Often when people are looking at healing shame they are encouraged to share in safe places. However, what that means is worth talking about.
When we have either shame core issues or have shame triggers, you can bet that in all likelihood there was some interpersonal relationship where someone believed they could trust and ended up feeling shamed or betrayed in some way. We live in a shame based world and many of us carry shame that does not need an external event or person to trigger us. However, it is hard to live and interact in this world and not have experienced shame from someone.
Much healing can happen individually from reading, journaling, meditation and prayer, retreats, etc. However, because much of shame happens interpersonally, it is also healed interpersonally. When I share my shame with another, and I am seen with absolute love and acceptance, amazing healing happens. That can happen in therapy, both individual and group. It can also happen with a trusted friend or member of the clergy, or a sponsor. We just need to make it clear what we are healing and what we need. To ask for someone to listen with non-judgement, no advise, so fix-it ideas, without having to respond verbally, and with absolute attention is what is really helpful. To tell someone ahead of time what you are doing and what you need is the ultimate of self-care. It sets the stage for that part of self that feels so defective and raw and certain of rejection to experience the opposite of shame.
If you can think back to a time in your life where you shared something in a way that you felt very vulnerable, and were heard and seen with loving eyes, you most likely experience a deep connection with that person. It is so deeply healing and peaceful.
So, safety is what helps you experience healing, and peace. It allows the part that feels so alienated from others to begin to feel a “part of” and “connected to” again. It feels like a miracle. In that moment we are “witnessed” as deserving, enough, and lovable. You deserve this. Claim it.
I was talking to a brilliant woman today. She had gone into shame over something and immediately felt like a fraud. When shame hits it takes you out at the knees. It can convince you that you don’t know anything about something you are quite knowledgeable in. It can get into your head and interfere on forward movement. It can speak in a voice that is familiar and sounds so true. If you don’t identify that it is the voice of shame, it can have its way with you. If you can catch that it is shame, you can use your tools to intervene on it. Remember, it is never true.
Let yourself identify the shame and what it is telling you. Then claim a truth, whether you believe it or not. It may sound something like: “Whether I believe it or not I am a knowledgeable, competent person who knows a lot about ________.”
I have so much I have written about shame over the years. Today I stumbled on an exercise I had developed to help people become more aware of their shame, and a process to help them move out of it. I decided to share it in my blog, and eventually my book.
Although the shame voice is speaking non-stop, until it is isolated and identified, it will be impossible to intervene on it. Pick one of the following three topics and then listen to you inner voice. Write down the first three things your inner voice has to say to you on the topic of your choice from the three listed.
* Your looks
* Your intelligence
* Your work
After you have written down the first three things your inner voice has to say, sit back and pay attention to how that voice sounded. Is it derogatory? Does it compare you to others? Does it bring you down? If it does any of those three things, you can be sure it is the voice of shame.
Now comes the hard part. Write down three kind statements about your chosen topic. You must turn your ear in a different direction and listen to the still small voice of your sweet guardian angel or an inner wise woman/man, or your own Higher Power. What does that voice say? You can be sure that this voice will not compare you to another (either favorably or not). It will sound foreign to your ears. It will bring peace and a smile. When we first hear that voice it is hard to believe and we won’t necessarily believe it. However, for our own healing, and in order to honor truth, we must be willing to turn in the “direction of kindness” and listen.
Now be still and please let this in. SHAME NEVER TELLS THE TRUTH!!!
Sometimes when we are looking for kind truth we need to claim a right. For instance: I have the right to look just like I look. I have the right to respect myself just the way I am. I get to have the intelligence I have and to have that be good enough. I get to be smart in the way that I am smart and have that be perfect for me. My work gets to be what is right for me. I deserve respect.
Those are some examples. We can’t arm wrestle our old beliefs away from self, but we can gently and kindly turn in a different direction and become willing to believe kindness, compassion, and love.
Healing shame is a life long process. It can feel absolutely overwhelming. What I like to do is focus on one thing, each day, that I would like to do differently. Now, I may work on that same thing for months on end.
So, for instance, I may decide that I set myself and you up when I have expectations for you. I may have really looked at how covertly destructive that is. I expect you to do this and this and this and when you don’t, I may never say it out loud, but I think there is something wrong with you. I may determine that you are less than in some way. Since 80-90 % of communication is non-verbal, I will send the message that there is something wrong with you whether I say anything out loud, or not. That is shaming.
*I want to make a note here that I often point out things that we ALL do. My intent is not to shame you or myself for doing them. I am attempting to change our consciousness about things that are woven into the fabric of our culture that are shaming and we have never looked at it that way. Most of shame healing is taking a “Norm” in our culture and doing it absolutely different.
The one behavior a day that I am focusing on changing keeps the healing from being completely overwhelming. I can do one thing a day. Usually the things I pick are so locked into my behavior that when I pick that as my focus I will catch myself doing it many, many, many times a day. If I have set noticing myself putting expectations on someone as my goal for change, then I have to be careful to not shame myself for the many times I do that. I simply need to notice how I have set an expectation on another and turn in a different direction. The different direction may be saying to myself, “you have the right to live your life in the way that fits you. It is not your job to live up to my expectations.” Then I will turn my attention to my side of the street- what is my business.
By doing this focusing on changing one thing at a time, I am making progress on healing shame both in my life and making a difference in the world.
Perfection is the number one obstacle when dealing with shame. The basic premise is: If you can’t do it perfectly, then don’t do it. Shame keeps one from doing something mediocre or less than perfect. To risk looking silly or foolish or not the best can be very difficult. Therefore, it is often hard to take on a new skill. We have to start from the beginning and that usually is clumsy, awkward, less than pretty!
Just for the fun of it, make a list of things you have been “sort of” interested in, or have at one time or another thought of “trying.” Then look at what got in the way from you doing that. Do this with curiosity, and be very gentle with yourself. Notice how many things were not done or started because you did not want to be in the messy beginning stage.
Perfection can be quite the kill joy. It can be the reason that people look back on in their life and say, “I wish I had done that.”
Personally, I don’t want perfection to keep me from moving into the unknown. I want to boldly step into new, even if I crash, or look silly.
The song I sang for the “Pyromaniac Cafe” was, “If I Were Brave.” It is by Jana Steinfield.
Google the song and listen. I sang it for myself and also for my audience. I think it is a great way to step out of the perfection of shame and into a richer, more fulfilling life.
It will help me to post this. I have decided the form of my book will be a day by day. Being a therapist for 30 years and specializing in shame most of this time, I have gotten used to talking in brief snipers about shame. I day by day will be like talking.
Each month will have the same topic on the same day. So, for instance, if day one each month is: “what is shame?” then there will be 12 different times I talk about what shame is. The plan is that the book will be like a spiral. Each month I will go deeper and deeper into the healing of shame. It will be a in depth healing journey to the center of your heart. Living the process with me day by day will lead the reader to a place of fundamental change by the end of the year!
The title will be something like: Shame Is An Illusion: Shining the Light of Truth on Shame.
So, I actually have over 200 of the day by days written. However, a lot of editing will be needed. Healing shame has been a passion for me since the beginning of my work. To put it in writing will tie the work up and put a ribbon it.
If you have any ideas, or things that you want to make sure I include, please let me know. You can put a comment on here, email me, or call me. In that way it is a collaborative effort!
We have a hard time stepping out of shame if we don’t know we are in it. One of the ways I know shame is active is if I or someone I am working with is “stuck”. Shame gets going in our head and we lock down into self-defeating thoughts or behavior. It is like a sticky web is over us and we just can’t seem to move in any direction at all. I had someone once tell me that when they are in their shame they feel like they are thumbtacked to the wall and are just flailing there. I thought that was an excellent description. We often can “know” a direction that would be helpful, but just can’t seem to move there.
So, if you are stuck, see what your shame might be telling you about whatever it is you are attempting to figure out. So, for example, if you can’t decide if you want to get together with someone then your writing or thought process out of the shame might look like:
If I get together with this person my shame is telling me….
If I don’t get together with this person my shame is telling me…
If I don’t decide what to do my shame is telling me…
Then we can respond to the shame and look at all of our choices.
It doesn’t pay to argue with shame. Just look at it and what it is telling you and then look in the direction of what choice and compassion might tell you. Claim a truth, whether you believe it or not. It helps movement begin again.
Whether I believe it or not, I am a worthy person who deserves __________________.
You fill in the blank and keep moving in that direction.
Peace to you!
If you check my past blogs you will see me rant on about “should”. I have really suggested releasing it from your vocabulary and consciousness. It just sets up shame. Well, I am expanding and suggesting releasing the words, “ought, should, must, have to” from your vocabulary and consciousness.
Those words keep us from owning our power of choice. It is in owning our power of choice that we truly step into our own personal power and out of shame. Each and every moment we are choosing our reality. We are responsible for the world we see. That does not mean that I am responsible for what others choose to do, but I am responsible for how I respond to them and the world. It is in owning our power to choose that we can begin to experience peace instead of upset. It is hard to really own this because we live in an ego construct in our world which constantly reinforces the belief that we are the “victims” of the world we see. ” The way to stay a victim is to not own our choices.
This does not mean we beat ourselves up when we don’t own our choices or find ourselves experiencing being a victim. It means we notice, turn in the direction of kindness and love, and look at our choices in responding. Ask: Would I rather have this experience of upset or peace?
Gently catch yourself whenever you are using the words, “ought, should, must, and have to”. Then change the word to “could” and look at your choices. Consciously choose. Step into your power.
I hope, for all of us, that we all begin to choose PEACE.