Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Do I Do With All This Shame?

Shame is just a feeling. It is a feeling however that is supposed to be used to help us curtail behaviors in ourselves that we are not necessarily proud of. Shame in its intended form, is one of those feelings that help us look in the mirror after we have desecrated our own personal code of ethics.

Unfortunately for many of us, shame was a tool that was misused by our caretakers while we were growing up. We may have been told, "You should be ashamed of yourself", and we probably were. Whether by through a disapproving look, body movements, or through some verbal assault, the message we received was, 'be ashamed-be very ashamed'.

If our parents could shame us, they could get us to go back into our little boxes of souls, and get small. If we could get small, we wouldn't have been such a problem. If our teachers could make us fear laughing, or having fun, they could get us to quiet down so they could teach. If our siblings could shame us into thinking no one wanted to be our friends, they could get us to stop wanting to hang out with them.

The problem with shame is, it stains a soul. It's like tar on ones spirit. It's nearly impossible to wash away.

As adults, when our shame buttons get pushed, the stain resurfaces, and we are right back to wanting to get small again, someway, just so others are not upset with us. We know we are being asked not to be who we are. And so, out of fear of feeling this awful thing called shame, we shrink, and pretend to not feel what we feel just so that we don't have to look at the stain anymore.

In every upcoming moment, is another chance to heal it all, or at least some of it. We must know in our hearts what is right for us, and shame is never right for us, when it is being used by others to help them manipulate what we think, want, or do. It is better for us to recognize shame for what it is, and when we feel it, to simply feel it, rather than wish so badly to want to make it go away.

If shame pops up in you, first ask yourself if there is anything, YOU think you should change about what you have done. If your behavior breaks your personal moral code, then forgive yourself and thank shame for showing you what you needed to change. If however shame shows up, and you find that someone in your life is trying to shame you into doing something you may not want to do, or is trying to get you to feel shame for what you have done, evaluate the situation for what it is and embrace it.

It is better to embrace whatever is, rather than to pretend what is isn't. This is where denial gets involved.

If you feel shame, and believe it is being used by a parent, a child, a teacher, a friend, or a spouse to manipulate behavior out of you for the others sake, it is best you stare that shame in the face, peel off its ugly mask, and ask it to leave.

If shame or guilt or fear work on you, chances are you were abused emotionally as a child. If when you were younger the message you received was, you are wrong. What you think is wrong. How you behave is wrong. Your stand is wrong. Your laugh is wrong. Your wants are wrong. Your needs are wrong; know you were lied to.

As adults it is time to embrace what is. What is, is simple. We are all connected to God, which makes us all perfect at our core. In the end, this is the only truth that will matter. In reality, loving yourself is what your creator intended you to do. It is no longer okay to live a shame based existence.