Keeping It Real!

Keeping It Real!

I am human through and through! I have had time to reflect on my “family altercation” last week and realized that all of it could have been avoided had I not stepped in. It seemed to me that getting involved was the right thing to do, to speak for someone who wasn’t speaking for herself. A classic co-dependent move on my part. Although a decision had been made that was ridiculous in my mind, the best action for me to have taken was no action. The decision didn’t involve a life or death situation, just an uncomfortable one that truly didn’t involve me.
So now my mind has moved to wondering how I could have avoided this? Sometimes I can see situations with such intense clarity I sense I am gifted with invaluable insight. At other times I bumble so horribly I wonder how it is I do anything well at all! Such is the life of a human. We are not robots who are programmed to always make the right decision. We are capable of change and making wise choices but we also always carry with us the capacity to blow it. Remember the neural pathways? The unhealthy routes don’t go away, they just get weeds growing through the pavement. They are still accessible. When I’m tired, hungry, in pain, sick, over-extended or ungrounded, I am far more likely to forgo the wise for the unhealthy.
This could easily be a situation where I turn on myself and beat myself up for blowing it. But I won’t. It’s not worth it. Beating myself up never gave me the energy or motivation to change. I’m also not so sure I wish this hadn’t happened. I kind of like my humanity. It keeps me grounded to myself and others. We are all bumbling our way through life. If I ever got to a place where I believed I had arrived, I would lose my compassion for others. I would expect everyone to get where I have gotten. I don’t ever want to be in that space…ever! So, I am embracing my best pic brick wall copy - Version 2humanity…celebrating it! I love being me, flaws and all 🙂

Guilt Part 5: Freedom from Shame

Shame has no useful purpose. It only condemns us. It does nothing to create connection. As a result of feeling shame we hide the parts we think are unacceptable. When we hide, we are alone. Maybe you have connections with people, but they don’t know about that part of you; the part that’s responsible for your shame. This means only part of you shows up in your relationships, not all of you. It’s probably better than no connection but that’s not real connection. How do you bring that hidden part of yourself out of shame and into acceptance?
It’s not an easy journey. It’s simple on paper, but the actual execution is challenging. The antidote to shame is acceptance. Shame says, in essence, you are a bad person (or not enough or too much…). Acceptance says you are enough, just right and good. You likely don’t always do everything in your life perfectly. You screw-up at times. You aren’t very nice every moment of every day. Welcome to humanity! None of us have it all together all the time and do everything as it should be done in every circumstance. We try. That’s all we can do. Sometimes we hit the mark, and sometimes we miss it. The most important action we can take is to accept who we are and how we function.
This doesn’t mean I don’t look at my choices and critique them. If I hurt someone else or screw something up, it’s important that I look at what happened and learn from it. How could I have treated that person better or improved the execution of a project. I only look at the event with an eye focused on learning from it not beating myself up. If I start saying things to myself like, “You are such a stupid person!” I will only add to the shame I already feel. Don’t go there. As soon as you catch yourself saying shaming statements, stop. Say something like, “I made a mistake.” or “I hurt someone.” Then follow with, “What can I learn from this? How can I change my actions so I don’t hurt someone or screw something up in the same way?” Let those who were affected by your actions know you own what you did and are sorry. That action also helps foster connection because you aren’t hiding the shamed part. You are taking away the shame and bringing the offending action into the light where healing can take place.
Sometimes we have deeply hidden shamed parts. The best antidote is to confide in a safe and trusted person. Keeping the shame buried deep inside will never help. Like I stated before, when shame is brought into relationship, healing can begin. Until you let light shine in those dark places, you will not experience freedom.
Life is all about learning, not shaming. When we accept the parts of us that don’t have it all together all the time, we walk in freedom.

Part 4: The Challenges of Perceived Guilt and Shame

Perceived guilt and shame come from something you think you did wrong but you really didn’t.  A classic example is the child who believes she is the reason her parents got divorced.  She feels guilty about breaking up her family.  She begins to see herself as a bad person who broke up her parents marriage.  She carries this belief into adulthood.  She is afraid to get close to people because she thinks she hurts people.  She lives life without deep close connections, on the fringes, and never feels internal peace.
Reality is that she didn’t break up her parents marriage.  They chose to end their marriage.  One or both of her parents may have told her it was her fault but a child doesn’t break up a marriage.  A child can add to the disharmony or frustration in a family but the child didn’t force the parents to divorce.  Anyone who uses that excuse in any circumstance isn’t owning their behavior they are choosing to use blame to ease their own conscience.  Running through my head right now are people who say things like, “She was dressed so provocatively, she was asking for it” or “It’s because you made me so mad that you got hurt” or “If you weren’t so slow then I wouldn’t be in such a bad mood.”
Some people have thoughts about doing something they know is wrong.  From simply thinking about it, which is something all of us do, some people turn that into shame, “I am a bad person.”  Truth is, you’re a person. A bad person? No!
Finding freedom from shame is challenging.  I’ll save that for Part 5 🙂

Guilt Part 3: What's Shame Got To Do With It?

While similar in some respects, guilt and shame are on opposite sides of the spectrum from one another.  Guilt says, “I did something wrong”.  Shame responds to the state of being guilty (or the perceived state of being guilty***) with the belief, “I am bad”.  Guilt is centralized on a response to an action.  Let’s say I stole a pack of gum from a store.  Whether I get caught or not, I did something wrong.  If I experience guilt as a result of my action that’s a good thing!  I have a conscience that recognizes the laws of my community.  If I take that guilt and allow it to move toward shame, I will begin to believe I am a bad person for stealing.  The guilt has shifted from a judgment of my actions to a condemnation of my very being.
Guilt can bring healing and restoration.  If I recognize my infraction, own that I did it, then apologize and ask for forgiveness from those affected by my actions, the guilt need no longer weigh on my conscience.  I am free from it.  It may be on a police record or kept in the minds of those affected but I can move on, aware that I have the capacity to do something wrong and do all I can not to do it again.
Shame brings condemnation, misery and separation.  Shame tells me I am no good, never will be.  If I stole that gum and then went past guilt into shame, I will believe there is nothing good about me.  I am a thief.  I can never be trusted.  I can never make this right.  I will carry it like a weight until I die or learn to let go of the shame.  It will affect my relationships because in the back of my mind is this shaming belief that I am no good. I’ll believe people can’t see me as good, they just see that I am a thief.  It might negatively affect my choice of occupation or how well I perform at my job.  Sometimes our response to shame is try harder, be better than everyone else in an attempt to prove I’m not that bad.  That motive isn’t healthy.  It’s also like being on a hamster wheel because we never really know when we’ve done enough.  Usually people who employ the approach of attempting to overcome shame through performance implode at some point in their life.  We weren’t designed to operate that way for the long haul.
Sometimes we aren’t aware of our shame; we don’t realize we have it.  It’s there, though.  All people with a conscience likely have at least one shaming message going on in their minds.  What’s yours?
***This brings up another topic entirely, another kind of guilt and how it causes shame so I’ll save this explanation for Part 4: The Challenges of Perceived Guilt and Shame.