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? 


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