Author Archives: btonn

Shame of the Unemployed

Hi there!

I am in the first rewrite in my book.  As I do this I am reminded of one particular shame I want to comment on.

Awhile back I was watching a show on people who had lost their jobs, had searched and searched, and were unable to find new employment.  They were dealing with profound losses, as well as a cultural bias that was shaming to them.  The longer they were unemployed, the more they received the message that they were “not employable.”  Often they were told not to apply for a job unless they had a job.  They were not even allowed into the interview process.

The shame they are experiencing along with the losses and fear is untenable.  They are feeling hopeless and often suicidal.

As individuals, we can look at our own biases, how they might be shaming, and how we can change them.  We can make changes in our own beliefs that make a difference in the mass consciousness.  We can be aware of how we think of the unemployed and make a conscious effort to think loving and empowering thoughts to support them.

I believe we don’t always do this because there is a cultural shame about the way we have “off-shored” our labor force and judged our unemployed.  Because we don’t deal with the underlying belief system, we all can get sucked into the shame we place on the unemployed.  We become part of the problem.

We each play a part when there is a cultural shame.  The only place we have power is in changing our own beliefs.  We are of one mind.  When I change my mind I make an impact.  I may not see this, AND we are making a difference.

We can treat our unemployed with dignity and respect.  How would we want to be treated in a similar situation?

Poem- Pauses




They come if we let them

Turn a corner and  new view presents itself

I get lost and found again

Perhaps I never am lost

Home is in my Heart

Another Right

Hello all-

I was just reading the book, The Gift of Years, by the author Joan Chittister.  She has a right that I love and wanted to share.  As I have mentioned, one of the ways out of shame is to know our rights and to live with them as our truth.  The right she mentioned is:  “I have the natural right to live till I die!”

That is perfect.  I am being reminded of the fact that it is up to me to live my life and to claim it as my own.  I want to live as my heart dictates.  I want to live ALL of my life in the way that fits for me- ALL the way to the end.  Living with the awareness of claiming my own life and truth has deeply enriched my life.  I have dreams and ambitions and a bucket list that is unique to me.

Since I moved to New Mexico and am not caught up in constant travel and busyness, I have been claiming dreams.  I am having so much fun and sharing joy.  I am writing and singing and acting and about to be in a triathlon.  Those fit for me.  By lifting my energy I make a different contribution to the world.  I see that as my gift back to all of you wonderful people who are part of my life.  Since we are one, it is my gift back to life to live in joy.


Shame is like a Fire

I recently heard someone describe their internal shame voice as: “like a fire with a constant scorce of air feeding it.”  Shame does go on and on and burns everything in its path.  It builds instead of diminishes, and it rages on and on.  It seems to be unstoppable and it is always destructive.  In the middle of it, it seems like it has a life of its own and is not at all amenable to change.  Like a big forest fire or house fire, it will eventually burn itself out.  However, it can leave a lot of destruction before it does so, and it can take a very long time.

However, if a fire is caught soon enough, in fact, the earlier the better, it is able to be diverted or stopped.  It can be transmuted.  It may appear to be uncontainable.  That is not true.

Reminder:  It may appear that shame will rage on, just as fire with a source of air.  However, there are ways to intervene on fires just as there are ways to intervene on shame.  However, it is important to use the correct tools.  If we pour water on a grease fire it is not effective.  If we pour more shame on shame it may appear to be endless.

1st draft done

I am delighted.  I have finished my 1st draft of my book.  What has been interesting is noting the process.  I had really struggled with having worked on my book for so long without making progress.  Well, if I had not done all that writing as I went, I would not have the book today.  I wrote down stories and peoples’ description of shame over the years.  If I had not done that I wouldn’t have remembered them.  If I wrote it down I had asked permission to do so.  So, it helped me.  Instead of being upset that I did it this way, I can see the process.  Another lovely example of “trusting process.”  It doesn’t always look like I want it to, and it always turns out to be for the best.

I now start the rewrite and editing.  I still have much to do, but I had a dream where I was handed the finished book.  I can see it now.  YES!!!!!!!

Healing Shame is Essential

There is a quote by a man who has been my mentor in understanding and healing shame. His name is: Gershen Kaufman. In his book: “ Shame- The Power of Caring” he makes a powerful statement. He says, “Shame is the affect which is the source of many complex and disturbing inner states: depression, alienation, self-doubt, isolating loneliness, paranoid and schizoid phenomena, compulsive disorders, splitting of the self, perfectionism, a deep sense of inferiority, inadequacy or failure, the so-called borderline conditions and disorders of narcissism.

I have seen this over and over in my 30 years as a therapist. And yet, how often is shame directly addressed in the therapy room?

June Tagney- co-author of, “Shame in the Therapy Hour” in an interview is quoted as saying, “although people rarely mention shame during the therapy hour, it’s ubiquitous in the therapy room.?

And yet, how often is shame directly addressed in therapy room?

I believe it is profoundly important and essential in anyone’s healing process, whether in formal therapy or not, to learn the language of shame and bring their shame into healing. If we do not, we will always feel a sense of lack. We will always be triggered and not know what happened, nor know how to stop the shame from overwhelming us.


Shame is a critical component of healing. We may as well work with it now.



I am shifting gears for this post.  I have been reading the book:  “The Gift of Years” by Joan Chittister.  It is a wonderful book.  I am looking at this phase of my life with loving eyes.  I am eager for what lies ahead.  So, I am feeling all sweet inside about aging.  I turn 65 in August which means I go on Medicare.  I have wanted that since insurance for the self employed has been really really expensive.  So…

My husband bought a new/used motorcycle.  It is a lovely bike for traveling.  We went out for a putt on Sunday.  Within a few miles of our house this young girl is leaning out of her car yelling, “you two are so cute.  I am going to take your picture.”  She proceeded to take several pictures and drove off.  I was amazed.  Apparently we look old.  Apparently our gray hair is a sign of this.  Oh- she also was waving the peace sign at us.  Yes, we are from the 60’s and the hippy peace movement.

I cannot tell you how this amazed me.  I still feel like the young woman who did wave the peace sign in the 60’s.  How could someone see me as old?  It doesn’t matter, but I tell you, it is a surprise.

I see this as the time of life where I become the teacher.  It is the time of life where I live the wisdom I have worked so hard to collect.  I truly don’t care much about the things I used to and care very much about how to be a more forgiving, loving presence.

I had to share this because it made me laugh.  It really helped me looking at my “gift of years” and how I want to use them.


Process of Healing

There is a process we experience as we actively bring our shame into healing.  This process will continue throughout our life.  We may get quicker at catching when we are in shame and be able to utilize our tools more quickly in intervention, but healing is still an ongoing process.

We go from not knowing our rights and choices to learning and living by our rights and making conscious choice in all areas of our life.

We go from not knowing our personal limits to learning what they are and being able to set appropriate boundaries according to those limits.

We go from our life being defined by an external judge (they say) to the internal judge (what is my truth according to an internal value system).

We learn that people and relationships are more important than “things”.

We learn that instead of receiving no recognition for “self” or only being defined by what we “do”, we begin to feel “part of” and count ourself equal to others for “being- not doing.”

We learn to take appropriate responsibility for self instead of blame.

We learn to discern shame which feels dishonest and learn to trust our own perceptions which feels honest and helps me define who I am.

We learn to navigate out of problems we cannot reconcile or people we can’t for forgive by learning how to forgive.

We step into peace, freedom, and love, as we navigate out of shame as our definition of self and move into love as the definition of self.

It is a journey well worth taking!

Just a few things

As I write my book I am really aware of how shame has become an acceptable part of our culture.  As I just listen to people talk in the locker room at the gym, or in grocery lines, or out and about, I hear it continuously.

The most common way I hear it is in people putting other people down for behaving in ways they do not understand.  They go on and on about how stupid some person, or group of people are.

Another common thing I hear are people who think if others would just do what they thing they “should”, then the other person would be much better off.

I also hear much gossip and making fun of others.  We all know bullying has become widespread.  We also know social media can be used to shame people in vicious ways.

I also have heard people be nasty and righteous about their political party and how stupid people in the other party are.  With the presidential elections coming next year, this has only just begun.

It breaks my heart.  We all do it.

How is this shame?

When we carry the attitude that others are wrong or stupid or worthless, it is in the very air we breathe.  We worry about the big wars.  We each need to worry about our own wars.  Shame hurts.

I do not say this to point a finger.  I have to watch myself all the time.  I am most prone to this with those who are closest to me.  Somehow I guess I have thought I had the right since we are close.  I am wrong.

If we want a more peaceful world we need to accept and love people for how they are.  We need to honor peoples’ right to be unique and have their own beliefs.  We need to make peace more important than being right.  This is what intervenes on shame.  This is what makes our world a more loving, safe, peaceful place t be.

I feel sad tonight.  I have just seen so much pain and hurt caused from shame.  I work with the most amazing people who believe they are defective, unworthy, and unlovable.  I want shame to stop.  I want this for me and for you and for all of life.


Shame Backlash

I think it is worth noting that when you consciously start bringing shame into healing there is often, usually, most likely, going to be a backlash.  If one is not prepared for that it can be really frustrating and often scary.  Many people stop their healing process when this happens.

We have identified with shame as our truth for a very long time.  That part of us has become our identity. When that identity is threatened it fights back.  It is helpful to be aware of this.

It seems innocent enough to start affirming our lovableness, and adequacy, and worth.  After all, it is the truth of who we are.  The part that believes we are unlovable, or inadequate, or unworthy, does not agree with the innocence.  So, the defenses come up, or the self defeating behaviors seem stronger than ever.  It is important to keep moving into our healing.  So, we notice the backlash, name it, and keep moving in a new direction.  It may sound something like:

Wow, I have not craved a drink (recovering alcoholic) for years and right now I really want one.  That must be the backlash that comes when I really start claiming my worthiness.  I will get some support for my recovery and keep moving in that direction, even if I am craving.

(This sort of minimizes the intensity, but hopefully makes the point.)

One time I was in an intention group.  We met and held each others intentions.  So, I claimed that I was done with shame.  I would no longer allow it to control me or be my truth.  OMG- I left the group and went on my merry way, only to be slammed by shame.  It came up all over the place and felt so true.  I learned that although I cavalierly claimed my truth:  “I am lovable and worthy as I am”, the shame was not at all cavalier about responding.  I had read about this reaction previously, and was able to recognize it at the time, but I was still stunned by the intensity of the old shame.

Just telling it like it is!