So long, shame, so long

So what has shame to do with health? just Everything!  Just think about it. How do you feel when you feel shameful, hurt and angry. Your body is tight, your shoulders are up around your ears, you have a knot in your stomach and a tightness around your chest, your breath is shallow, your thoughts are dark and maybe the big hammer is hammering away with messages like – “Gosh you are so stupid!” “Why did you do that?” “Will you ever learn!” “You are so fat!” “Why can’t you never do it right” …ad nauseam…

And how about “old” shame? Stories that have been in our families — maybe for generations? Addictions, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect – shame we feel deep inside, shame that makes us feel different and inherently defective, flawed and bad. The feeling of shame we hide from the world, we want no one to see it, we keep it hidden in the darkest corner of our soul. We overwork not to feel it, we overeat and drink to numb it out, we sabotage ourselves, we criticize ourselves, the world, our children and our spouse. We pretend to be happy and hide our vulnerability.

It affects us deeply to feel shame, on a cellular level, it even affects our immune system. It affects the choices we make, it affects how we sleep, how we eat, how we show up in the world, how we love, how we parent. When we feel shame it is easy to chose to comfort ourselves with red wine and creme cake. Shame rubs us of health and happiness. It takes away our energy and focus on life. We are caught up in a web. All suppressed emotions – are not just suppressed, they actually build up in the body causing havoc inside – stress, depression, anxiety, addiction …….

In my life it was addiction and abuse that was my secret shame. I never talked to anyone about it, I hid it from the world and smiled while I desperately….desperately, tried to hold the shame down so no one could see it or find out that I was actually flawed, defective and not good enough.-  But it was like a beach ball it kept coming back up.

Shame works like a really effective defense mechanism. While I was “busy” thinking it was me who was defective and flawed, focus was away on my true feelings. Feelings of anger and pain for having been abused and for having had an addicted mother who could not be there for me.

But shame can only live in the dark, shame thrives in the dark – as soon as we bring it out in to the light, talk about it to someone who will listen with empathy and without judgement, it dissolves! It is not about blaming or acting our feelings out! – It is about feeling those emotions connected to the experiences we have had, sharing them, going through them, having a benevolent witness to those feelings. When we do that, we feel like a ton of weight has been lifted from our shoulders, we forgive, we feel love and connection, we feel joy and we move on.

When we feel shame it’s like an alarm clock – it’s time to stop up and figure out what is going on. We are not born with shame – feeling shame is just telling us something is wrong – something needs our attention. We need to shine love on it, be gentle with it and reach out for help and connection.

Vulnerability is not a weakness, it’s a strength and it’s beautiful- it’s here we come from the most authentic place within us.

Dr. Brene Brown is a researcher in shame and vulnerability – she is such a great inspiration and I absolutely love her. I have devoured her 2 books  ” I just thought it was me, but it isn’t ”  and “The gifts of Imperfection”. I recommend her books wholeheartedly! Find them in Anne’s Favorite’s

Here is a Ted Talk she did – enjoy!

Stop bullying

Wednesday last week was anti bullying day – way to go! It is really important to focus on bullying – a topic that affects many peoples lives every day. Both the victims and the bullies!

It is important to help the victims, support them and do everything we can to protect them from bullying. I am sure we have all tried to be bullied to various degrees and we can all agree that it is awful and can have life-long effects.

But in order to really make a difference and get to the root of bullying we have to also understand the bully. No one bullies because they want to be mean or evil, it’s because of the pain inside. You can say bullying is pain projected out into the world. When I worked with children of alcoholics I met children who were terrible bullies – it was their way of coping with anxiety, frustration and pain. It was their way of coping with being humiliated by parents, by being beaten emotionally, physically or sexually. They did not know how to express how they felt and what they needed so bullying was the only way. It was a scream for help but no one heard it …………… was a way to say, I feel so alone, I feel inadequate and unlovable, I am scared and terrified to go home.

I am not saying that bullying is okay. It is absolutely NOT okay and we need to stop it. But how? Is punishment the way to stop it ?

What if we look at the bully we all have inside – and we all have one. It is the one who tells us we are not good enough, intelligent enough or it tell us we are ugly or too fat or never gonna amount to anything in life. It can even be so nasty that it holds us back from living our lives – it keeps commenting on and censoring everything we do. Could we punish it to behave?

The bully, both the one that is projected out and the one turned inward is really screaming for help. What if we stopped and asked, with out judging, with compassion and love – ” Please, I really want to understand you, tell me what is it you are really trying to tell us?

When my inner bully is active it has no mercy, it is the meanest thing on earth and it keeps going at me – until I realize what is going on. Then I can embrace it and ask it what is the matter? Often it will tell me that it feels really hurt by something someone said or did – but because emotions can be so hard to hold and express I turn it in, rather than talk about it. The inner bully is an alarm for me now – I know for sure that if I catch my inner bully in beating me up, there is something I have not expressed.The same thing with the bullies we meet in school, through work or other places – there is something underneath that needs attention and love.

Loving the inner and outer bully is the only way to heal – it is getting to the root of it. Quieting it forever or until next time and we can ask it  “Hey buddy what’s really up, what is it you really need to express? “