It was perfect. I had just returned from a deep weekend of healing and transformation that bad brought forth some of the stories that kept me small and separate. I realized I often feared abandonment and rejection but that was all gone now. The world was beautiful! (I thought) I had let go of all the shame and fear.
And then I saw it…. I was on Facebook and noticed that my Friend count was down by at least 4 people. Four people had UnFriended me in the last week. What the hell?
Were my new articles too inflammatory? Or was I boring people? Did this mean I was doing something wrong? Saying something wrong? Being wrong? Did other people not like me either? Was I too much? Maybe not enough? What did I do to these four people? Was there something wrong with me? Shame. Shame Shame.
I have come to realize that shame is almost as universal as love. My friend shared his shame in being dropped from a magazine shoot at the last minute and how the old fear of not being good enough arose. Another friend told me she felt ashamed when her co-workers went for drinks after work and did not ask her. “Was she unlikeable?”, she asked. Another friend tells me how painful it was to tell his lover he loved her and she walked away. He feared feeling too much and coming on too strong and of course, of feeling unworthy.
Maybe you have felt shame recently.
So what to do with it? Perhaps smoke a cigarette or something stronger. Have a drink or six. Push it down, push it away or project it out. Seek the latest self-help cure and hope someone can just guru it away for you.
For me, after I felt sad, angry, rejected and thought about devouring a chocolate bar, I did these five things instead.
Five Ways to Unpack Shame
1. Notice It & Let It Be
Often we don’t want to feel bad, so we don’t. We distract from it, mask it or bury it or even worse we project it out at others. I just let it be. I did not eat that chocolate bar. I did not call my husband for consolation. I did not go for a run. I just noticed it.
“So four people don’t want to be friends with me. Well that is sort of painful. I feel sort of rejected. I feel bad,” I said. “I can feel that pain in my stomach and a little heavy in my heart. I am just noticing it.”
2. Breathe Into It /Lean Into It
After noticing it, just breathe. Yes, really. Just breathe into that painful place. Lean into the feeling from a witnessing place as though you are an explorer.
I notice that pain is held in my stomach and my throat is tight and I breathe into those places. Somehow it’s like unpacking a tightly bound suitcase. I felt lighter.
3. Look for Something True
When we experience shame we often go to extreme statements.
“Everyone must hate me.”
“No one every likes me for me.”
“I will never be good enough.”
This is the language of extremes and it is never true. So look for something that is true right now. The truth is at least one person loves you a lot. The truth is at least one person maybe even your cat thinks you are the moon. The truth is you are the Divine in form and so you are totally worthy, beautiful and wonderful. The truth is that even this pain will pass.
4. Look for Something Good
When we go to extremes and we are in the midst of a shame storm, it can be easy to only see the negative and become extremely negative.
When my friend felt rejected she said, “Fuck them. I don’t want to go for girly drinks anyway. I should tell them what c*nts I think they are actually.”
This is totally normal but a powerful choice is also available. I am not saying stuff away your feelings of anger, vengeance or pain but maybe don’t act on them. It may not help your career to call your co-workers c$nts.
In the moment I felt rejected, I looked for something to feel GOOD about. I looked at some of the smiling faces of the people I am friends with and felt such love for them. I thought about how I seek to love and be loved and this was good. I felt better.
5. Remember What You Really Want & Who You Really Are
Anytime we have a vivid experience especially a painful one, it can be a powerful reminder to focus on what we DO want.
Having had this experience I remembered that I don’t want a thousand friends who don’t really want to be friends with me. I want to feel loved, accepted and appreciated even if you disagree with me. I don’t want to play it small to appease others. I celebrate our differences but love you too.
Remembering what you want may also lead to a new discovery…My friend remembers he wants a lover who passionately expresses love and he tells her so. This leads to the discovery that his lover is carrying shame and fears about being loved. Their relationship moves to a new level of intimacy and healing. He could have been trapped in shame and blame and pushed her away but instead found heaven on earth.
Shame is a great great calling to also remember who we are truly. I am not my friend count. I am not your opinion of me. I am not my story and I am not my image. I am love – plain and simple. I am love with 849 Facebook friends or only 845.
I am love and you are too my friend…