Is there really a place where we can truly be free of shame? I believe the answer is yes. Shockingly, this place of freedom, lies in the same space as the shame, within you!
Some where along the line I developed an affinity for definitions. They help me understand exactly what I am talking about, while placing it all within an accessible word based frame. (Oh, turns out I like words too- a lot.) In attempting to define “shame”, we need not look much further than the guru of shame research, Brene Brown, who defines it thus:
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging”
If you feel unworthy, you are not alone. If you feel flawed, you are not alone. If you feel unaccepted, you are not alone. If you feel you don’t belong, you are not alone.
Shame is within all of us. We learn it early on in life, by the way we interpret others responses to us and / or by experiencing traumas such as neglect, abuse, abandonment, and criticism. Once shame takes root, contrary to the belief that we would seek to disprove it, to rid ourselves of it, we actually set about, unconsciously, to prove it’s true. We enter romantic relationships, friendships, and work environments, where our shame is reinforced and grows exponentially. The only way to survive, is to hide. First, we hide from others, by keeping secrets. We don’t actually let people know who we are, nor would we ever dare tell what we believe is so terribly wrong with us. Once we’ve hidden from the world, we hide from ourselves, through a myriad of addictive behaviors – food, drugs, sex, spending, alcohol, busy-ness, religiosity, gambling, work, and on and on. These behaviors distract us just long enough to not feel the ever growing shame within us, all the while, creating more of what we so desperately want freedom from.
How do we change? How do we heal? How do we enter the SHAME FREE ZONE?
(I am going to approach the work in a short series of three blogs. Below is the activity for volume one.)
We begin by sitting.
Yep, it’s that simple, you just sit. No distractions. No phones, tv, kids, partners, books, not one thing. You just sit. Alone. (Right there half the room walked out! ) Then, we listen. Just listen. Notice what thoughts pop up into your brain. Let them go. Notice what aches and pains feel more acute. Let them go. Keep listening.
Now, tell yourself ONE thing you have done really well. Find it. It’s there. One thing. Don’t you dare say there’s nothing. There IS something.
Focus on that. If it could live in your body, where would it live?
Example: I love my kids. I really love my kids. I can feel that in my chest and my hands. I can feel that love actually in me.
For seven really intentional breaths focus on that one thing. Then leave it. Get up. Get out of the house or back to work or about your chores. That’s where we stop for today. It’s volume one. It’s our sweet beginning to living in a SHAME FREE ZONE.
Trust me on this one. The process may feel a little strange, but healing always does. Keep in mind, as a friend of mine says, “what is oh so right with you”!
Bonus: I’ve attached a song I wrote when I sat with a group of people just like you and me, who were desperate to find out what it feels like to live shame free.