How We SHAME Ourselves and Each Other
I want to bring some awareness to shame, and how it is the undercurrent of our fear as a culture and as individuals. We all do it – shame ourselves and others. For some of us, it may be very unconscious, as it was for me. I want to share how I woke up to my own unconscious shame.
I woke up on Sunday morning with a distinct image of a dream: I was brushing my hair upside down, and these blonde golden hairballs with bugs in them were coming out of my hair with lots of them spilling all over the floor. There was an older woman that was in the room laying in the bed, and she told me I had some kind of condition. It was a strange word (like a foreign word), and I asked, “What does that mean?” and she replied, “It is unconscious shame.” WOW – what is the message there?
I start sitting with this dream and the word unconscious shame and began looking at the reflection of the people around me and what they are working through: my daughter (Taylor) and a friend (Bruce). I am very close to both of these people, and they are working through healing their own shame at the current time. As I state in my book, Be Happy Now, I am a big believer that what our relationships reflect for us is typically a signal for something deeper inside ourselves to look at that may be unconscious in us and need healing.
I also believe that our messages in dreams are the Divine speaking though us; I have a practice of tending my dreams for messages that propel my growth and healing.
Here is how I interpret this dream: I see hair as strength, vitality, and as thoughts. My way of thinking is being turned upside down and allowing me to remove that which has bugged me and been with me a long time (since childhood, I imagine). The fact that the hairballs are golden is so interesting and makes me think that there’s gold in the shift, something about the alchemical process. The woman in the bed tells me it means unconscious shame. I take this as an opportunity to seek to understand my own sense of shame, long unconscious, but not coming into my awareness until now. The same weekend of the dream, I was made aware of Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong. It is all about shame; I then discovered her You Tube interview about shame:
Here is where I became conscious of how I shame myself.
I was out with a friend the night before this dream, and I created a story around him not wanting to connect with me. The story in my head was that he doesn’t really care for me, and I think, “What am I doing with this guy?” You know, the “I am not good enough” story.
The core of all shame is not feeling worthy of love. Rather than leaning in and recognizing that I am creating a story, I go into unconscious mode and shame myself ending the evening feeling like we didn’t really connect and mad at myself for thinking he wanted to be with me.
Here is what I realized I needed to shift in order to create healthy steps for not shaming myself.
- Observe yourself and lean in; notice that you are creating a story in your head that is not real, and notice how your body feels. This is a clue.
- Be curious with yourself in order to ask the other person a question.
- Speak up – Say what you are feeling, I could have said, “I feel like you are preoccupied tonight. What is going on?”
By bringing into the conversation what you are feeling in that moment, you become open to vulnerability, and the conversation can get real and honor what neither of you are talking about. This cuts right through any fear either of you may be feeling.
Once you speak up and open the conversation, you both can stop the shaming pattern and actually connect.
The morning of the dream, Bruce texted me and said something seemed off last night; he asked if I was okay. So, while I was shaming myself with my internal dialogue, Bruce was perceiving something wasn’t right. Neither of us had talked about it when we were feeling it in the moment.
I invite you to begin noticing where and with whom you go into shaming yourself. Once you have this awareness, practice the steps above, and notice how it makes you feel.
The relationships around us are our mirror, and we are all here to help each other heal the unconscious parts of ourselves and no longer let fear, the root of shame, control our lives and our relationships.