I remember as boy of 5 or 6, the attic in my house was a mystery. We would only climb the stairs occasionally to find old boxes and keep sakes that had been left to gather dust. There were treasures to be found. It was a place of adventure — a place of fun.
However, during the dark of night I could see from my bed, across the hall, to the attic door. This mysterious, fun, place of adventure, became terrifying. I was alone to face the monsters that surely haunted those cluttered, dust filled spaces, and — I was convinced — would creep across the hall to grab me in my sleep.
Most of us have had similar experiences of fear and loneliness. As adults, the monsters may be different, but they feel just as real. One of the monsters that threaten us is shame. And shame revels in isolating its victims. It haunts us in our quiet moments with messages of “not good enough,” “who do you think you are,” and “you don’t deserve.” We no longer are staring at the attic doorway, but inside, into our emptiness.
The current state of our planet and our communities has necessitated a need for social distancing. One of the consequences has been isolation and this fuels shame. Although some of us may have family members to stem the tide of isolation, many of us do not. Most of us have lost many of the supports that sustain and encourage us: faith communities, 12-step groups, therapy groups, and friendship gatherings. In this isolation shame can stalk us.
So, how do we turn the tables on shame? Typically we expose it to the light of day. We share it with a safe person or community who can remind us who we are. However, with social distancing it can be difficult to find these safe places.
Fortunately, there are other ways we can hunt the shame that haunts us — even when we are alone.
Hunting shame can be difficult when we feel isolated. However, there are many resources at our disposal if we will use them. After all, although the messages of shame feel real, ultimately they are figment of our imagination. Each one of us is a unique, amazing, expression of creation.
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