The Alchemizing Medicine of Shame

As something of an introvert, the process of moving things from my inner realms to my outer world is uncomfortable for me. So I generally procrastinate to avoid it. But then sometimes the pressure of a backlog of stuff builds to a breaking point and sort of explodes outward in an overwhelming, dizzying display. It usually feels big, messy and chaotic, just the thing my controlling inner perfectionist hates. This newsletter is a perfect example of my erupting volcano process. Oh, it's a big one folks!

I'm noticing a flush of shame rising in my body as I write this and a compulsive desire to apologize for myself as a way to discharge the uncomfortable and intense sensations in my body. So below the surface of my conscious mind must be an expectation I have of myself that I'm coming up against; one of those little rules that I learned to live by as a child, keeping me safe and small.

I feel curious about all of this. I'm opening...and feeling...

So why do we feel shame anyway? What does this painful feeling really do for us?

I've explored this further in a piece below if you feel curious too. Is this what you experience with your shame?

I'm currently enjoying the process of going through Jungian Analysis... which is enormously surprising to me.

If someone had suggested that I go to a type of therapy that outwardly advertised analyzing me, even 5 years ago, I would have ripped their heads off. Why? Because without knowing it, I was constantly managing an enormous, painful wound called "there's something wrong with me" and I couldn't risk even the thought of going to see someone who might expose this wound...and potentially discover there actually WAS something wrong with me. I wouldn't have been strong enough to hear the truth, let alone solve a problem. So instead I would have defended myself, refused to go and fought anyone to the death who challenged me on this.

Well, I'm still managing this wound, but thanks to BodyTalk and other therapies, there's a little more space around it and I'm really beginning to see how even just a crack of light is enough to work with. And what this light has revealed to me is an entire world of shame I had no previous awareness or understanding of.

In her book Eastern Body Western Mind, Anodea Judith writes this about shame: inversely proportional to personal power - the greater the shame, the less we feel powerful and the harder it is for the ego to form itself.

Well my ego formed itself like a half cooked noodle; too soft in some places and too hard in others.

Studying and practicing BodyTalk has revolutionized the way I see health and one of the biggest, most fundamental shifts I have had is around my perception of emotions and the role they play in our bodies, minds and in our lives.

Instead of being inconvenient, rude, embarrassing, dangerous and crazy as I had previously thought, I discovered that these healing energies are actually created by the body/mind to balance our health. Our emotions are the most natural and perfectly individually formulated medicine we have access to. And they are constantly balancing things out!

So then, what is the healing nature of shame? What is the body/mind trying to heal by producing this emotion?

In Chinese Medicine the 5 main emotional energies are said to be worry, grief, anger, joy/sadness and fear. Everything else is a combination of these 5.

I don't know what concoction of emotions make up shame but I know what it feels like in my body...

The second my button is pushed, I feel massive contraction from my core, through my pelvis, heart-centre and up the back of my head. My mouth goes dry. My heart beats faster. I can't think clearly and there's this incredibly hot, liquidy sensation that rushes through my whole body. It feels like I'm going to die.

And here is one of the healing properties of shame. It helps things die! It helps compost old, outdated belief systems and ideas that are no longer supporting us, but instead are limiting our lives. It kills off old worn-out parts of the ego.

Shame has been trying to decompose and recycle my old "there's something wrong with me" belief for years but because the feeling of shame is so incredibly uncomfortable, I have always contracted around it and tried to hold it in and control it, thus preventing it from doing it's job effectively. The trapped shame has led to further reinforcement of the belief.

Brené Brown, author and shame researcher, says that the antidote to shame is empathy, cultivated by courage, compassion, and connection. She says, "Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it - it can't survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy."

So resolving the shame cycle might look something like this:

We must draw on our courage and share our shameful stories to those compassionate few who feel safe to us ...perhaps like a therapist...of course risking that it might be pointed out to us that there's something wrong with us.

If we're choosing the right people to share with, the shame won't survive the telling and we'll feel more connected, confident and powerful as the old pieces of our defensive ego are returned to cosmic matter, fertilizing the new strength coming through us.

That feels exciting to me!

Yes, you read that correctly, it's possible to feel excited about further need for analysis on this one.

Here's Brené Brown's TedTalk on the power of vulnerability if you haven't seen it yet, or if you've seen it lots but like me, you'd like to watch it again.