What is Shame?
Shame is defined as “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”
While Merriam-Webster seems to paint it pretty black and white, this sounds pretty subjective to me. Like, a shortcoming or foolish behavior according to whom?
Shame is a tricky, insidious, mysterious emotion, yet it’s at the root of all human suffering and dis-ease. It’s responsible for the “there’s something wrong with me story” and is responsible for creating the things we dislike in our lives.
So much of my life has been dictated by shame. I’ve struggled to like myself, let alone love myself. I’ve felt small, awkward, uncomfortable, misunderstood, and like no one “gets” me.
I’ve engaged in countless hours of mental masturbation and hyper-intellectual pursuits in the name of finally “fixing” myself. I’ve sought countless “answers,” “fixes,” and “protocols” to help me finally measure up to some illusion of an ideal.
I’ve needed help and not wanted to ask for it because then they’d know just how fucked up I really am.
I’ve hated my body and watched as my health suffered, which fueled more distrust and disdain, which led to more health challenges.
I’ve denied emotional expression, flow, and release because it felt trivial, “stupid,” “unproductive,” and like it wouldn’t actually “fix” me.
I’ve spent a great chunk of my life being in a state of hyper-vigilance; ensuring I was “on” so as to not upset my surroundings. I’ve allowed my boundaries to be crossed and my needs to be unexpressed and unmet.
I’ve moved around obstacles rather than moving the obstacles around me. I’ve felt like I was too much and not enough at the same damn time. I’ve felt disconnected from nature, my authentic Self, my own experience of my own divinity.
I’ve felt like something’s perpetually wrong with me for simply existing.
What it all comes down to is this: whatever we’re resisting, is supplying fuel to the shame. The parts of ourselves we’re not relating with and not witnessing and loving, are feeding the shame.
The wounds we’re ashamed of having can’t begin their sacred transmutation process.
We’re all carrying a legacy of pain and trauma that breed shame and unworthiness and the illusion of separation. My sacred mission in this life is to not only bring awareness to the fact that shame exists and is the root of all of our suffering and physical dis-ease, but to also heal it through transmuting it.
You know I don’t believe in “letting go” in the sense of forcing us to remove a piece of ourselves and our stories, refer back this article where I discussed “Why Letting Go is BS and What to Do Instead.” Trying to “let go” of something is impossible and simply breeds more dis-ease and resistance and therefore, shame.
When we’ve been through something, we’re changed on all levels – physiologically, emotionally, mentally. Often it’s the resistance to this change that breeds the shame – we’re ashamed of not being the same anymore.
Rather than “letting go,” what we can do is transmute our pain, turn it into something else entirely, change the way we relate to it, and let it become the gift that it really is intended to be.
We are ashamed of things about ourselves that are transient, like our bodies and emotions. Shame also presents itself when we internalize things that occur around us or to us.
My body is transient. She changes constantly! On a daily basis! As I’m sitting here right now! She shrinks and grows, waxes and wanes, bleeds, excretes waste, and more. In our culture, our bodies are also a huge source of shame. Don’t get fat, don’t age, don’t let anyone know you poop or have a moon cycle! Ew!
As an example of things around us that we internalize, we can look to our family and early upbringing. My mother was an alcoholic and a drug addict. These traits are undesirable and unhealthy. I internalized this shame of her shortcomings and wrongdoings. The way she lived, the way our lives were, were socially unacceptable and uncomfortable, and therefore, shameful.
See what I’m saying?
Shame is caused by resisting some part of ourselves and in that resistance, we live in a constant state of inner conflict and turmoil and are constantly ashamed of the part of ourselves we’ve been programmed to believe is unworthy or invalid.
Shame In Our Bodies
Shame impacts the physical body in a variety of ways. It registers as a stress response, which is killer to the physical body and the root chakra energetically.
Basically, when shame is dictating our lives, we’re in a state of survival and fight or flight mode. We’re wearing armors and personas to mask these shameful parts of us why any means necessary. And when we’ve been so programmed into believing that most everything about us is shameful, including our very bodies, you can see how we’re all a bunch of stress cases!
And simply being alive on planet Earth in 2018 results in a nervous system that is way too jacked and wired anyway; add in the berating inner critic and shame living in our subtle realms, you’re creating a gross experience of ill-health. Adrenal issues and reproductive challenges are becoming rampant, among other ailments.
Beginning to Unravel Shame
Shame prevents us from experiencing true intimacy, from living our purpose, from getting our needs met, from expressing ourselves fully.
We are going to have a very difficult time getting close to others in any relationships. We’re all coming from this inauthentic place because we’re terrified of really being seen.
Shame prevents us from expressing our passions and living our purpose because we don’t want others to know what’s important to us or what we’ve been through and it feels too transparent.
We are ashamed of our needs so we don’t ask for them to be met.
We’re paralyzed in a little prison of our own creation – wanting to be seen and not wanting to be seen; wanting to create waves and live fully and not wanting to rock the boat; envisioning more for ourselves and then quickly questioning our worthiness or capability.
how can we begin to find more nourishment in our lives and heal these shame stories?
First, we must presence how shame is living in our lives and in our bodies and in our thoughts and beliefs… It’s here. You have a bellybutton and ears and also are carrying some shame.
How is shame showing up in your body, your life, your relationships? What would you express if you knew you’d be completely received? What are you terrified of having others see?
Devon Ray Battaglia, MS, NC, RYT is a Holistic Life Coach + Catalyst + Intuitive + Writer obsessed with guiding others to their fullest potential through transmuting pain into purpose. Devon lives in a deep piney forestland where she enjoys plenty of raw cacao, being barefoot, and laughing until she can’t breathe along with her partner and their canine roommate (who really runs the whole show).