I grew up and still do listen to indie rock and one of my favorite bands Dr. Dog has a song called Shame, Shame. In this song Toby Leaman sings about the experiences of loneliness, “not needing any help at all,” and “avoiding any signs of life.”
The messages shame tells us are along the lines of not being good enough, being flawed, being wrong, being unlovable, being bad and the like. These ideas rest on the structural assumption (i.e. that humans are like onions and have a core self) that there is something wrong about our core selves.
According to Michael White (2011), “Normalizing judgment is the core activity of modern operations of power” (p. 25). We grow up with many ideas around who we should be and how we ought to act. In my perspective, these forces of judgment contribute to many problems that we deal with. Additionally, these judgments seem to serve corporations in that they push us towards consumption in order to look better and be happy. Even if we achieve “success” we will never get “there” or escape the grips of these judgments.
Sometimes there is a sense of safety with shame. If we are not good enough and disengage from others, ourselves, Higher Power, and our environment we don’t risk failing, we don’t risk rejection. However, with this disengagement from shame, we are often distancing ourselves from joy, peace, purpose, presence, fulfillment and more. It is safe to not be good enough because we won’t make mistakes, but on the other hand we may be missing out on the richness of life.
Befriending shame seems like a strange thing to do; however, when we avoid the problems in our lives they often grow. Having some curiosity about shame and sharing it with others (especially those who have experienced shame themselves) tends to be helpful. Additionally, at times, anxiety and anger will point towards shame’s presence. In these moments we have the opportunity to lead in vulnerability to facilitate connection with others. This takes practice and finding an EFT therapist can aid us in this process.
Another avenue is to get in touch with what is important to us. What do we value and who supports us in being in alignment with these values? As we focus on what we hold dear in life, the shame loses its grip. Make sure to be gracious with yourself during this process, because shame is sneaky and will creep back into your life. It is uncomfortable to move towards our values because there can be a risk of failing; however, the alternative is a life on the sidelines.
We can also practice shifting from what we don’t have, to embracing the small things in life we appreciate. I will invite you to notice the small things you appreciate in others, yourself, and your environment. Mindfulness around the small daily tasks we do and gratitude can be key in the process of healing. Consider keeping a gratitude journal and spend some time each evening thinking of three things you are grateful for. Take about 20-40 seconds thinking about this thing you are grateful for and what it is like enjoying it (e.g. eating a seasonal peach).
As always, a good therapist, friend, family member, and/or spiritual mentor who you connect with can help you in moving towards your goals.
White, M. (2011). Narrative Practice. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.
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