I have started to fully understand why so many people stay asleep in their lives. Why they pretend things are OK when they really aren't, why they don't acknowledge their feelings about things, and seemingly go through life as a walking ghost... Because this waking up and being conscious shit is HARD!
We have all, at some point, tried to pretend something that is happening isn't really happening in our life or if maybe you know someone who is living life this way currently, but I finally totally get it why people choose to stay asleep or unconscious in their life. There are many of us who run from how we feel because it hurts, because it means we'll have to face something, because it means what we thought we had… isn't real. And if this is what's true for you I understand, I get it, I have compassion for you, and my truth is that pretending and staying asleep just hurts way too much for me to live that way.
I didn't used to believe that unconscious was more painful than conscious. I used to put on the masks, pretend things were OK when they weren't, make excuses for the way things were, even make it my fault that things were the way they were. Pretending is one of the methods of dealing with stress more commonly known as “flight”. Emotionally leaving, taking flight… from OURSELVES. I made a conscious decision to wake the hell up in my life and at this point I'm too far in to go back. I can't yet fully see the light at the end of the tunnel, so I'm somewhere in the "dark middle" as Martha Beck says. I've heard it called the "dark night of the soul - between no longer, and not yet." But to some extent, I am seeing a glimmer of light ahead of me.
I know, that I know, that I know, that I can no longer live in the way that I used to, where I accept things as they are simply because I don't want to jeopardize the facade of what is.
This is a very scary, heavy, bold place to be because plenty of people are not going to understand. They may think I'm crazy, or just think I'm having what many people refer to as a "midlife crisis". Here's the thing… going through is a "crisis", in my view, is an Awakening it is an awesome opportunity step into your light to be fully who you are. It's a wake-up call and it is a huge gift. I love the fact that the Greek origin of the word crisis means to sift. Sift out what matters from what doesn't. Sorting and deciding until what has meaning for us is clear.
So many times we use a crisis to become a victim. We get our friends to rally around us and tell us how wrong the other person is or how unfair the situation is or how unfair the situation is. It seems to feel good in the moment, justified… “I’m good – they are bad, poor, poor me”. I believe that if we choose this path, we are missing the GIFT of the crisis. Settling for a feeling of justification over the opportunity to heal, to grow and become what the crisis was here to help us evolve to is to short change yourself big time.
The stress response of flight, just like the other options available to us to deal with stress, has healthy and unhealthy options. Unhealthy flight can look like pretending, addiction, and it can also look like people pleasing – making others needs matter more than your own as a way of avoiding your real feelings, because you are afraid of what you’ll find if you go allllll the way into them. Unhealthy flight can look like working lots of long hours, so you don’t have to face how you feel about what is waiting for you at home or inside yourself. Unhealthy flight can also be when we blame and live in a way that we refuse to look at the reality of a situation by painting it with a brush that says you have no responsibility in it, it’s all THEIR fault. All of these unhealthy methods of flight are attempts to simply to disappear and run from the GIFT that is in front of you by facing it.
Of course, there are healthy ways to take flight. Call a timeout or simply say that you need to take a break when a conflict gets too much for us. Taking a walk around the block to cool off is HEALTHY flight.
I just listened to a great session with Anne Davin, PhD who talked about this subject of how we use four main responses to stress:
What we don't seem to realize is that all of these mechanisms we use to try and avoid pain - are exactly what are causing our pain. Our pain doesn’t come from the event, it comes from our reaction to it and the meaning we put on it. The pain comes from running from ourselves, abandonment, pretending.
Waking up, getting real with your own truth is very intense and it’s no joke. It takes a major amount of work, staying conscious and not just when it feels convenient. In order to become who we most desire to be, to live our lives as whole, loving beings, we often have to first PURGE. You might need to purge items, or people from your life to create space for what you want to come in. Or maybe what you need to purge is your auto-pilot response to stress? Instead of taking flight, stand and lean into the pain, the heartbreak, the emptiness and let it pass through.
For me, the clear example is my marriage to Don. I took flight for many years. Either I’d travel as a speaker a lot, or be gone teaching exercise classes several nights per week, or emotionally try to tap dance around the reality that things just didn’t feel on track with us. I was trying to avoid the pain that the lack of connection that I seemed to feel and the challenges we were having HAD to be my fault somehow. If I just kept acting like things were o.k…. surely they would be. I was trying to avoid feeling pain.
Don (and he has given me full permission to share this stuff about our relationship btw) was taking flight as well. He was emotionally "checked out", working lots and lots of hours, seeming so angry and unhappy most of the time. My belief was that his demeanor was all my fault somehow. If I were to just figure out how to be in the relationship in the “right” way, things would be o.k. I was always so focused on the outcome of the relationship, fearful that Don was about to leave me at any given moment. This wasn't his fault of course, it was the story I told myself that I would be "abandoned" because I was in fact abandoning myself by trying to be what I thought HE wanted me to be rather than true to myself. Since we never fought, I figured my feelings that things were uncomfortable in our relationship must just be that my instincts were off. We probably never fought because I was to afraid that would lead to the end of the relationship... the outcome I feared more than anything. I felt so unsure of things that I thought one single fight would burn the relationship down.
Then, I got a wake-up call. And I answered it. That choice led to plenty of pain, which, of course, was never my intention. I was simply in a lot of deep emotional pain and hurting people, hurt people. Due to my own unwillingness to feel my pain, get real with it and not pretend – I ended up reaching a breaking point. Thank God I did.
Even with all that that's happened FOR me these past couple of years since the wake-up call, I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s all been a huge gift that has led me back to myself and I really don’t know if I could have found my way back without all that has happened and all that I’ve learned as a result of it.
My experience has been that since I have gotten painfully real, honest, and gotten clear about how I feel and allowing myself to feel those feelings even when they are painful – it has changed my relationship with Don and most of all my relationship with myself, in a big way.
What I want now is to BE the person that I most desire to have in a partner... to be: self-aware, open hearted, present, fun/funny, loving, smart, sexy in ALL my relationships, no matter what the outcome. So while Don and I don’t know what the future holds for our partnership, my intention is to be the REAL me and my marriage is a perfect place to practice being who I want to be in a relationship, no matter what the outcome is of that particular relationship is. It's the best laboratory of all to practice in. “True spiritual work is in relationships with others and with yourself.” -Joan Borysenko And if your partner won't or can't do this work with you - that's not a valid excuse for not doing it yourself. To BE what it is you desire in a partner means you must also give those attributes to YOURSELF.
Michael Singer says in the Untethered Soul that when we feel pain to simply see it as energy. Energy passing through your heart and your consciousness. Then relax. Do the opposite of contracting, closing, running from it. You will feel tremendous resistance to doing this, and that’s what makes it so powerful. If you close to the pain and stop it from passing through, it will stay in you.
If we choose to say in flight mode, deny our feelings – just know that sooner or later that is going to implode or explode in your life. I thought to keep my relationship “safe” I needed to make it appear to be o.k. even when I felt that wasn’t really true. It may seem like it’s safer to pretend in your life, yet it is only in being REAL that we will ever find safety.
To be real, you will have to stop, notice what you're feeling and be willing to ask for what you want or need - and stop pretending. What teeny tiny step could you do today to move in the direction of not taking flight?
Glennon Doyle Milton's book "Love Warrior" is what I'm reading right now. She did a GREAT Ted Talk on the pain of pretending and maybe it will help you know that you too can step into your own light and know that you are enough and that you don't need to pretend.
"Time – it’s the greatest democracy in the world. We all have the exact same amount of it.” That is something my dear friend and mentor Jim “Taz” Taszarek used to say. We are all trying to juggle a whole lotta stuff, all the time.
It may not seem like it, yet that juggling act is a choice. Sometimes we juggle and hustle to prove our worthiness, or it could be that we don’t want to slow down long enough to feel our feelings, or maybe we are just trying to be as busy as everyone else, it’s the new status symbol perhaps!
I have two main current missions for my personal growth: to keep my heart open and to access my feminine energy. I’ve been reading lately on this topic and I’m finding a theme. It’s PRESENCE. Being fully present leads to openness and feminine energy.
David Deida is pretty much a genius on the topic of masculine and feminine energies. I became aware of David when I attended a five day Tony Robbins event called Date With Destiny last December. There is a chapter in one of his books “Dear Lover” that I recently found called Spiritual Sexiness. He said this about what makes a man sexy in a spiritual sense… his presence. “Even without touching you, a man can open you to God if he is totally present with you. What a woman trusts about a man is the strength of his presence. In response to his lack of presence, your body will tense and you heart pulls back to protect itself.”
When I think of men who have been fully present with me, I would have to agree, it opens me in a bigger way than I seem to be able to do it on my own, which is a big reason for a relationship to exist in the first place, to open you more than you could open on your own. I think of foreign men as having this ability a bit more readily available. They often seem to be fully present when they talk to you and radiate passion about what they talks about. Maybe that’s just me!
So what makes a woman spiritually sexy? Here’s what David says… “The light of your love. Love Energy shining radiantly through you.” He goes on to say that “Unsurrendred women, attract unpresent men. You and your man are either evoking in each other openness or closure, worship or distance. The depth of your openness invites the depth of presence you likely get.” So he says that the men you attract are equally as committed to opening as you are. They are like a barometer for you! A clue.
When he says unsurrendered – I believe he means to surrender to being the light and the love that we are as the feminine. Being willing to dare to step OUT of our masculine a bit more and embrace the feminine in ourselves.
So what makes us spiritually sexy as the feminine, according to David, is letting our love shine, being open, surrendering to the love that we ARE at our core, in our essence.
So back to what he said about masculine being spiritually sexy – we ALL have both masculine and feminine aspects in us. So for me, I think if I can tap into both the presence and the openness that is my best self, no matter which aspect of myself I am accessing in a given moment – I will feel more true to myself and connect more deeply with myself and with others. Some days we allow ourselves to tap into our feminine more than others. Some days we feel compelled that we must be more masculine, because no one else in our life is stepping into their own masculine.
Let me clarify that staying open is not about feeling “good”. You can be angry, sad, or afraid and still remain open. Openness is a TRUST of what you’re feeling – this trust is LOVE. Love is openness. Love is what we ALL are.
We often close to being what we are by focusing on fear, people pleasing, control, when we are in these states of fear – we are NOT present. And we sure as hell aren’t OPEN! So David talks about body language. Opening your body posture as if it were a big heart, surrendering.
He suggests a lot of breathing and yoga exercises – breathing open so your energy can flow freely. Relaxing your lips tongue, belly, heart, genitals! Move, sit, as if a man of amazing presence were in front of you. One quote I read was: “Breathe love, trust open, settle for nothing less.”
So it’s interesting that David Deida talks about things like masculine, feminine, deep consciousness, and also talks extensively about presence and your own body language.
Amy Cuddy is best known for her amazing Ted Talk. She discusses extensive research on body language and something she calls “Power Poses”. A Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist, she studies how nonverbal behavior and snap judgments influence people. And THIS is the name of her book… Presence. Are you sensing the theme now?
She says we all know it when we see it and when we feel it from others, yet it’s hard to define. While we’re really good at describing the lack of presence, we aren’t exactly sure how to describe it.
She says presence emerges when we feel personally empowered. “It’s when you’re not fighting yourself. It’s when you’re BEING yourself. Connecting with yourself. When you find your true presence it’s the strength to BE there because you’re NOT trying to PROTECT yourself. It’s you in your true state.” When we are worrying about what others think of us, assuming what they think about us, feeling powerless and clinging to outcomes and the processes – we are NOT present.
Presence isn’t about carefully managing the impression we’re making on other people. It’s about the honest, powerful connection that we create INTERNALLY with ourselves. Cuddy says that in order for you to feel truly present, the various elements of the self must be in harmony–
Cuddy says that when something feels off when we deal with someone – like the words and the actions don’t match up, we can’t completely invest our confidence in that person. They are not present with us in some way. Walt Whitman said we convince by our presence, and to convince others, we need to convince OURSELVES. When we feel safe with ourselves, we become significantly less defensive and more open. Making us better problem solvers as well as more present when challenges arise. Knowing who we are and what is important to us can help us feel that our life has a lot more meaning as well.
So if we can open our hearts to OURSELVES, lovingly accept ourselves and RELAX into who we are,
this will cause our emotions, thoughts, physical and facial expressions, behaviors – to be in harmony.
Tying back into David Deida – when we shine the love that we ARE, we become present and our bodies will be open – congruence. And the cool thing is when YOU become present, you allow OTHERS to be present. The thing is, when we feel powerless – we get self-absorbed. When you’re self-absorbed, it's pretty hard to be fully present with our heart open. We feel powerless as a result of FEAR. – when we are fearful, it's difficult to be fully present with our heart open.
As I wrote about in a previous post, releasing your attempt to control how others think about you (since you have no such control any way) will make you much truer to yourself and being true to yourself, opens your heart and brings you fully present. You can see being true to yourself as selfish I suppose if you want to work that angle. Yet it is the most loving way to liberate ourselves and others and connect you more deeply.
Glennon Doyle Milton said this about Mother Theresa – “and when she wanted to see the face of God, she didn’t look up and away; she looked into the eyes of the person sitting next to her. Which is way harder. Better.” I think this is presence in the description she uses.
Glennon's first book was an instant New York’s Times best seller. It was all about her own incredibly messy personal story. She was vulnerable and wrote about being assumed to have it all together, a mom, a wife, skinny, and wearing great jeans so of course, everyone assumed she was all that. While the reality was that she was an alcoholic, bulimic, drug user, a shop-a-holic and a big time people pleaser. She started to wake up to her life and said this: “It hit me that maybe the battles of life are best fought without armor and without weapons. That maybe life gets real, and good and interesting when we remove all of the layers of protection we’ve built around our hearts and walk out into the battlefield of life NAKED.” She said she didn’t want to carry around anything that she didn’t have to – she wanted to travel light so she could open.
So when we run from our feelings – we are not open and we are not present. We are in fear mode. Imagine putting a meaning on having your heart broken as a GREAT thing! Most all we humans have had our hearts broken, some more times than we care to count. What if you thought about it like this… you have what you seek, it’s inside you. In order to tap into it – you must break open – to get the thing you most desire. A broken heart can be an open heart, if you are willing to feel your feelings and stay present with them.
Back to femininity... femininity isn’t a role. Its in your walk, your gestures, the light in your eyes, and those all stem from how OPEN you are and how in touch you are with the love that IS you. To love and be open we must be PRESENT. Present with ourselves, feeling our feelings. Present with others, present in the moment. When we are present, we open. Showing up, fully. And yes, it’s being vulnerable – not protecting yourself. It means trusting. Trusting others and most of all trusting yourself.
At the root of being open and loving, we must love ourselves, love others, and everyone, just as we are – right now, in this present moment. You’ll have to practice, because as David Deida says, to open fully, you will have to actively do so because the rubber bands that want to snap us back to closure are ingrained deeply in us after years of practice in closing ourselves. Being PRESENT with yourself is what you must do to stay open when you want to shut down and close. If you don’t choose to open, know that you are actively choosing less for yourself and your life.
Some simple ways to be more present…
Staying open… I always thought that meant taking the high road, acceptance, caring, non-judgement. Perhaps keeping your heart open DOES look like all those things, the only hitch in my formula was that I though it only applied to how I was in relationship to OTHERS. Giving all those things to others, and rarely giving it to myself. Turns out the old line “you can’t give what you don’t have” is even truer that I ever realized.
My mission right now is to keep my heart open. This sounds like an easy assignment, yet for most humans, we have experienced having our heart broken and the more often your heart has been broken, the more challenging it is to keep that sucker open.
I’m finishing up the 30 Day Love Yourself Inner Bonding course by Dr. Margret Paul. Day 26 insights are all about how to “lovingly disengage” from conflict. Timely! Keeping your heart open and continuing to love someone close to you, even when you disagree with them. I don’t know about you, but my reaction in those situations usually looks more like anger, blame, attack-back, judgement, all kinds of things that don’t feel good (other than that initial rush of expression! That sorta feels good for a second!)
Dr. Paul says there are two choices you can make in those moments that will enable you to lovingly disengage and keep your heart open…
Why am I so quick to judge others as not doing it “right”? Because I do the exact same thing to myself. Over and over and over again. Aimed at myself, the thoughts sound more like this…
Same is true with sorting out our relationships. It’s not about getting it done or checking the box because it’s always going to be evolving, changing, growing or not growing, becoming or not becoming. I seem to want to apply some sort of business model on being in relationships! You do this, then you do this, then you get it done! It’s clear… relationships don’t work like that!
So, if someone else moves through their relationship at a different pace or in a different way than I do, letting them do that without judging will set ME free. Keeping my heart open in the face of someone else not moving at MY speed though,has proven to be a very big hurdle for me.
My husband and I have been going through some pretty gnarly, difficult stuff the past couple of years. It's heavy duty and so many times I judged him for not being up to speed with who I wanted to be, how I wanted to show up in the world. It seemed that we just kept going over the same scenarios, challenges, awkwardness with one another time and time again. And I would complain (to myself mostly) about how he's just not getting it, why couldn’t he hurry up and figure this out. Hmmm!! Wait!!… didn’t I just hear myself saying that to ME in my head a minute ago? (or three paragraphs above) So I’m mad at HIM for doing what I’M doing to myself. Can you say crazy eight! Cycling round and round on itself, repeat, repeat, repeat.
Defining a Bottom Line
Something shifted when I was pushed to the point of breaking and set a boundary. Setting a boundary is something I didn’t think “evolved” people did! They took the high road. Wouldn’t that would be closing my heart to set a boundary? A line in the sand??
When I decided what I needed FOR me and didn’t focus on what I was doing TO the other person, some clarity started to happen. I started being able to keep my heart open! It’s a miracle! I guess when you don’t have much experience at setting your own bottom line of what is acceptable from others in your life, you might have to get super-duper mad in order to be able to do it at first. That was true for me. Now I am dabbling at being able to set a boundary and do it in a loving way. Even when there is push-back from the other person, I can keep my heart open longer at least, before I get bent!
To be able to define a bottom line, we must first know what we want. Sometimes we can only find that answer by knowing what we DON’T want. The trick is to not get stuck noticing what we don’t want.
Once you see the contrast, it’s important to shift your focus to what you DO want.
What I DO want is to open. Present in the moment.
To be open and have presence, I will need to be willing to love myself. That means not fighting myself, but BEING myself – connecting with who I am.
Presence comes from real love. Amy Cuddy says “When you find true presence it’s the strength to BE there because you’re not protecting yourself. It’s you in your true state.”
To be in your true state, you may have to also tell others what is true for you and that can mean drawing some boundaries. It can be scary if you’re new at it!!! You may be hooked up on people pleasing and wanting to be liked. Lord knows most of us are to some extent.
When you understand that you really can’t control whether or not others will like you or even what they think or feel about you, then you can be in your true state without so much fear of being who you are and stating what it is you need, expect or want in your relationships.
My old primary question was always “What’s wrong with me?”. Thanks to Tony Robbins and a whole bunch of willingness to wake the hell up in my life, my new primary question is “How can I open my heart even more in this moment?”
What’s your primary question? You’ll have to be awake and conscious to notice your current question and decide what you want it to be to get a better quality answer.
P.S... Tony Robbins... major hottie... just sayin'!
Women and How We Dim Ourselves in Relationships
Aside from the subtitle of this blog, let me be clear that women are not the only gender to display this behavior. Men sometimes “fake it” too. We fake it by not bringing our true selves to our intimate relationships.
I would venture a guess that to most people who know me, would say I am confident, sure, decisive, solution oriented and I make shit happen. Some would say I even have “big balls”. And while this is true in many areas of my life, when it comes to intimate relationships – I am a total wimp, and it’s my own doing – not anything someone causes me to be or do. I give my total attention to the status of the man I’m with. It sounds like this…
“Is HE happy?”, “Does HE love me?”, “Like me?”, “Is he angry at me?”, Basically who do I need to be and how do I need to act in order to keep the relationship in place. I end up chasing him, and abandoning me.
Most often, I am convinced that I am “too much”, I need to tone myself down to make this relationship comfortable for him, or he will leave me. This is obviously some serious insecurity and I used to think I was the only woman in the world that had these thoughts, felt this way, but I’m finding that most of us struggle with this on some level. If not in our intimate relationships – in some other area of our lives we abandon ourselves to please someone else.
No one made me do any of this. I created the whole entire idea that I needed to dim myself to make the man in my life comfortable. While I have been actually been told that I was “too much” in some ways, this was not really about me but about the person saying it feeling that they couldn’t be enough for me. Of course, I didn’t figure that out for a few decades.
So what happens then, is that we find ourselves in relationships that seems “off”, not quite right, or downright not good for us. This happens because we have not been fully ourselves. Our partner never got to see the real person we are, they only see who we were trying to be to make the relationship continue. We are so busy being who we perceive or THINK the other person wants us to be that we forget who we really are. I mean, surely I need to wear this mask because he won’t be interested in the real me. Right?
My theory is that we learn this from watching our parent’s relationship in some way. I’m a firm believer that our children don’t learn to treat themselves by how we treat them, but how we treat ourselves. We are teaching by example more than by our words. So if for no other reason – if you can become aware of this pattern and return to yourself, you can change the generations that come after you as well as make your life a whole more fulfilling and fun.
For me, I can only list one relationship where I didn’t do this acting job that I usually do and that was due to a firm foundation of friendship without the intent to be more than that. The base of trust that I could be who I really am was built and this made that particular relationship much more real and it showed me what is possible when I am my real authentic self.
Currently, I am working really hard to be “Full Force Sandy” with Don. I believe this is the lesson of my relationship with him possibly. He’s really never seen who the real me is in our relationship because of my chasing him and abandoning myself for over 20+ years of our relationship. So far he’s hanging in there and listening to my honesty about what I’m going through, what has happened, and how I feel. I’m not sugar coating ANY of it for him, so I’m sure it’s not easy for him to hear much of what I tell him.
I’m clear that Don can “opt out” of being in a relationship with me at any time, and I can do the same with him. If he decides he really doesn’t care much for the real me, that’s o.k. and actually it’s a GIFT!! Because I’m o.k. with me and if me being the real me is not a match to his frequency that would be really good to know and let each of us find those who ARE on our frequencies.
But really, isn’t “opting out” an option in any relationship, at any time? So why not be who you are, stay true to yourself, love yourself, be kind and compassionate to others and to yourself and let the chips fall where they may from there. Something sort of snapped in me a couple of years ago when my brother Larry died. I decided to WAKE THE HELL UP! And stop living so afraid in my relationships. I have been on this quest to stay awake ever since and I have learned a lot about myself to say the least.
This focus on trying to be who I think someone else wants or needs me to be is really about insecurity and also about a focus on OUTCOMES. Trying to control the end game, how the relationship behaves. This has messed me up over and over again. I seem to think I need to know the answer, how will it end?, will it end? How will it look?, PREPARE!!! CONTROL!!!
Outcome focus is a great asset in business, not so much in relationships! With the volume up too high on finding solutions and outcomes you don’t really hear what’s true. If we can focus on the now, stay present and let go of wanting a guarantee (because there are NONE!), then we can fully show up for another person and for ourselves.
Guys – listen up, because I am going to tell you what every woman wants, more than anything possibly… she wants your PRESENCE. Fully being in the moment and feeling her. Ladies, men want this from us as well and when we are focused on the outcome of the relationship, we are not present. When we are not being our true selves, we are not present in the relationship because we are focused on FEAR.
Presence comes from REAL love. When you find your true presence, it’s the strength to BE there because you’re not trying to PROTECT yourself. It’s you in your true state. Being fully you without guarding your heart.
Byron Katie says people go to India to find a guru, but you don’t have to. You’re living with one. Your partner will show you everything you need for your freedom. The person you are with holds the lesson you most need to learn to move forward. What's the lesson of your relationship?
Let’s be clear… I possibly have an addiction to personal growth. This addiction is not new as an adult at least – I love to learn, read, gain knowledge. I’m guessing if any of my high school teachers read this they would be shocked, because I was not a huge fan of school at the time I was officially in it!!
One of the things I am currently doing on this front, is taking Dr. Margret Paul’s “30 Day Love Yourself Inner Bonding Course”. Each day you receive an e-mail or a video with insights into the ways we prevent being true to ourselves or loving ourselves through our limiting (and false BTW) beliefs. This info on shame and guilt are from that course and it kind of blew my mind because it so turns my whole thought system about what shame and guilt are about, on its’ head. I am still trying to wrap my brain around it somewhat.
Dr. Paul agrees with the work of shame researcher Dr. Brene’ Brown: Shame is the feeling that there is something basically wrong with you.
Whereas the feeling of guilt is about DOING something wrong, shame is about BEING wrong at the core.
The feeling of shame comes from the limiting (and untrue) belief that “I am basically flawed. Inadequate, wrong, bad, unimportant, underserving, fat, or not good enough”
I didn’t used to think that I carried shame – but by this definition, I do.
We ALL have something someone told us about ourselves that we continue to carry as a shame story today. All these years later, after some early point in our lives, most of us absorbed a false belief that causes us feelings of shame as a result of not feeling seen, heard, loved, understood, valued. Or it might be some other value statement someone put on us with a comment, or many of them, and we developed a belief that there is something “wrong” with us.
Once we establish this core limiting belief, we become kind of addicted to it, because it actually seems to SERVE us in a couple of key ways. This next part of the info today, kind of blew my mind a bit, because it is such a different way of seeing what we do to ourselves by hanging onto our shame stories and limiting beliefs…
Reason #1 we hang on to our shame story:
It gives us a feeling of control over other people’s feelings and behavior.
Hear me out on this one because I know this is a whole new way of thinking of shame…
As long as we believe that we are the cause of others’ unloving behavior, then we can believe that there is something WE can do about it. It gives us a sense of power to believe that others are rejecting us or behaving in other unloving ways because of OUR inadequacy.
If it’s our fault, THEN MAYBE WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT CHANGING IT BY CHANGING OURSELVES. By doing things “right”.
We hang on to the belief that our inadequacy is causing others’ behavior because we don’t’ want to accept their free will to feel and behave however they want. We don’t want to accept our helplessness over others’ feeing and behavior. “It must be me”, “I must have done something wrong”, let’s us believe that if we can just get it right and behave or be a certain way, we can get that person to like us, accept us, we have CONTROL of how they feel about us and treat us.
We seem to have a belief that what others think or feel about us, as a result of what we do or who we are, is under our control somehow. As Joy continues to tell me “what someone else says is simply information to consider”. It doesn’t then need to be what I take on as a belief about myself or what I know to be true for me.
It’s all just INFORMATION.
The difference though is that GUILT is not information. Guilt is a result of people pleasing or attempting to people please. Guilt serves no purpose other than to make us miserable because most guilt humans feel is classified as “unhealthy guilt”. Guilt is not helpful AND it keeps us from living up to our full potential. More about guilt definitions as you read further in this blog.
When I’m talking about guilt it is an action that has a SHOULD attached to it.
1. Look at the consequences of your choice that you are feeling guilty about.
2. Apologize if it’s someone you have an agreement with that you have broken
3. LEARN a lesson – is your guilt something that borders on shame due to an old wound or story???
4. Move on
Reason #2 we hang on to our shame story
It protects us from other feelings that we are afraid to feel, and gives us a sense of control over our OWN feelings. As bad as shame feels, many people prefer it to the feelings that shame may be covering up – loneliness, heartbreak, grief, sadness, helplessness over others. Just as anger may be a cover up for these difficult feelings, so is shame. Shame is a feeling we cause by our own false beliefs. Loneliness, heartbreak, grief, sadness, suffering… we often see as being caused by others. So once again, we feel that we have some CONTROL when we hang on to shame vs. feeling our actual painful feelings.
Some signs of being addicted to our shame might sound like this…
Your shame story may have been absorbed from what others said, did, when you were a child and then, we carry on this either comment or many comments or a one-time behavior or one that was on-going - by continuing to shame OURSELVES. We cause our own suffering by building on the story. And trivializing or diminishing what happened to you as a child is in itself self-abusive. If a child comes to you and tells you of some pain inflicted on them, you would take it seriously – not just say “I don’t believe you” or “It’s not a big deal” or “get over it”. Yet this is what we do when we don’t allow ourselves to feel our painful feelings.
Unhealthy guilt comes from telling yourself a LIE.
It comes from the critical part of you that wants to control how others feel about you and so tells you the lie that you are responsible for others’ feelings. Unhealthy guilt also pops up when someone blames you for their feelings.
Here’s an example… Suzy feels guilty when she talks to her mother. “No matter what I say my mother always seems to feel hurt and then I feel guilty for hurting her. I don’t even want to have a relationship with her, I hate feeling guilty all the time.”
Suzy’s feelings of guilt are not coming from actually inflicting harm on her mother. Her feelings are coming from the self-judgement that she absorbed from her mother’s judgments of her and others. Her guilt is coming from the fact that she is telling herself she is doing something “wrong”. If Suzy didn’t believe that she was responsible for causing others’ feelings, she would not feel guiltily when her mother or others blame her for their feelings. Suzy WANTS to believe she is causing others’ feelings because it gives her a sense of control over how others feel about her.
It goes like this… “If I can cause others to be hurt or upset, I can also cause them to be loving and accepting. If I just do things right, then I can control how others feel about me and treat me.” It gives us an illusion of SAFETY.
The belief that you can control others’ feelings and behavior by doing things “right”, which leads to self judgement to control your own behavior, which leads to toxic guilt.
The way OUT of toxic guilt is to:
So, how do we heal our shame?
When you are willing to accept that others’ feelings and behavior have nothing to do with you.
When you accept that others have free will to be open or closed, loving or unloving – that you are not the cause of their feelings and behavior and you no longer take others’ behavior personally.
Then you will have no need to control it. You will let go of your need to control others and instead move into compassion for yourself and others. You will let go of your beliefs about yourself that cause a feeling of shame.
This understanding that others reactions to you are not in your control also ties back to taking responsibility for your OWN emotions vs. making them someone else's’ job. Take on the responsibility of defining your OWN worth. It’s about making your relationship with self and your Source your most important relationship rather than making someone else you “Higher Power”.
And when you are willing to feel your authentic painful feelings rather than cover them up with anger or shame. When you learn to nurture yourself by being present with caring and compassion for you own painful feelings, you will no longer have a need to protect against these feelings with blame or shame.
The idea that control and shame are intricately tied together kind of blows my mind. I have thought that statements like “it must be my fault somehow” “there’s something wrong with me” were based in being a VICTIM. This different perspective actually makes more sense to me!
So it’s about choosing self-compassion and compassion for others OVER choosing to attempt to have control.
Shame also seems to me to have a close tie to being focused on OUTCOMES. Trying to manipulate the outcome to the one I desire is a strong force in me and what makes for a good sales person and leader! But using that in intimate relationships, outside of business – is an attachment to control and outcomes that doesn’t serve me like it does in business.
So my assignment to you would be: AWARENESS without judgement of yourself.
Sandy Edie Hansen
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