Shame is a symptom of the Problem of me. There’s a few ways to suffer when enthralled in the Problem. Common words and phrases from the shame experience are: Failure, not good enough, worthless, wrong, broken. We all share these and suffer from them.
Part of the culture that perpetuates shame is that we’ve grown up in a group ideology that monetises shame. Shame is extremely profitable. Addiction is lucrative. The cycle of feeling shame and searching for a solution fuels the shame industry.
Shame is our response to perceiving we are falling short of an ideal. Ideals are viral ideas that are so habitual we believe they are Truth. Ideals are unexamined cultural memes. If a viral ideology has been passed down from generation to generation it is even more entrenched as truth. When others trespass on our expectations of ideals, we shame them into capitulation with mass opinion, mass opinion is perceived as Truth. Shame is a type of bullying, shame is one of the most effective ways to manipulate a human, shame is crowd control. Shame is our way of attempting to atone for the sin of imperfection. As a parent of a son who is now a man, I can recognise many instances of virally infecting my son with culturally inherited and internalised habits of shame. I noticed that if I was under the sway of self shaming, this was the prime moment to pass it on to my son. School and Society and Others filled in the gaps I missed. School and Society and Others shamed me into sometimes believing that in order to be a good parent I needed to shame my son into ‘good’ behaviour. Very often I did manage to be a conscious parent, ironically this was not the result of shaming myself into conscious parenting. I noticed that if I was connected to Source Attention I supported my son through challenges with loving attention that served to connect him to his own experience of Source, and therefore to support him to tune in to his own unique inspiration. Even now he demonstrates to me when I’m communicating through shame. It’s not easy noticing this stuff, thankfully we are in this together. Probably the greatest gift I was able to give him was the power of letting him know I was vulnerable, and that he was safe to express his vulnerability. Vulnerability is the super power that helps us transform shame into connection *
Lucky for us the Attention that gives us existence does not punish us for falling short of an ideal. Attention is not a God that judges us against an ideal. Attention is not a being outside of us who will shame us into fitting an ideal, because Attention is the quality that contains the allowing for all things, including suffering, including the experience of shame. We often give this quality of Attention the name Love, it is our Source. We can turn to it as easily as remembering to turn to it. We may have forgotten how to turn towards love, but it is there for us, always. Life often seems to teach us that we are abandoned but this painful narrative can be transformed. We can build the helpful habit of turning toward Love through training our attention. This is meditation. Sometimes the qualities of meditation are experienced in moments of communion with beauty. We all recognise how real beauty shocks us into the present, how open conduits for Source like nature, genuine interpersonal love, pet love, great art, being in a flow state brings us into a state of communion. These are gifts, the ultimate Present. These conduits give us hints. Meditation is training the habit of knowing the feeling of connection without needing the external triggers.
The body experience of the entrenched thought habit of shame has a few descriptive words and phrases: some examples are pain, anxiety, discomfort, if chronic it is felt as the desire to kill the self to end suffering once and for all, this is despair. When shame arises we attempt to self soothe in a variety of activities to Avoid the pain experience of shame. Self soothing addictive activities can have a spectrum from helpful to harmful. We all have a subjective opinion about what activity falls where on this spectrum. We even shame each other for having shame soothing activities. I’ve noticed by building the helpful habit of meditation, when shame arises it is now possible for me to remember to give shame up to Source. What do I mean? If I continue to adictively believe I can solve the problem of shame with thinking, I will remain stuck in the thinking cycle, cycling through temporary self soothing activities in response to the insatiable ideals of the mind identity. Thinking creates problems and ways to solve them. When I tune in to Attention there is literally no problem. By connecting to Attention (Love, Source) the body + thought experience of shame is dissolved. When I am connected to Source rather than in the thrall of the mind identity, thinking is a creative tool in the service of inspiration.
Often this turning to Love with attention is of course not instant, but the more you’ve settled in to cultivating the meditation habit, the more you will recall what Connection feels like.
We don’t need to shoot the messenger. Suffering is our messenger. The message is always the same message: What you really want is Reunion, Connection, Love, with the ultimate Source. Religion does not have copyright over connecting to Source, anyone anywhere can turn to Love. In the depth of despair it is extremely difficult to perceive light in the darkness. It’s so hard to stop telling the story of pain, we are shocked that pain is part of life experience. Think of Source as the most gentle hand in your hand. Think of Source as the loved one who listens without interrupting or judging, Grace is there for you, give your suffering to it, allow your heart to journey through suffering into Reunion, the sweetest homecoming.
- If you haven’t already I recommend engaging with the work of noted shame researcher Brene Brown for valuable insights into using kindness to transform the suffering of shame in each other, the practice of vulnerability. Kindness is an inspiration of Source.