Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shame Series # 4 Feeling Your Feelings


Feeling your feelings and emotions is an important step in breaking free from the Troll of Shame. Is there a difference between feelings and emotions? 

            Often feelings or even the word feeling, is a very difficult word for people.  Almost any outward display of emotion is ridiculed, made fun of in the press, and punctuated as something negative. Client’s come into my office and pay really good money but spend all of their energy not to feel anything, especially sad or mad.  Once a client has spent enough time with me to understand the phenomena of shame beneath their feelings, then it seems to be especially hard to let feelings come forward.  Shame is a very uncomfortable feeling and often more intense than sadness or anger.  Shame carries intense biology often punctuating itself with physical sensations of nausea and angst.  

Donald Nathanson (1992) in his book Shame and Pride helpfully describes for us the vocabulary of Emotion.  There he describes affect, feeling, emotion, mood and disorder.  His descriptions help delineate the subtle differences in and between them.  Affect, which is the biology of emotion which I have addressed in early parts of this workbook, is the automatic physiological responses our bodies make when any of the nine identified affects have been triggered. Feeling is described as an awareness of the affect, emotion is the biographical history of the feeling, mood is the persistent state of the emotion, and disorder is when the persistent state of emotion interferes with daily functions of life, or the person’s “norm.”  

From my perspective, disorders are created by a sense of overwhelm from the scripts and beliefs that are not identified and ferreted out from other internal chaos that is going on.  The more we learn about the brain, the more we realize how much we don’t know.   It is the not knowing that leads us back to discussion of feeling. 

Because feelings are so difficult to experience and express perhaps you are “feeling-phobic.” Most people are perfectly content if all of their feelings stay in the closet.  When a feeling dares express itself or come out of the closet, the environmental reaction is often so harsh that the feeling runs back to the closet vowing never to be sad, mad, afraid, or expressive again.   Often young children are socialized to hold their feelings close to their chest with minimal or no outlet of their expression.  As a result, we have more child violence than ever reported before, and we have many adults that are completely incapable of establishing and maintaining relationships because they are too emotionally impaired to participate fully in the type of true vulnerability required in an adult relationship.  Many people find it difficult to be in an emotionally demanding relationship when their feelings are stuck in the darkness of the closet.  Let’s stop here and do a couple of feeling exercises to see if you can identify what is going on underneath the surface of your psyche right now. 


Feeling Awareness Exercise: 

Allow yourself to find a quiet place and a comfortable way of sitting.  As you sit, take a look around and really notice your environment.  Allow yourself to identify by naming the colors, objects, scents, and sounds in the room you have chosen. Then allow yourself to gently close your eyes and breathe in.  At first, just notice your body as you breathe in and then out.  Notice, where you are tight, the depth or shallowness of your breath and then allow yourself to inhale deeply and slowly.  Hold the breath for a moment and gently release it fully back into the room.  Allow yourself to develop your own rhythm to your breath.  Once you are aware of your rhythm and it feels comfortable to you, ask yourself the following questions. As you answer the following questions, remember this is an awareness exercise, so spend some time with each question or with the question that resonates most with you at this time.

 What am I feeling right now?  What am I paying attention to?  From there, allow yourself to turn back the pages of your daily life and ask  “What has been happening in my life and how am I feeling about it?”

Allow the faces of your family members, friends, and colleagues that are currently in your day-to-day life to come into your mind’s eye.  Just scan their faces as if you were looking at a photo album. While you are going from page to page, notice what you feel as each face appears. Who do you feel good about?  Who brings you joy and laughter?   Which face makes you recoil as if you have done something wrong or bad?  Which face stirs up angry feelings inside of you or sad feelings?   For example, suppose you come across the face of a co‑worker and you find yourself feeling a bit agitated and your breath naturally shortens.  What is the story with that co‑worker?  What has been going on inside of your head about him/her?  Allow yourself to flip back through the pages of that story rather quickly until you come to the beginning of the story, the time when you first noticed something going on inside of your body that you did not feel good about when you were around this colleague.  You may find that now it is hard for you to stay with that situation, you may find that it is difficult for you to focus on whatever uncomfortable feeling that is there. You may start becoming fidgety, and your mind may try to escape to your “to do” list.  Take a deep breath and see if you can allow yourself to stay with that “first story” for just a moment longer.  Refocus your attention to you.  Notice what happened inside of your body when that bad feeling started coming up.  Notice your facial expression.  What was going on?  Drop down into just one more level of consciousness and ask yourself what did I need right then? What do I wish I would have done differently?  What did I want to say but became too afraid, intimidated, or embarrassed to say? 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Exploring Shame Series #3

Beginning to Understand the Compass of Shame
Often as adults, you think that you should be all grown up now.  You might even believe that somehow you should know what to do, to say, and how to be in any situation you encounter.  In our culture, we are often led to believe that feelings are wrong or bad and need to be eliminated from our adult state of being.  If that were the case, you would act very robotic.  Maybe you can look at some of the ways we have acted in the past and wish you had been robotic, that you had not blown up, walked out, or cried in a situation that became uncomfortable or too distressful to you..  In reality, most of you have scenes like that that have embarrassed you and made you wish you had shriveled up and disappeared into the floor. 

This introduction leads to several questions and observations.  Think back over the past few months and recall a situation that you wish you could erase from your history, your memory, and the memory of others.  Now, that you have brought that memory to the foreground, what happens when I say to you, “Are you aware that most adults have situations like that in their lives?”  More often than not, you probably go toward a defensive state that says, “Maybe so, but Joey, Jerry, Jean, and Jessica did not ever do what I did.”  It is true that perhaps you have never observed those people doing those things, but just because you did not observe them does not mean that they did not happen. 

The example, just listed, is an example of comparison making, or comparison scripts. It is natural in your inner self to compare yourself to those around you. However, if that is your only reference point (others) then you need to discover your inner reference point.  Think for a moment.  What happened in that recalled memory just before you got angry?   Who said what? Who did what?  What did you do right before you exploded?  What did you do after you exploded? Now,  back up one more time and recall what you were feeling.  When someone said to you, “What makes you believe that is true?”  What did you feel?   Did you feel self-doubt?  Did you think, “Oh no, I am wrong.”  Did you want to run or hide or perhaps that statement inflamed you and you were ready for battle?  Regardless of your reactions, thoughts, feelings in any of the above situations, your reaction will fall somewhere on the compass of shame.
When we experience shame we do one of four things: Withdraw, Avoid, Attack Other, Attack Self.  We often are not aware of what we are doing, but withdrawal leads to depression while avoidance leads to addiction.  If we find that we have to blame someone else for how we are then we attack using judgement, anger, intimidation, or criticism.  If we attack our self that can be anything from self-abuse to constant self degrading chatter in our head.  What is it that you do? 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Part Two of Shame Series- FInding Your Voice


A Beginning Journey of Overcoming the Darkness of Shame
Part Two

You may want to read Part I in the Archives to refresh your memory for what I said last week.  I began to introduce the key theorists on Shame Theory and also began to look at scenarios of how our positve situations are turned to shame in just a matter of seconds.  Enjoy this Blog.  Pass it on to your friends and they can sign up to follow too. 

 In addition to providing a theory for how shame impacts our lives, Nathanson offers strategies for dealing with shame.  Nathanson helps us understand shame by reducing to a simple definition, that shame is the interruption of positive affect.  The two positive affects, interest - excitement and joy-enthusiasm are powerful affective responses.  When a person is in the process of enjoyment or interest and something negative or bad happens to them, it interrupts those positive affects and shame sets in.  Over time, a person might even stop moving toward something they enjoy or are interested in because of the fear of failure and defeat. Thus, the negative possibilities immobilize them from moving toward something they enjoy.  This recurring issue can cause someone to give up their voice, their desire, or their ambition toward something they so desire. 

Now, let us look at the practical issues involving shame and how those issues affect us on a daily basis.

            It is common to believe that when we turn eighteen or twenty-one that we will somehow magically know how to be an adult.  We dream that we will know the right things to say and always do the right things just as we believed our parents were always right.  Even when we were fighting with our parents as adolescents, often there was that secret sense that we hoped they were right.   Because if they were not right then how could we ever really trust anyone?   They raised us and we were completely dependent upon their worldview. 

For instance, when was the last time you were out to coffee with a friend and the topic of discussion turned to politics, religion, or just an opinion about a TV show.  For instance, let us say you like Dancing with the Stars. 

And your friend says, “I don’t understand how anyone can get caught up in these reality TV shows, especially something as ditzy as Dancing with the Stars.

 You think to yourself. “Ouch, I thought that was an okay show to watch.  I must be stupid for wasting my time doing that.” 

However, in the conversation you say nothing, agree with your friend, or find a quick excuse to go to the restroom.  What would it have taken you to say, “I disagree with that?  I find Dancing with Stars very relaxing and by the end of the season, I can see how each dancer has progressed.  I really enjoy it.”

Somewhere along your life’s journey, you have lost your voice.  Now, you are at a deciding point, you either have to decide to stay inside of your cocoon and feel silently miserable about your secret opinions and enjoyments or to put your toes into the river of life and learn how to voice your opinion to others.  Your opinion is who you are.  You have a right to like the things you like and enjoy things that bring you relaxation, hope, and positive feelings.  You are uniquely you and that is okay.  Not only is it okay, but you need to celebrate who you are. Find one way today to celebrate yourself.

Voice is one of the most important aspects of who we are.  Voice allows others to get to know us and to engage us in their lives.  Without voice, we are invisible. 

  So, what do I mean by finding your voice?

I am inviting you along with myself to pull the magic into your daily life and stop being invisible.  I am asking you to look at the number of times each day that you defer to someone else because you assume they are smarter, know better, or have earned the right to override your needs and wants.  Often this behavior of not having a voice has been called co-dependency but I believe it is more than that.  I believe we take care of others in a situation because we are ashamed to take care of ourselves.  We are ashamed to be seen.  It is easier in the short run to be invisible.  However, in the long run none of us wants to be invisible forever.  Invisibility and voicelessness takes its toll on us.  We can become very angry and bitter about it by blaming others for the fact we did not stand up for ourselves.  It seems to me that the less we use our voice the larger our internal victim becomes and pretty soon it is everyone else’s fault that we are not getting what we  want out of life.  We become one of those people who always complain about what an awful lot in life we have.  Our comparison scripts are in the negative.  In the end, we have no one else to blame except ourselves for not standing up for ourselves.  Often in the beginning of our adult hood in may not even occur to us that we are not using our voice.  It may not occur to us until our kids are grown or we are in mid-life and we go, what happened to me?  It is never too late to change.  It is never too late to bring the magic to our lives.  Yes, it is usually always uncomfortable to stir up a potion of different, because we have spent most of our life being accommodating, nice, and easy going.  Now, all of a sudden we are saying things to our partners like, “No, I am not willing to go there.”  “No, I don’t want to put my money into that.”  “Oh, I need to take some time to myself.”  “I have a new friend.”  “I am going to look for a new job.”  “I am not happy.”  “I need a change.”  “I don’t like that anymore.”   “I want to take skydiving lessons.”  Anything you have chosen not to pursue, do, act on or say because of having to defend yourself and your position for choosing something out of the ordinary is an example of how you have not been using your voice and as a result, losing yourself piece by piece to the creeping in of age.  Soon the days left to live are less than the days lived and then depression can take over.  When depression takes over then you might find yourself saying, “Why bother, now?”  Depression becomes a comfortable blanket and soon the idea of magic is long gone from your memory.  Possibilities and potentials are drowned out by the daily lowering of the serotonin and one day turns into the next.  Where are you?  Where have you gone? 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Exploring Shame Series - Tuesdays with Dr.Dilley


A Beginning Journey of Overcoming the Darkness of Shame.


            Shame has been consistently the stepchild of psychotherapy because it seems that we have found it shameful and uncomfortable to talk about shame and shaming events.  Often, even well trained psychologists brush the surface of shame in sessions. An example of that might be a situation where a client is talking about peeing or pooping their pants in school.  If the psychologist is uncomfortable with that topic, the psychologist may not inquire for further information by asking questions like, “What was that like for you or what happened when you did that?”  As the stepchild of psychology, shame has been pushed into the closet and not openly investigated.  Recently, our field of psychology we have moved into a “fix-it” or “educational” modality.  It is my opinion that keeps the psychotherapy office rather sterile.  By an educational modality, I mean often times the therapist will lapse into explaining what happened for the client when they were shamed or telling the client, what they can do about it.  The art of exploration from therapist to client can often feel uncomfortable.  Therapists must undergo a certain amount of training “unlearning” social standards of appropriate communication.  For example, as a Southern girl I learned it is impolite to ask questions, any question, and much less questions about sex, bodily functions, or money.   

Theories of shame have been proposed by Silvan Tomkins, Helen Block Lewis, Gershen Kaufman and Donald Nathanson since the early 1960’s. Before that, the only real mention of shame was by developmental psychiatrist, Erik Erickson.  He speaks of shame in the second developmental stage of life: autonomy vs. shame and doubt.  Toddlers of eighteen months are learning how to do things on their own.  It is important that they learn to master their environment, bodily functions, and acquire a sense of self.  The more the toddler learns to do master his/her environment, the more autonomous the toddler becomes.  Autonomy is equated with a good sense of self.   The more a toddler fails at achieving and mastering his/her environment, the more the toddler develops a sense of shame and self-doubt.  Self-doubt sets us up to operate our life from an external locus of control which means  looking to others for approval as well as trying to figure out what are the right and wrong things for us to do.  

Silvan Tomkins’ (1963) work on Shame and Shame Theory conceptualizes shame from an evolutionary perspective introducing into literature the nine biological affects.  According to Tomkins, we are all wired with nine biological affects. We become aware of our nine affects when we become aware of our facial, skeletal, and inner visceral behaviors.   Affect is primarily facial behavior and secondarily bodily skeletal and inner visceral behavior. Shame is one of our nine biological affects that we are pre-wired to express. 

            Kaufman (1989) speaks more clearly about shame, speaking of it in terms most of us can identify, such as feeling exposed, diminished, imperfect, and defective. 


“Shame reveals the inner self, exposing it to view. The self feels exposed both to itself and to anyone else present.” (Kaufman 1989) So, perhaps you felt exposed.  Perhaps, afraid someone was going to point out to you that something was wrong with you, how you thought, believed or acted.   Perhaps that fear comes from a history of self-doubt because your memory tells you that your parents were always pointing out what you were saying or doing wrong.  It is even possible that you keep remembering a scene that was particularly embarrassing to you as a child. Because of the negative impact of that one situation, that memory might continue to cause you to feel a phenomenological sense of feeling seen in a painfully diminished sense. Kaufman (1989) the experience of feeling diminished in front of someone or even in your own headspace is that uncomfortable affect of shame. Donald Nathanson (1992) tells us that when humans experience shame they respond to that shame from one of four perspectives.  Nathanson calls those four perspectives the compass of shame.  He tells us that we attack others, attack ourselves, and avoid (addictions) or withdraw (depression).  Thus, when we are in situations that trigger old memories of defeat, failures, or rejections the current situation does not need to be actual, only perceived as such, shame envelopes you crippling your ability to respond in ways that might be healthier for you.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Labyrinth Mondays-

The Importance of Your Still Point

Do you find it hard to be still? Do you get antsy when you are quiet or alone? If so, do not let that trick you to believing you cannot meditate. Walking a Labyrinth is just what this psychologist believes will help you calm the racing mind and allow you to find your inner still point. We all have a place within us that will help us heal, recover, rejuvenate and restore our lost and restless soul to the here and now of today. The very act of following your feet, one foot in front of the other, will force your mind to let go of its angst and will allow you calm your worries. Imagine that those racing thoughts, images, commotion, lists, painful memories, and random thoughts from past and present are capable of giving way to positive energy, peaceful images, healing thoughts and useful resolutions to what you have been pondering. You will not know this until you allow yourself to experience the reality of walking a Labyrinth in your area. Google “labyrinths” or even order a finger walking Labyrinth to help you find that still point within where you and peace cross paths in powerful ways.

I hear you asking, "What is the point?” The point is for you to find a place within your being that you can retreat to that is completely peaceful. You deserve a moment in the jungle of life to be still and restore. If you don’t take time for yourself you risk become a walking zombie. Just try it. If there is not a Labyrinth near you, then allow yourself to go for a walk. When your mind wanders bring it back to the still point by watching yourself put one foot in front of the other

Monday, January 30, 2012

Labyrinths and Oceans...

Watching the Ocean or Walking the Labyrinth is an act of mindfulness and allows you to open  up to all possibilities.  For instance the feelings or imagined feelings of a sea shell. 

As I reflect on the power of the Labyrinth the word, mindfulness echoes across my brainwaves. I was just at the ocean a few days ago. I found myself mesmerized as I watched the waves lap up against the edge of the sand, and gently retreat to endlessness. I wondered if the shells left behind felt anything. I imagined they were use to being carried by the womb of the ocean, wrapped in gentle rocking waves and ensconced in the water of life. I am sure there were times they grew tired of the torrid of angry waves and wished for a peacefulness of soft rocking waves, but nonetheless I believed the ocean was their home and where they longed to return. I wondered if they felt abandoned, tossed on the gritty hot sand in the unflinching heat as beach goers walked on them crushing them into millions of pieces. I wondered if they felt pretty when someone came along and picked them out of the hundreds of shells around them or if they felt panicked that they would never find their way home to the ocean again if they were picked from the sand. I wondered if they felt helpless. I wondered if they ever felt like giving up. I reflected back to a time in Africa when we were told not to pick up the big beautiful conch shells and how angry I became when one of the teenagers on the trip thought he was above that rule. I almost send him home via plane the next day. Last week, I wondered what ever happened to that kid, but more pressing in my mind, I found myself wondering whatever happened to that beautiful shell and if it felt protected by my adamancy it be returned gently to its home coast

Are you missing your home? Do you feel protected and cared about? Do you seek the solace of quiet mindfulness to reflect on the fate of self and others? Taking a walk that requires you to place one foot in front of the other is a powerful way to find the home within your heart. If you live in Arizona, you can walk the Labyrinth at Trinity Cathedral any time at 100 W. Roosevelt. If you live elsewhere you may be pleasantly surprised by “Googling” nearby labyrinths. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Labyrinth Mondays: Twelve Steps to Change a Light Bulb


The workshop on January 7 was a success and the attendees were able to take many inspirations and tools away from the day. For example:

“I am alone and not alone.”

“I discovered the harder I focused on my feet, the quieter my mind became.”

“I noticed that the traffic and street noise became silent as I made my way to the center and the noise of the city did not return until I stepped on the sidewalk again.”

“I was anxious about doing it wrong that I lost myself and then discovered that by turning my attention back to my feet, all I had to do was take the next step.”

Obviously, these statements only tap the surface of the inner experience participants experienced as they examined their inner tin-man, lion, and scarecrow.

The question posed at this time is how does the simple but powerful act of walking the Labyrinth take us into our inner self? There is some theory about how this works but in reality that is all that we have theory. Theory is useful but not life changing or experiential.

So many folks complain, “Everyone tells me to change but no one tells me how?” Then there are millions of self-help books on the market that have seven – steps to change anything imaginable. I am surprised that no one has written a book entitled seven steps to change a light bulb. But the bottom line to all of this change-game is that you must actually do the work. You must decide which light bulb needs to be changed, obtain its size and wattage. You must go to the store, buy the light bulb that fits that description, and bring it home. You must open the box, unscrew the light bulb you are replacing, discard it in recycle bin and screw in the new light bulb. Turn on the light to make sure it works and discard packaging to recycle bin. Actually, if you break those steps down it becomes Twelve Steps to Change a Light Bulb. I believe you get my point. Change comes by doing, not by reading. It comes by focusing, putting one foot in front of the other, and taking the next step. You can’t always see where you are going, but to get there you must be brave enough to take the next step.

Let the Labyrinth be a tool to get you where you are going.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Labyrinth and the Yellow Brick Road

On Saturday January 7t, a small group of seekers set out on their own journey down the yellow brick road. In the beginning, we explored the Walking a Sacred Path DVD by Lauren Artress. The DVD shared stories of three people who used the Labyrinth to find the courage to make a career change, to find career direction, and to find physical healing from a stroke. These three people mirrored the characters of the Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and the Lion in the story of the Wizard of OZ. The Labyrinth is a tool of transformation that allows the mind to settle while the body focuses on walking, placing one foot in front of the other. The gentle focus of movement allows the body to let go of anxiety, worries, and fear and as the journeyer focuses on walking, a mindfulness takes place that the walker does not have to strive for, mindfulness just happens. The brain relaxes and the journeyer is able to experience being in the present.

Walking the Labyrinth mirrors the Yellow brick road in so many ways. On Saturday, we explored how our inadequacies, hurts, and fears that keep us immobilized not allowing our heart’s desire to be attained. When we are busy wrestling with our inadequacies, hurts, and fears rather than becoming their friend, listening to their needs and giving them what they need then our lives are full of chaos and anguish. As Dorothy walks the Yellow Brick Road in search to find the magical wizard that will take her home again, she discovers fellow journeyers who also have needs. They travel together and in their travels, magic happens. The Scarecrow ends up being the smartest of them all, giving direction, working a travel plan and overcoming obstacles. The Tin Man is full of empathy and cries easily at other’s pain. The Lion is the one that is most fear-less taking on the witch and climbing up the wall to the rescue Toto. All along, each journeyer had what they needed inside; they just needed to come to realize it. But, like most humans, these characters still could not see what was inside until the make believe wizard gave them symbols of their inner strengths. It is human to need re-assurance that we are smart, loved, and courageous. Replicating the walk down the Yellow Brick Road can be done by walking the Labyrinth. On Saturday, the journeyer’s placed their inadequacies, hurts, and fear in baskets along the way and when they arrived into the center there was a red stone symbolizing the red shoes Dorothy was wearing. Just by clicking the shoes three times, she was able to go home to Kansas, without the Wizard’s hot-air balloon.

Come travel with me on Labyrinth Mondays as I continue to explore how the Labyrinth is a tool in your daily life. Follow me on www.drdilley.blogspot.com or www.facebook.inamomentsnotice.com