Welcome to my Blog! As an adjunct to my clinical practice, I created this blog to provide information and support for individuals and couples who can benefit from my psychological and spiritual expertise. I offer psychotherapy in a safe and confidential environment, as well as, dynamic workshops on spirituality, conquering fears, overcoming hurdles and breaking through general apathy.
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.
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
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.
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?”
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?
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
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?
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
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
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 wewant 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?
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.
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 meanslooking to others for approval as well as trying to figure out what are
the right and wrong things for us to do.
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.
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
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.
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.
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