Posts tagged ‘Shame’

Do You Know How to Generate Wisdom from your Shame? ll By Erin Amundson

Do You Know How to Generate Wisdom from your Shame?
By Erin Amundson

 

This blog is highly personal.  Most of my writing is personal, but this one truly comes from a place of feeling like my life has been ripped open for no real reason, and not knowing what else to do but to write about it.  I write about it in the hopes that someone else will benefit from my experience.  I write in the hopes that I will find the wisdom in the chaos of my current emotional state.  I write because writing is a tether that keeps me connected to my core when nothing else seems to work. 

And if I’ve learned anything in my personal and professional journey, it’s that finding and honoring what tethers us is crucial if we want to grow through our pain. 

There are two contexts that I write this blog under.  The first is that I totally forgot the deadline for this blog to begin with, and as a result I fell very harshly into a state of self-criticism, judgment and shame.  I know by now that shame offers two options: I can move through it and find the source of the wound (certainly it’s NOT a missed deadline), or I can submerse in it and allow it to whittle away at my life — stealing my productivity, my sense of purpose, and my grounding in the knowledge that I’m lovable through my mistakes. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel that my time on earth is short, and I want to live my life, play big, and spend as much time as I can in a state of joy.  So I chose to move by writing it out. 

The second context is a realization I had after pulling myself together enough to give an interview about my work.  In this interview, a deep truth came to the surface.  Every experience that I have in my life is an opportunity to generate wisdom that I can share with the world.  As I heard these words come out of my mouth, tears welled up in my eyes in recognition of the deep, meaningful connection I was making between my own spiritual crises, and the ability to find a reason and a healing every single time.  And I realized that if I can do it, so too can you. 

I still haven’t figured out the source of my shame that was ultimately triggered by a missed deadline, but I am steeped in the knowledge that even in the most painful moments of my life, I can remember my core self and remain faithful that my navigation system will get me to where I’m going once I’ve been properly re-routed. When I dig into the experience of deep shame, I recall that sometimes our systems need a complete shut down in order to enter a new season, with fresh eyes and an open heart.  I am aware of the need to be able to lean into darkness with anticipation of the light that calls us to the other side. 

This shame, in part caused by childhood sexual abuse, in part by a horrible boss who told me I had no skill for writing, in part by a deeply manipulative ex-partner, may not be resolved easily.  It feels heavy.  It feels deeply unconscious.  It feels overwhelming.  And yet, while I write, I’m finding some wisdom to guide me into a better place so that I do not have to suffer or dim my light while I work through it.  Here is what I’ve got – self generated wisdom to share with you if you should find yourself in the midst of a shame crisis.    

1. BE GENTLE. If I was better at this, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog.  But it’s incredibly important.  When you catch yourself in crisis, PLEASE do your best not to judge where you’re at.  Where you’re at is perfect, and you’ll see for yourself when all of the pieces fall back into place or you find your new life or you recognize your own strength.  Take baby steps to take care of yourself — eating well, sleeping, moving, meditating, finding reasons to smile – the little things  go a long way.  Nurture yourself as much as you can, and have gratitude for your ability to walk through darkness.

2. THOU SHALT NOT COMPARE. Nobody else is on the same journey as you in the same way as you. Someone else’s experience of divorce, career change, grief, moving across the world or letting go of pain and shame has nothing to do with yours.  Comparison is a natural function of our core desire to connect to one another, but it actually separates us from ourselves.  Instead, connect with others by vulnerably sharing your truth about your experience.  I guarantee you, there is a unique wisdom in your own path’s unfolding.  And comparing only makes our self-judgment harsher.

3. TEST YOUR LIMITS. You are in crisis to grow. Remember this.  Every challenge or dark time in your life is in front of you to show you something more about yourself.  When you are pushed to the edge, you have the opportunity to expand your capacity, which means discovering new strengths and connecting to deeper truths about yourself.  Think of it as though every edge is merely an expansion of yourself.  These overwhelming emotions are akin to growth or birthing pains as you stretch yourself or birth a new version of you.

4. HAVE GOOD MIRRORS. Surround yourself with people who know your core, who support your growth, and who have an ability to read between your lines. Consider a therapist or a coach. Consider detoxifying your life of people who do not love and support you.  Choose partners, friends and colleagues who support you, who lift you up and encourage you and who understand that moments of weakness are actually moments of great courage and strength in disguise. 

5. KNOW YOUR TETHERS. I mentioned that writing is a tether for me in times of crisis.  It may not be your thing.  Other common tethers include creative or mechanical projects, playing, listening to or writing music, yoga, an animal soul mate, cooking, gardening, or solving a puzzle.  A tether is really anything that you can do or connect to no matter what state of mind you’re in that reminds you of who you really are.  It’s an act that lies close to the heart of you.  It’s the thing that makes you feel more like you. If you don’t know what your tethers are, see number 4.  Find a good mirror to help you explore. 

Of course, at the end of all of this, one of the best ways I know to turn things around is to remember that you are a wisdom generator. 

Your life provides you exactly what you need to grow into the person you are meant to be.

Every challenge reflects your strength, and every new level of joy reflects your depth. Be wise, be strong, be beautiful and be brave.  I love you. 

 


Erin Amundson loves helping people reconnect to their natural technology by decoding the language of dreams.  She is a healer, a depth psychologist and an entrepreneur who specializes in teaching people how to identify and remove barriers to success and make friends with their subconscious mind.  As the creator and founder of Natural Dream Technology, Erin knows that hidden beneath the surface of your conscious mind is a uniquely talented visionary, and she wants the world to benefit from your contribution.

After several fights with her own subconscious mind (and a re-occurring nightmare about skipping classes and failing), Erin finally surrendered and followed the wisdom of her natural technology to get a second graduate degree in Counseling at Regis University.  A life-long follower of dreams, Erin now began to learn the language of the subconscious as she slept.  Just as Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Steven Spielberg all experienced, Erin began to recognize in her dreams that her best work is to help you reclaim your connection to your own natural technology through dreams and the subconscious.  She has been teaching, facilitating and engaging in dream work with ambitious professionals ever since. 

Erin currently practices as a depth psychotherapist in Denver, Colorado and via the internet around the world.  In addition to her dream work, Erin is a certified past life regressionist, an intuitive astrologer and a lover of travel, snowboarding, deep conversations and cooking delicious food, all of which she enjoys practicing while she sleeps.

You Should (not) Be Ashamed of Yourself! ll Erin Amundson

You Should (not) Be Ashamed of Yourself!
By: Erin Amundson

**(Written and published with permission by the young man in question)

     I am continually honored to be invited into the deepest parts of other’s experience.  Recently, I sat down with a young man I happen to be related to and had a conversation that turned out to be all about shame.  Neither of us knew going in that we would head toward that most elusive, secretive, and important topic.  However, I’ve come to understand that the source of most human suffering is just that: shame.

     This young man began by talking about feelings. He was not feeling so good about himself as a person.  He confided in me that he had some secrets – he had done some things nobody else knew about.  These things caused others in his life to feel a great deal of pain. 

     He described having a sexual relationship with a girl that was dating one of his best friends.  He threw a co-worker under the bus rather than taking responsibility for a mistake at work.  This co-worker was fired.  He went on to say that there have been so many things he has done to hurt others that he couldn’t possibly name them all – the point was, he was feeling out of control and concerned that his behaviors would only get worse in time.  I agreed with him that without some exploration into his subconscious, they might.

     In the course of our conversation, his face became flushed.  I noticed his trembling and could hear him choke back the tears that wanted to fall.  Clearly this young man was in emotional hell.  He wondered aloud why he had done these things to people, and then very quickly claimed to be a “waste of space” who “never should have been born”.   In these words I heard the source of his actions and his suffering. 

This young man was trapped in shame.   

     I asked this young man to talk about the first time he could remember feeling like a “waste of space” – going to the source of the pain so that he could begin the journey to healing.  He described being bullied at a very young age.  He also described some pretty severe abuse by a sibling.  As I pieced together the details of what I already knew about this young man, I added the experience of abandonment (he was sent away to military school and the abusive sibling stayed home).   It was clear to me that he was given a lot of reasons to feel worthless in the world.  He learned shame at a very early age. 

     When we learn shame early on in life, before our brains are able to engage in a mature process of understanding, our ego identity is formed on this basis.  Shame becomes a trusted source of esteem.  Yes, it’s a painful esteem, but if we don’t know any differently, we remain comfortable with what is familiar to us. 

     It was clear to me that the actions that brought this young man my way were subconscious attempts to mirror his shame back to him so that he could address it.  In hurting others, he was re-creating the same low emotion that he experienced early in his childhood.  Much like the cycles of addiction, shame takes on a life of its own.  If it continues to go unaddressed, the levels to which we will go to experience shame continue to get greater and greater. 

We can actually become addicted to feeling bad about ourselves.

     This young man came to me saying he had a “dark side”.  The truth is, we all do.  And our psyche will do what it takes to illuminate it so that we can heal.  This man didn’t start out his life hurting others.  In fact, the pattern started with self-sabotage.  He would make mistakes at work and lose his job, or cheat on a partner when the relationship was just getting good.  He had a long history of hurting himself before he moved on to hurting others.  However, much like a chemical addiction, he began to need more and more shame in his life to get the same effects. 

     It is human nature to experience shame.  The sad truth is that shame is the source of suffering in many forms, including addiction, violence against others and suicide.  Our lack of permission to be vulnerable and our cultural belief that we should be able to navigate life on our own fuels the fire.  Not only that, but our culture actually supports the outlets of suffering that keep us in our shame by advocating substance abuse, eating disorders, consumerism and the myriad of ways that we numb out.

     I decided to share this heavy topic with you today because I believe it is truly a part of our calling as humans to return to love.  In order to do so, we must allow one another to be vulnerable as this young man was with me.  I’m not sure where this young man would have found himself had he not come to me to address his suffering.  I do know that it’s likely his actions would have continued to accelerate – perhaps to violence or suicide.  I am grateful that he trusted me enough to explore this issue, and felt it important enough to allow me to share his story with you with the hope that we might break the silence of suffering in our world. 

     With this, I invite you to consider how shame impacts your daily life.  When you make a mistake, how do you treat yourself?  Can you meet your imperfections with compassion, or do you have a tendency to treat yourself with harsh judgment?  Do you have people in your life you can truly connect to, be vulnerable with, and share your deepest secrets with?   Our ability to open up and share not only helps us to heal and connect, but provides permission for those around us to do the same.  So today, with you, I will consider how I can better show up for myself. 


 

All About Erin:

Erin currently practices as a depth psychotherapist in Denver, Colorado and via the internet around the world.  In addition to her dream work, Erin is a certified past life regressionist, an intuitive astrologer and a lover of travel, snowboarding, deep conversations and cooking delicious food, all of which she enjoys practicing while she sleeps.

Erasing Shame ll Rich Brodt

Erasing Shame

By: Rich Brodt

            The Oxford English Dictionary defines darkness as both an absence of light, and as wickedness or evil. I take the former to refer to an overall state of literal or figurative darkness. One might say that America is in a time of darkness. Trust in the system is at an all time low due to the actions of our leaders, and people are figuratively in the dark as a result of the media’s inability to consistently report accurate facts. The first definition is easy enough to take at face value, but the second definition gives me pause. Under that second definition, “wickedness or evil,” the Dictionary lists several sub-definitions such as “[u]nhappiness or gloom,” “[s]ecrecy or mystery,” and “[l]ack of spiritual or intellectual enlightenment; ignorance.”

            These definitions are fascinating. They explain the definition of darkness as “wickedness or evil.”

These definitions indicate that unhappiness, gloom, secrecy, and a lack of enlightenment are essentially evil or wicked. Some of the purportedly evil things are the same words we might use to describe mental health issues. “Gloom” or “unhappiness” could easily refer to a depressed individual’s state of mind – and this is how we are defining wickedness or evil. 

            The stigma of mental illness has improved somewhat over the years, however, these are still the messages that society sends to unhappy people. If you are unhappy, something within you must be flawed. The definition treats the negative feelings more like unwanted interlopers than valid emotion. Yet the definition merely reflects what is readily observable in American culture. We are taught to praise the image of a person who is ascending, succeeding, working hard, living a “happy” life. Depression is not depicted as a natural part of life, instead it is portrayed as a defect, a character flaw. I believe this is because we are made uncomfortable by another’s pain.

So on top of sending the message that it is not okay to be depressed, we are also asking depressed individuals to hide their true emotions in order to make us more comfortable.

            These messages force people into hiding, severing connections that are essential to individual growth and positive thinking. By avoiding these uncomfortable topics, we send the message that they are taboo. As a result, negative feelings are suppressed. It seems that this is often followed by detachment and aloofness. Our discomfort with another’s pain causes them to suppress further. Others, sensitive to these messages from an early age, may adopt a false persona to blend in with the people they perceive as normal. This can be dangerous. The continued effort of suppressing one’s true self around other people is exhausting. When an individual suppresses their feelings to this extent it eventually leads to worsening levels of depression, self-harm, and isolation.          

            As a culture, we want people to be “happy.” However, happiness is not meant to be a permanent state. If happiness was permanent, there would be no drive to grow or to improve one’s self. A state of bliss is a nice vacation, but if we stayed there we would probably have far fewer chances to evolve. Stress, anxiety, tragedy, grief and trauma are all a part of the process of becoming who we are. The more we shut ourselves off from the darkness that life challenges us with, the less we are able to accommodate and appreciate moments of light.

            This is largely why I feel that therapists need to spend time working through the taboo thoughts that their client may be having, normalizing them and allowing the individual to understand the reasons for them. For example, at some point, most of us will counsel someone on the verge of losing a loved one. Sometimes, the client will shamefully reveal that the relative’s suffering is so difficult to bare that they would prefer if their loved one would die already. While the statement is impactful, it is not bad or wrong. It can be shocking since the statement is inherently hopeless. However, this shows me that the individual is open to their feelings and not detaching from them. The individual usually feels shame and guilt around even having such thoughts. When they do, I try to remind them that what they are thinking is natural. The mind tries to find a way to relieve itself from suffering. Fantasizing that this person has already passed does exactly that – allows the mind to envision a situation where the suffering has ceased. It provides a comfort.

It is important to normalize this thought process, allowing the client to see there is no reason to feel shame.

            This process can be used to facilitate the processing of other similarly taboo thoughts a client may experience. I believe that there is a reason for every thought; for negative/dark/taboo thought, the reason is usually related to some kind of emotional or physical pain that the individual needs escape from. If that unwanted thought can be traced to something distressing, the individual can begin to understand why the dark thoughts started to emerge. This helps to relieve feelings of shame, and keeps the client moving forward free of judgment.


References

Darkness. (2017). In Oxford.  Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/darkness.


About the Author: Rich Brodt is a Registered Psychotherapist and former attorney with over 7 years of mental health treatment experience. He is especially interested in working with trauma, grief, existential themes in counseling, and the link between psychology and philosophy. He is currently in private practice conducting group and individual therapy at Elevated Counseling, PLLC 2727 Bryant Street Suite 550, Denver, CO 80211 and can be reached at (720) 295-1352 for scheduling inquiries.

Shame || Mary Coday Edwards

Blog 9

Shame: What’s it all about?

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards.

shame

Shame. Common to the human experience, we’ve all experienced it, at times so excruciatingly painful that we seek desperately a hole to fall into, the proverbial wish for the ground to open up beneath our feet in order that we can hide our shame, or what we are ashamed of.

Shame resilience depends on being able to move through shame experiences with self-compassion (after all, how many perfect people do you know?), authenticity, and courage. Getting there, however, requires mindful discernment between shame and its cousinly emotions: embarrassment, humiliation, and guilt, so some definitions are in order.

Embarrassment is a response to something that threatens the image of ourselves (our persona – see last month’s blog), that we’d like others to believe about us. Sources of embarrassment fluctuate based on situations and who we’re with.

For example, nothing like realizing after you’ve been speaking to someone for 10 minutes that you’ve had a nose hair blowing in the breeze; if our persona’s projection is for perfect hygiene, we’ve obviously fallen below the bar, it’s beneath our projected image. If we can use compassionate self-talk, reminding ourselves that we’re certainly not the first ones to have longish nose hairs peeking out, we can move beyond the experience with humor.

If your mother’s 65 and shows up at your engagement party in a mini-skirt and go-go boots, it may cause embarrassment to you if you think it falls short of a family image of class and sophistication.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

And then there’s humiliation, what we feel as the recipient of a shaming attack by someone else. It consists of an incident that demonstrates a relationship of unequal powers, of experiences of power and powerlessness, where one is in an inferior position and unjustly diminished. Brene Brown uses this example of the difference between shame and humiliation: A teacher is handing back papers and one paper doesn’t have the student’s name on it, and publicly the teacher announces that the student is stupid. With healthy self-talk, the student will be humiliated and embarrassed, but will tell herself, “That is the meanest, most nasty teacher ever. I don’t deserve that.” If the child’s self-talk is, “Ugh. He’s right. I’m so stupid, why do I keep forgetting to put my name on my paper. I’m so stupid.” That’s shame.

“Shame is a soul-eating emotion.” Carl Jung

Segueing onto unraveling shame and guilt, the easiest way to remember is the following: Guilt says “I did something bad”; shame harangues us with “I AM bad.”

Guilt focuses on our behavior. Guilt feelings have to do with ethical or moral principles that we believe are necessary to be a “good” person that we have violated: I did something I shouldn’t have, or I didn’t do something that I should have. Generally speaking, guilt can be a positive, healthy response, when it’s used in a manner to correct something that was indeed wrong.

However, often these principles have come down to us through various authorities: our parents, religious leaders, or our teachers. Perhaps they’ve become laws to our consciences, an authority within our psyches and as we age, need to be re-examined to see if these principles translated into values are still serving us.

If rocking the boat was not allowed in any form for a child, then challenging bullies or an abusive status quo can bring about feelings of guilt when an individual on a personal growth trajectory knows leaving said abusive situation is the next step that’s required. These guilt feelings can quickly slide into shame, if the inner authority continues its tirade against boat rocking of any sort, AND throws in the “truth” that those who do so are bad people. In this case, one is led to believe that they deserve their shame.

Shame washes over us even if nothing external occurs, whereas its cousins pop in for a visit over external circumstances.

Adults who as children were abused, neglected, continually criticized, abandoned, or mistreated internalize the message that they do not fit in, that they are inadequate or unworthy.

Shame then arises when our self-image is doubted or under attack. Me writing this blog is a classic example.

If I believe I am a font of wisdom, and the way that is proven is by how many “likes” and/or “comments” that I receive on Facebook by admiring fans, when that falls short of my expectations, shame eats at my soul. In other words, when I need everyone’s approval to bolster a sagging self-esteem, if my self-worth is tied into needing others to say positive things about me, then “You are a Failure! You are a Failure!” screams at me when, in this case, I fall short of the 1.5 million positive comments I need.

Until we can shift our abusive self-talk to that of compassion toward ourselves, we will continue to believe shame’s message that we are unworthy.

So – pay attention to the emotions running through your body. Ask yourself when these painful encounters occur: Is this shame? Embarrassment? Humiliation? Guilt? Sit with them, breathe into them, and practice self-compassion, non-judgmentally. Embrace your experiences with gratitude; these are your teachers!


Sources include:

Works by Donald Nathanson, Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self; and his on-line materials.

Jacoby, Mario. Shame and the origins of self-esteem: A Jungian approach. 1994. Routledge; London.


About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.

Here is a list of other blogs Mary has written for People House:

 

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth