Meet the Shame
Lately I have encountered again and again the feeling of shame. In most cases, it is old stories that are coming up. Sometimes they tell of events when I have done something wrong. Often, they simply tell lies and distort the truth.
In my experience it is not uncommon that such feelings are triggered by certain events, for example by destructive feedback, which was committed on one. Just as it happened to me recently.
Shame can be a very strong feeling and appear in many disguises. But you can learn to recognize them. Just like destructive feedback it leaves me, for example, with the feeling, that I was just plain wrong – but without any view on how I can make it better. Also, it triggers a sense of avoidance in me. I do not want to take a closer look, I want to shove it aside and run away.
And here I get to an important point. You see, I have found that the shame can only work for me if I do not meet it, when I look away, shove it aside and run away from it. Then shame has power over me. However, if I take a deep breath, stand tall, look at it and open my arms, then the feeling changes.
How exactly does that look?
1) Allow: If I realize that a feeling is torturing me which could be driven by shame, I allow myself to take a closer look, next time, it appears. This way the mechanism to simply shove this feeling aside is braking up.
2) Be love instead of right: If this feeling then shows up and accuses me of having done something wrong, I take it lovingly without defending and justifying myself. Even if I really think I did not do anything bad, even if I know that I have not done anything bad, I take the accusation. Obviously, there is an aspect in me, who believes insistently that I have done something wrong and does not drop it, regardless of whether this is the truth or not. Otherwise the allegations of shame would not resonate with me at all. So I encounter this aspect with acknowledgement and attention. I listen to it and say: Ok, suppose you’re right. Then what? This breaks up the old, repetitive pattern.
3) Accept: So what if it’s true and I did everything wrong, which I am accused of by shame? – Well, then that is what it is. I cannot change it anymore. Then I just made a mistake. This happens, I’m not perfect. (Perfectly imperfect at best.) Usually this is the point at which my ashamed aspect and I realize that everything really is not that bad. By acknowledging that I am not perfect, shame loses its power over me.
4) Forgive: And then I forgive myself together with my shame-stricken aspect for what shame accuses us of. Whatever it is. I take a deep breath, focusing on the indictment and say out loud: I forgive myself for this now. And then I breathe in the forgiveness with a smile. Through the integration of the mortified aspect in me and by the shared forgiveness shame has no more resonance in me.
Sometimes it surprises me how many events suddenly seem linked with a sense of shame. But with mindfulness and awareness I can solve these entanglements, again, step by step.
Have you ever been haunted by shame? How was that for you? Can you meet the shame? Do you have a recipe for how to deal with this feeling?