Bringing shame to light is the quickest way to get rid of it.
Shame is a significant obstacle. Not only in your life, but also in the Work on yourself. First of all, we shall look at what shame is exactly. Shame is a struggle between your “self” as the feeling of who you are and your ideal self. It is a subconscious fight. You feel shame when you think that you have to be different from the person you really are; you are ashamed of yourself. Your ideal-self consists of all the messages you have received since your early youth about how and who you should be according to others. You were brought up with these messages. You have made them your own as it were. Shame is the consequence of your inner struggle between your own definition of who you are and who other people say you are. The more the scales tip towards the ideal-self, the more you feel ashamed in this, usually, subconscious struggle. Shame has to do with external matters that you can perceive. The following areas are found the most:
- Your appearance.
If we open a magazine at random, we see that nowadays the emphasis is on looks. Famous people are put under continuous scrutiny. It is not about what they do but about what they look like. Hair, make-up, and clothes are constantly put under the microscope—women, especially, have to take the rap. After all, women are more emotionally involved in their looks. Women have definitely received more imprints with regard to their appearance than men, although men seem to be catching up. There are more men now that go to the hairdresser regularly, have their hair dyed, and have facelifts. Magazines of the worst kind, but sadly with a wide circulation, allow their readers to put together a top ten of the “worst cases.” A make-up artist or a hairdresser has the first go. Somebody has to do something about her eyelids or her “wildly growing eyebrows;” another has to do something about her hair that looks like a wig. Yet another is such a disgrace that she “should come by soon.” This is all under the guise of “helping.” The hairdresser does not want to make a fool of the ladies; he wants to help them. In any case, the people in the Top Ten now know what the world thinks of their looks. How malicious! Such an emphasis on appearance in the media is, on the one hand, the cause of the manipulation of women who are uncertain about themselves and their looks, but at the same time it is the consequence of an almost collective uncertainty. It is the result of being ashamed of your looks. All that emphasis is one big disguise of our inner uncertainty and shame. It is time to liberate ourselves so we can devote ourselves to more meaningful things in life.
- Ways of expressing ourselves and spontaneity.
Being ashamed of the way you express yourself is a significant obstacle in your spontaneity. There are so many judgments! “Act your age,” “Don’t be so childish,” “a…doesn’t behave like that.” Shame comes to the fore when you are frightened of showing yourself as you are. Spontaneity comes from your core, uncultivated and uncivilized. As we have all been made neurotic and have become damaged in our natural qualities, we have to dig spontaneity up from under layers of shame and rejection. It has to do with finding your natural, spontaneous, inner child again. We have learned to play so many roles during our life, and we have learned so many virtues and morals that we have lost the knack of being ourselves. Spontaneity has also got to do with living fully in the here and now, and we can only do that if we have fought ourselves free of idealized images from our past.
- Expressing emotions.
This is where we find a lot of shame. Shame can be present in every emotion in which you have been rejected. That is the reason why people put their hands in front of their faces when they cry or grit or grind their teeth when they are angry. There has been great damage in your life if you are ashamed of your natural emotions. After all, emotions are life and movement. They are, for example, the zest in your relationship and the truth in your religion. Being ashamed of emotions means restraining yourself more than is good for you. We have seen what pent-up emotionality means in this book.
Some people are ashamed of their capacities because they have never been affirmed by significant others in the important years of their youth. Generally speaking, we can say that it is more usual to say what is wrong than what is right. We can see that in our newspapers where news is usually a selection of bad news. It would be fantastic if somebody published a “good news” newspaper. We have all heard the remark “Stop boasting” or “You are getting too big for your boots” when we said something good about ourselves. Jesus said, “Do not hide your light under the bushel.” The influence of Calvin and company was usually stronger than the original message of their Teacher. How paradoxical for a child.
- Certain subjects can be full of shame.
Subjects, such as sexuality or other taboo subjects, may fill you with shame. Blushing is a symptom that may occur in these cases. Blushing is, in fact, fear of showing your vulnerability or a sign of a hidden vulnerable issue. A woman, who had been a frequent visitor of the Moulin Rouge in a previous life, blushed every time the subject of sex was broached. She was a biology teacher at a Secondary School, and this blushing almost made her work unbearable.
The Ways Shame Hinders Us
Shame is an obstacle in your development when it becomes the reason to avoid things. In extreme cases, there can be an atmosphere of keeping silent, denying, and lying. The core of shame is after all, something that is not allowed to come to the light. The most important obstacle for inner growth and development is the shame for expressing emotions. The rest is mostly a derivation. When you do not allow your emotions to come to the light, your life will eventually come to a standstill and be dull. When you keep things that you are ashamed of hidden away, you will not be able to solve them. Your problem-solving ability will thus be damaged. You may become passive. The most important step with regard to shame is to do what you are ashamed of. It will speed up your liberation. After all, the cause is usually in the past and the present does not have to mean a repetition of the past.
Methods of Conquering Shame
To conquer shame, your ‘self’ must become stronger, we have, after all, seen that “the ideal-self” predominates. To do this, you must become aware of the following:
- What does your ideal-self look like?
Make a list with traits you would like to have. Do you want to be prettier, more intelligent, tidier, or less chaotic? Can you show your true colors? Can you express the way you feel? You will gain clarity by making such a list.
- Which experiences lie behind this?
When were you made to look silly when you showed your vulnerability? Were you bullied, or did they laugh behind your back when you expressed something that was really “you”? Did people point their finger at you when you had to wear your sister’s old clothes?
- Which hidden messages are to be found under your shame?
I think that hidden, indirect messages play a major role here. Shame has a lot to do with secrecy. Think of messages in the above named areas.
- From whom are those messages anyway?
Who gave you the message that you were, for example, not pretty enough? It does not have to be a direct message. The most effective messages are the indirect ones. Were you compared to your sister? Or was your mother insecure about her appearance, and did she sneer at you every now and then? Or was there a competition going on at school about who could please the boys or girls the most? Or was your father not interested in you because you were a girl? Who gave you the feeling that you were a sissy or a softie because you cried? Or did your mother need a strong little man because your father was away a lot? Who secretly gave you the feeling that it was not right if you were angry? Or where did the feeling of being ashamed of sexuality come from?
- Accepting emotions.
Set your emotions in motion in the way that has already been described in this book.
- Do and say things you are ashamed of.
Leave your cloak of old neurosis behind and take the risk of being laughed at or rejected again. Neurosis is only fear of repetition. It can be completely different in the here and now. I overcame my blushing as a young girl by saying laughingly, “It makes me blush.” In that way I brought what was hidden to light and felt sure of my ground. The blushing went away quickly. Blushing goes hand in hand with shyness, the fear to step forward.
Shame is unpleasant because it gives you an “unfree” feeling and restricts your life. During the Work with emotions, shame can be a difficult obstacle to proceeding further along your path. We have learned to be ashamed of emotions, such as fear, anger, and vulnerability. It works wonders if you can show for once (in a safe environment) what you have been ashamed of all those centuries! Safety is one of the most important conditions of this Spark of Light Work. Shame is, as all neurosis, the consequence of a learning process and can be overcome with some inner Work. The device is “What you bring to light, becomes light.”
from my book: the liberating power of emotions, Ozark Mt Publ. 2012