Shame feels like such a dirty word. No one wants to talk about it and many people experience it. It shows up as the inner critical voice brought on by years of the social conditioning of self-hate.
During Presencing Tuesdays, our twice monthly time of meditation, connection and seeing one another for the all of who we are, the word “shame” emerged a number of times amongst other emotions of sadness, anger, and fear. What became clear is that, not only do many people live with shame, most people feel shame about feeling shame. Shame about shame makes it difficult to acknowledge and heal as many are reluctant to share their feelings of shame with themselves, much less others. Yet, shame marinates in our socialized beings and inflames, exacerbates and evokes other painful emotions–anger, sadness, rage, uncertainty, despair and feelings of isolation, alienation and unworthiness.
The word shame is thought to be derived from the proto-indo-european word skem or kem, meaning “to cover”, which makes sense, as a common reaction when we feel ashamed is to try and cover ourselves physically, emotionally or spiritually. We’re so busy covering or hiding our shame and the shame of our shame, that it leaves little time or energy to feel creativity, joy, love and self-confidence. Shame, unlike guilt that has more do with remorse over our actions, has to do with one’s sense of self, one’s identity. This makes shame particularly intractable and persnickety. We can change our actions. Actions exist outside of us. Shame cuts to the core of who we are ARE. It is painful and sometimes unbearable, leading some even to violence or suicide.
Like a dragon hiding in a dark cave in the depths of our being, much of the power of shame comes from the lack of clarity of and unfamiliarity we have with shame–shame when we’re being unkind, shame when we’re being dishonorable or disgraceful, shame when we’re sad or angry or upset, shame when we’re not being our highest selves.
What if we acknowledged those times when we felt shame? What if we got to know shame, when it shows up, what’s the root of shame, what are the needs and wants of shame? What if we befriended this dragon and met its fiery roars with love?
I watched How To Train Your Dragon at a slumber party with heart people recently. What if we approached our shame, like Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III approached The Night Fury, with curiosity, courage and love? We may just find ourselves an unlikely ally.