What is shame and why does it lie?
A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour--yup, I felt that.
Blah...shame lies. It is not telling the truth of who you are or what you are capable of. Once you recognize it's voice you can tell it where to go!!
I was looking up the definition of shame and you know it actually has purpose:
used to reprove someone for something of which they should be ashamed.
I am thinking of stealing, lying, illegal behaviour
And truthfully, Brene Brown's research shows that using shame is not effective in changing behaviour...GUILT works better (wink)
want proof, Brene's got it? video here, article here
The difference you might ask?
Shame is about us at the core. That we are not enough.
Guilt is about our behaviour: something we have control over.
Brene is clear that it's not just semantics, her research shows that:
"Shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders.
Here's what you even need to know more:
Guilt is inversely correlated with those things. The ability to hold something we've done, or failed to do, up against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive. It's uncomfortable, but it's adaptive." For full TED talk click here. (I watch this at least once a year--grab your partner, friends, kids, parents, neighbours and share this with them, this is information that needs to be known.)
Back in the real world...
So back in my own unacademic world, I had been feeling shame for over a year and a half. Not in every area of my life but in one specific situation.
I had sent a letter to someone I loved and they hadn't responded or acknowledged it.
Shame got it's hold on me right away. You see the relationship had already been challenging and I had been telling stories about it for years. Shame stories. Lies, half truths and quite frankly amazingly fictional stories because I hadn't done any fact checking!!
Here's the thing. Shame is more than a feeling:
to me it's a covert virus (kinda like Mystique in the X-Men) that takes over my thought process and tricks me into thinking it's my brilliant reasoning that has come to very accurate conclusions about the situation at hand.
The Illusion of Shame
Until something snaps me out of the illusion. Shame, my friend is an illusion.
If you are suffering, shame may have taken over as the "thought thinker" of your life.
Let's excavate it.
1. Question your thinking. I love Byron Katie for this.
She always asks, "Is it true? Can I absolutely know it's true?"
In the case of the letter, I had been telling myself that, "they didn't love me, that they didn't want a relationship with me, that they were a jerk and I shouldn't give them anymore time or attention."
Once I stood back from these stories, I could break them down and question them.
I didn't actually know if any of these thoughts were true.
2. What I did next shocked me.
I took a deep breathe (a year and a half later mind you...some of my shame stories have faster turn arounds!)
I took a deep breathe and jumped off the cliff.
I spoke with the person (in real life/real time!), questioned the thoughts, and asked them why.
Would you know the answers were pretty uneventful.
Truthfully they fell flat. My shame stories were way better, more imaginative and way more in-depth going back to childhood wounds and deep seeded (yes, seed-ed--seeds create plants that grow big and bloom) messed-upness about me and the other person!!
And alas, wouldn't you know, they had shame holding them back. They felt inadequate, they felt like not knowing what to say wasn't enough. So they didn't respond.
Errrrrr, I was so angry. Angry at shame mostly!! It had ruined another relationship.
Or had it.
I chose NOW. I chose forgiveness. I chose to see this person's humanity. I chose to move forward right then and there with as much as I could: a fresh start.
And guess what?
We are now talking regularly. I know the shame stories are lies, cause I asked. Now I hear them and ignore them. Truthfully, that takes a lot of strength(A LOT). My year and a half of strengthening the stories had made them easy and habitual.
But I wanted new stories. I was going to be strong and ignore my lies and pursue the moment.
A BIG, BIG note here:
I wasn't pursuing other fantasies about the relationship.
I was meeting the person where they were, accepting what they were capable of, and appreciating that. That we had come through the darkness of shame and were connecting where we were.
Right here, right now, alive and willing to love each other deeply in our own way.
That was the gift of releasing shame and being here now.
NOW is where it is at!! Celebrate!!!!!!!!!!!!
Want help jumping off the cliff or releasing shame lies? Send me an email or book an appointment, I offer a free 30 minute session to new clients and that is lots of time to uncover the shame stories!