As a Psychotherapist it is really important that I do the therapeutic work myself. I wouldn’t want to see a financial adviser who hadn’t tried the strategies and made themselves some money. Equally, I wouldn’t expect my clients to come and see me if I didn’t understand the challenges of being human. I can study a map of a place and say I know it, but it’s much better to have walked the territory.
A few years ago, I was dealing with another layer of the therapeutic onion and discovered I had some shame that I needed to work on. I thought I had worked through this already but some issues have a way of rearing their head again down the track. As I often say, this work is not for the faint hearted! Shame is one of the most corrosive and difficult emotions to deal with. Yet it can have the most liberating results when managed well.
So as I was pondering what I would write about this week I thought it might be helpful if I shared a letter that I wrote to shame. This was about 4 years ago as I found myself increasingly triggered and wanting more emotional ease and freedom. We are all in this crazy life together, my fellow human beings so I invite you to take a peek at my personal reflections to see if they resonate. (If you are interested in the method to tackle shame, please stay tuned for my next blog, “Freedom from shame”.)
This is hard to write because you are such a terrible emotion to feel. With you at the wheel I feel I am not good enough – that there is something missing in me. You would have me believe that others do not have this missing thing, so they are worthy and have an easier time. Since I lack it, I am not worthy and given to struggle. Intellectually I know this is ridiculous, yet there you are shame. Telling me I am not good enough. Telling me there is a deficiency in me that is in my fibres and cells. Sometimes you scream the story. More insidiously, you often quietly and subconsciously feed me the story of my failing.
Oh, how tricky you are shame, how triggering your stories. When you are present, I am emotionally triggered. I am angry, sad, or scared, sometimes all at once. Triggered by conversations that relate to my perceived flaw and by people who don’t seem to have it. Triggered by events that may put my “not good enough-ness” on display. And somehow it feels like I deserve that – like if I didn’t have this defect, it wouldn’t be happening. If I could just do something better. If I could just be better. Then I find myself feeling bad that I think like that. I should be more grateful, more resilient…more something…Oh, there you are again shame, you tricky beast.
Withdrawal and blame are your co-pilots. You tell me that “others” don’t experience this because they have what I lack. It is only me. So it is easier to avoid those people, those situations that bring you up – to withdraw. Sometimes it feels better to blame someone for not giving me what I lack, or for taking something away. With all “those” people out there feeling worthy, functioning well, how can I hold my head up? Withdrawal insists it’s better to remove myself. Blame tells me I missed out on something and it’s someone else’s fault. Either way shame is driving the bus. Lurking on the inside, colouring my perception of others and my perception of myself. I see you shame, keeping me running like a hamster on a wheel to nowhere.
I see you shame, and I will free myself from your dark grasp, patiently and with compassion. I will no longer be tricked by your stories. I am enough. I’m coming for you.
(P.S. Dear reader, if your empathy is flowing, rest assured I am OK. Each layer of the onion reveals something that allows me to live with more self compassion and integrity – and to get better at my job. I feel grateful to have experienced my difficulties and to have the means to grow from them. x)