One of my very first body memories stemming from the Catholic Church at the ripe old age of five was the deep shame that ensued after being told that I was born with original sin and that there was absolutely nothing I could do to cleanse myself. My shame showed up as a sick feeling in my stomach, a heaviness in my entire being and an overwhelming urge to want to run and simply disappear. As a life coach and a psychotherapist, I wish I could share with you that this shame that was instilled in me as a child is gone. That all of the personal growth work I have done for so many years with amazing teachers somehow liberated me from shame. And yet I was reminded at a family wedding most recently that this shame that was encoded in me as a little girl is still alive and well. Embedded in this shame experience was utter frustration with myself, “really, really, come on, you are still experiencing THIS! (shame). What’s it going to take to get over this?” When things started to settle down after this emotionally challenging weekend, my own words that I dispense to my clients on a weekly basis started to take over.
If you are one of my clients you will often hear me say, “there is no period at the end of the sentence.” So many of us (myself included) just want and often expect that if we do (a) (b) and (c) that we will be free of our “not so fun stuff”. My clients will often says things like, “How can I get rid of this anxiety forever?” “What is the magic formula that will erase these inner feelings of “not being enough?” etc. etc. Unless we become enlightened in this lifetime, I am not sure that we can be completed liberated from our “stuff. ” Rather than a period at the end of the sentence, I view my “not so fun stuff” more in layers, like an onion. In reality, all the personal growth work I have done has served me well. As a young person, I was not conscious of my shame. I truly thought I was bad to my core and instead of hanging out in the intense discomfort, I self medicated myself through short lived highly intense relationships, excessive partying and running around nonstop. Over the years I have peeled back many layers. Each painful experience around shame and the courage it took for me to be with it rather than run from it (thank you Gestalt Institute) have allowed me to slowly but surely begin the healing process. The intensity overall has lessened. For the most part, I tend to respond rather than react to my shame. I have also learned to work with it.
I now view this most recent shame experience as a call to action. That there is indeed many more layers ahead. As one of my teachers Michael Brown says, “You can’t heal it to you feel it.” So rather than avoid entering the “uncomfortable healing” tunnel, I have spent time in it. Feeling raw, sad and vulnerable. And as a result, the sky looks that much more blue, the air that much more crisp and the love I carry that much more profound.