What is it about shame that it makes us so nervous?
Recently I came across Brene Brown, which I only got to know because Elizabeth Gilbert mentioned her in her book Big Magic. And this is when I discovered that she was a "shame researcher". I thought, "How odd", and filed it away in my brain cells under "curiosities".
Never did I know that she'd play an important part of my spiritual and emotional journey months later.
CLOUD OF CONFUSION
For the longest time I've felt terribly oppressed by a cauldron of emotions. I had no name for my misery, neither did I know the cause. It would seem as if my entire life sucked, though I could see with my rational eye that that is certainly untrue. As painful as it was, I listened to what the voices in my head were telling me: "You suck", "You're a failure" and the most damning of all - "other people do life better than you do."
And perhaps as a result of this attentiveness, or random brain cells finally making connections, or God nudging my spirit, as I sat down one day listening to my Inner Bitch, another voice, more tender, more gentle, more loving, said: "You are feeling shame."
It's as if the clouds parted and the sun finally started shining in my mind again. Understanding - an aha moment.
OWN YOUR SHAME
"Didn't you know?" you may ask.
Christine Caine, the author of the Christianity Today article Why Childhoold Shame is so hard to get rid of said: "...when we’re bound by shame, we might not even realize that our reactions are shame-based."
For me, once I knew what my feelings were, or where my turmoil was coming from, it felt as if a cloud of confusion was lifted.
Then came anger. As I reflected on what shame was, I realised that I've been marinating in that emotion for decades, and at first I was angry at those who used shame like a weapon. Why did they do it?
This is when Brene Brown reentered my life. Curious about what she said about shame, I first viewed her popular Ted videos and then read her book: I Thought it was Just Me (but it isn't).
In the book, she deconstructed shame, down to its moving parts. Somehow, reading about shame like it was a creature in a lab became a fascinating activity instead of a dreaded one. It helped me put a distance between this often powerful emotion; it went from an incomprehensible monster to a scientific curiosity.
It was from this book that I discovered was all about power; recognising how shame works pulled me from its power, and best of all, Brene taught us how to form the weapon to fight it:
"If we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive," she said.
And so I did share my stories with trusted friends, a dear couple who had brought me much comfort in my life by being the non-judgemental ears that I needed. That's always why I shared my journey of faith in My Shifting Faith blog series. Stories are powerful. Stories are weapons against shame.
It's time shame is spoken, instead of hidden like dirty rags molding in a basement.