Shame, which is an underlying sense that we ourselves are somehow bad or wrong, is a well grooved inner pathway for most.  Some people might first default to blame, which is simply shame projected outwards onto others.  Why do we carry around with us this sense that we are, or could be, bad or wrong?  Why is it that when other people disagree with how we are, or have opinions about how we should be, that we nearly immediately go into self-defense in the form of hatred or rejection of ourselves?  Shame is one of the most pervasive and debilitating feeling states.  When we feel it we tend to freeze, withdraw and judge ourselves.  We think thoughts along the lines of “if only I could be better or different than I am, then I wouldn’t be deficient, or bad or wrong, and people would love and include me.”  Talk about one of the most painful states of being in which there seems to be no good way out.  From the perspective of shame the only answer is for you to be different or better than you are in order to be loved and accepted.  This is battle that you will always end up losing.  You will lose because your sense of being loved and included is outside of you, and you will forever be chasing it because being loved and included is the most primary of all human needs and wants.  

We have endless strategies to avoid feeling shame.  One of the most primary ones is to stay hidden, to not allow others to see who we are, to put up fronts and be inauthentic so that people won’t judge us.  If we don’t let people see us then they can’t reject us or tell us that we are wrong.  If there is no one “real” at home inside of us for people to see then we can’t be accountable to being “wrong”.  If we just stay quiet enough, keep the peace, pretend to not know much including knowing who we are or what value we have to contribute or share, then we can avoid the painstaking judgment of others.  That is until we can’t.  There will be a time when someone judges us, when they disagree with us, when they perceive some kind of insufficiency in our actions or beingness.  There is no hiding then.  The cloak is off and we are exposed.  This is when the shame gets in.  We might react in anger, recoil in self-defense, or completely cut ourselves off from our own heart.  We are left with the feeling that we are bad and wrong, and often beating ourselves up about it or lashing out at others.  

You might be wondering where does shame come from.  It’s simple really.  It comes from a belief that you are bad or wrong.  Where did the belief come from?  The belief in badness or wrongness is such a pervasive societal belief that you would be hard pressed not to have pick it up somewhere along your human journey.  Maybe someone told you were bad or wrong when you were growing up.  Perhaps you learned it socially through peers groups, in school, or in your family.  It’s actually not so important where you picked up the belief, rather what is important is that you identify the belief living inside of yourself.  That you see it and recognize that you are now the source of it.  You are the one that keeps that belief alive, active, and true for you in your own psyche. 

NEVER BEEN WRONG 

Graceful learning

What if you’ve never ever been wrong?  Seems like a bold question, eh?  Would you believe it if I told you that you never have been?  For a moment you might feel some relief at that thought, but most people will go on to validate for themselves how it’s not true.  They will conjure up all of the times they’ve been bad or wrong in the past.  They will reinforce the belief in their wrongness or badness for themselves.  Most people don’t really want to believe that they are right and good.  When I speak about right and wrong as it relates to us as beings, I am not talking about detailed or factual information.  Yes you can be inaccurate about facts, or in recalling certain details, or about information.  What I am pointing to rather is who you are, including the things that you do and say.  If someone is frequently found to be insisting on their rightness by needing to be right about facts and information it’s often because they feel deeply wrong inside as to who they are.  It’s simply another shame avoidance strategy.  

Imagine for a minute if you could really embrace non-badness and non-wrongness.  If that could really be a reality for you.  How would you feel?  For most I would imagine that you would feel some sense of freedom.  It would be the end of self-doubt, the end of self-hatred and the beginning of an availability to life that you might have never experienced before.  See most of what we believe to be bad/good or wrong/right is based on what other people think or what culture/society says we should be like.  It’s not based on our own knowing.  If it was we would all just be being ourselves and wouldn’t think twice about it.  But almost no one is being fully and authentically who they are all of the time.  

Let’s talk about actions and things we say.  First of all people who love themselves and know that they are right and good don’t harm other people.  There simply isn’t motivation for it.  Doing harm to others is an outward expression that comes from a deep sense of self-hatred and self-rejection (i.e. shame).  Believe it or not, and it’s of course up to you to choose for yourself, but there are no actions or words that are bad or wrong.  Yikes.  You might disagree and you are more than welcome too, however the shame cycle never ends for you then.  You perceive some action or word as wrong in another.  You project that wrongness onto that person who now feels shame from your projection regarding their words or actions.  In response they act in some distorted fashion in order to not feel the shame.  Same goes for your own words and actions. What we perceive and feel we create.  The cycle continues unchecked into infinity.  

So then what about learning?  How do we learn if we don’t feel shame?  How do we up level and become more refined, loving and aware creatures towards ourselves and others?  Well again believe it or not, we don’t have to be bad or wrong in order to learn, and learning doesn’t mean that we are/were bad or wrong.  People can give their opinion to us, of something we did or shared, without us going into shame.  We can both stay open to the feedback and then decide what we want to do with that information.  Is there something constructive that we could learn from that person’s information without going into wrongness?  Could we just receive that information and note it or integrate it.  Perhaps there is nothing bad or wrong about what we did or didn’t do, but only learning to be had.  Also what if when you shared your experience of others with them you simply shared impact rather than judgment.  What if you took accountability for how you feel about what occurred while still providing information to another person about how their words/behaviors impacted you.  This is a high level skill yet it is learnable.  

We are all constantly learning and it doesn’t mean we are bad or wrong.  When you get this you can break up with shame.  While at one stage of your development perhaps shame was a good learning strategy for you, it’s also one that at some point quits serving you.  It limits your growth and keeps you disconnected from yourself, which in turn helps and serves no one. 

Dr. Amanda Love, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado

The root of shame

The root of shame 

Wanting to hide from others and self

40630695 - big tree roots and sunshine in a green forestWe have all experienced shame.  It comes with the feelings of not wanting to be seen by others or even to see our own selves fully.  Though we may feel an underlying discomfort simply in existing we don’t allow ourselves to see ourselves in the entire range of how we feel about ourselves.  If we did this little shame game that we play with ourselves would be over because we would be blasting the light of our awareness on our massive misperceptions of ourselves, misperceptions that currently feel very real to us, and they would be seen, no longer hiding out only in the recesses of our mind.  

Within shame lies those aspects of ourselves which we reject the most, those that we feel are unacceptable, despicable and from which we decide whether or not we are a worthy human being.  Now some people may think or say that to blast the light of their awareness onto themselves would feel too bright, they would see too much, too much that they are not yet ready to forgive or love.  This is valid and why typically there is a “process” to healing.  This process of healing is simply the preparation or readiness time that we need in order to reach this state of full love and forgiveness of self.  The healing itself happens in a moment, an instant, of pure presence and love with self for self.  There is no actual process to it.  

The fundamental key here is awareness of self.  Often we are not fully checked in to ourselves.  Not seeing ourselves.  Not noticing or being aware of how we feel about ourselves, what we are thinking about ourselves, etc.  Sometimes we are a bit like walking zombies, not awake, not aware, and using whatever we can to distract ourselves from paying attention to ourselves.  When we notice discomfort rather than turn away from it we must turn our awareness towards it so that we can see and illuminate (i.e. shine our own awareness onto) ourselves.   

Moving into awareness of self 

Seeing self, loving self

Portrait of sad blond little girl sitting on the bridgeThe root of all shame is lack of awareness of self.  If we were fully aware of ourselves shame would not exist because we simply would know the full scope of who and what we are.  But because we do not know ourselves and are not fully aware of ourselves we experience shame.  Shame comes with the limited lens or set of perceptions that we are wrong, bad, not enough, impure, unholy, and the like, which we have come to believe about ourselves because we don’t know the full truth of ourselves.  Being human is to experience these perceptions or see through this particular lens of confusion.  If we identify with only our human self then we will believe that we are only these things and the shame we feel persists.  

To wake up is to begin to know yourself beyond simply being human.  Yes you are having a human experience, there is no denying that, however I want to invite you to entertain that you are something more than human.  You are literally God in form.  That is the truth, but what will it take for you to know it?  

The first step is to investigate, rather than move away, from uncomfortable thoughts and feelings about yourself.  Be willing to see what you are believing to be true that is creating the feelings of discomfort or shame.  Are you believing that you suck, that you’re bad, that you’re not good enough or worthy or not lovable.  Investigate and see.  Through this you are illuminating yourself.  Beginning to wake yourself up more and more to yourself.  Seeing your patterns.  Only from this seeing can a new perspective and knowing of self begin to arise.  This new perspective is not something that you have to do or figure out, it simply emerges as you begin to investigate and know yourself more and more.  

As you know, see and wake up to more of yourself the more capacity you begin to have to embrace and love those aspects of yourself that you have been illuminating through your process of investigation.  Your heart opens more to those human parts of you that may feel like they have done wrong or are inherently bad.  You begin to embrace the human parts through this waking up to self and simultaneously begin to realize that those parts are God too.  The parts that have been feeling left out, separate, alone and isolated begin to know God too because you are shining your light awareness upon them.  In that their truth is revealed and they re-integrate back into the whole of which they have always belonged.  

Dr. Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado