RIDING A SHAME WAVE
If you’ve ever put yourself out there, you've felt it: Shame.
Shame is more painful than your run-of the-mill guilt. You might feel guilt you've done something bad or if you break our own high standard: “Oh my G-d, I’m sorry, I completely forgot your birthday!” "I forgot to put her lunch in her backpack and now she'll starve." Shame triggers an innate feeling of being worthless, flawed or defective. Most commonly, shame is a likely, if temporary, consequence of stretching into the unknown. What triggers shame then? Anything that feels risky to you, makes you more vulnerable to shame. Shame arises from a part of you that learned to feel "less than" long ago. There was a time when you stretched your sweet, strong, willful, ambitious, loving, innocent hand out into the unknown and your hand was met with a slap, or worse. Shame is such a painful feeling, that we unconsciously avoid stretching into the unknown for fear of re-triggering that original pain. In my experience, shame arises as a WAVE. It shows up and lasts for a few days. Like a wave it crests a few times and it attaches to thoughts that are negative and self-effacing. It also attaches to adjacent feelings of embarrassment, hopelessness, regret and loneliness. Get to recognize shame and name it. This week I got to say: "Wow, I feel shame. I feel hurt. I feel scared. I feel defensive." Okay, those are the feelings. Now, notice the thoughts that attach to shame: "I should quit. I overreached. I'm an idiot. I'm an insensitive, horrible human. I'll never be any good. etc. " Now, notice your body sensations: "Fright. Heavy. Exhausted. Separate. Empty. Anxious." THIS IS IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO TRACK. WHY? We first have to notice what our relationship is to shame so that we can be NICE TO THE PART OF US THAT FELT THAT ORIGINAL SHAME. When we feel shame, the temptation is to disconnect from others and withdraw from our hurt. But we have to do the opposite in order to ride a shame wave. Find a way to forge a connection with someone that can give you empathy for your pain. They will help you ride the shame wave to the shore. Once you have enough distance from the pain, give yourself some empathy. After all, you have work to do. The part of you that is stretching into new territory has a job to do. Riding a shame wave is proof of your courage! So get back out there brave heart, and paddle back out into the unknown!