Shame isn’t a quiet grey cloud, shame is a drowning man who claws his way on top of you, scratching and tearing your skin, pushing you under the surface.
― Kirsty Eagar, Raw Blue
This week we saw courage under the worst fire; a woman baring her shame to the world in an arena sworn to brotherly secrecy, more than half giving lip service to her pain. There was prejudgment in the highest court of the land. Her fear was real, threats to her own life as well as her family, then the ultimate expression of her shame. The long stride she took out of her comfort zone was altruistic, driven by a strong personal code of ethics and integrity that powered her resolve. She unlocked the rusty lock on her heart and turned courageously into the maelström. Under fire she remained graceful, authentic, and by doing so, was able to expose her trauma and shame, her crippling secret. May she find recovery and peace.
I won’t share too much about how I thought the other party reacted, except to say his responses under oath were at best defensive. Outrage coursed through his body as he ferociously denied all claims, and I found his frequent tongue in cheek ironic. His behaviour was shameful, far beneath expectations of someone applying for the highest legal role in the country, and belied his innocence. We will see what further evidence reveals as the next week unfolds.
Shameful secrets birth dysfunction. The longer the shame remains cloistered the more power it has to drive next actions. And as shameful secrets piggy back, the more out of control life becomes. You may know the work of John Bradshaw (Healing the Shame That Binds You) and Brené Brown (Daring Greatly). They have done groundbreaking research on this subject.
I ask myself, does one eventually become immune to feeling the shame? Does abhorrent behaviour eventually become the norm, and therefore acceptable? Apparently so.
I believe the truth will prevail, and that consequences will follow as surely as dawn’s light, whether in this lifetime or next. This has kept me hoping for a just resolution to the current American crisis. Important lessons are demonstrated. It begs us to question our own secrets and our own behaviour. I hope it will prompt course correction for those suffering on either side of the issue, and I am thankful for the opportunity to up my game.
There are ways to release shame, but it is multi layered, brave work. Self worth erodes with even the smallest transgression. Our bodies and spirits sag under the weight. We must take time to check in with our deepest selves, process and integrate. It is the deep work into our shadow side and not for the faint of heart. Be sure to practice radical self-care.
This work begins by admitting to the reality; that life is reeling out of control full speed into a bottomless pit. Starting is hard, and the next. equally so; action. It’s easy to get lost on a solo journey, so make sure action includes getting help.
By seeking help we know we have done everything our earthly minds can conceive to solve our problems. I know, because until I asked for help I nearly put myself in the hospital. The shame was too great, the grief unbearable. I remember walking into the local mental health office hysterically screaming, “HELP” to the entire waiting room. That night, and for several nights afterwards, a mental health nurse called me a 9 pm, after the kids were in bed. She helped, then she led me to more help.
Write out your shame. Allow your grief. Journaling opened the flood gates for me. I was able to express that early pain and disbelief in private, and it helped me to sort it all out. At the beginning there is still a lot of fear and so much shame. The next thing to do is engage a trusted partner or friend, a counsellor, or group. Trust is an essential part of the confidence needed to fully explore these feelings. Choose a partner who will honour you for having the courage to speak the unspeakable and who will not judge.
But most of all admit your humanness to yourself. Forgive yourself and know you are not alone. This is where to begin and it’s never too late. It’s not just the only way to healing, but the way others will also be healed.
If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.
I always thought grief was only associated with a material loss, a dear family member, a pet, a job. But what happens if the loss is bigger than any worldly possession and it is our survival at stake?
What if we have buried our grief because the shame is too large and the pain overwhelming? Is there safety? Nope. Gone, along with life as we once knew it. What if the real loss is disconnection from our essential selves caused by an event so completely out of our control that fear turns out all the lights?
Hope does not abide in blackness. The only way out is surrender, either to life, or to death.
When shameful secrets motivate our thoughts life is a misery. We unknowingly grieve our personal betrayals as much as the shame accepted from others. Shame and desperation are found in the “perpetrator” as well as the “victim”. Although the perpetrator may feel confident in the moment, it is a façade. Both face dire realities, and both need help.
It is impossible to lead a happy, productive life until we connect all aspects of our being (mental, emotional, physical, spiritual). This is our work. If our true self has left our bodies from extreme fear, because it is feels unsafe, make no mistake, it’s an emergency. We can either act on our own, or await the consequences.
Those of us supported by a loving tribe are lucky. We have set up a team of helpers so when life is black, we are able to depend on them to extend a hand. Remember to thank your angels often.
For those who feel alone, know the Divine is always at your side.
Ashamed is just grateful waiting to happen. You only taste your dignity right before you puke it up.”
― Adam Levin, The Instructions
Humbly offered by this expert human. I invite you share your thoughts and experiences.
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