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The Shocking Relief . . .

It was a certain kind of shock. A definite re-calibration occurred.

Repeatedly.

And, sometimes it still does.

No one had to tell me explicitly as a young woman. I knew it implicitly.

My body should look like THIS, and not like THAT.

Also, it should be thinner.

And not get hungry so often.

And not have scars on my face, even small ones. (A dog bit me in the face when I was 7 years old)

Nor should I be clumsy.
Nor should my body not know how to do things already (like eka pada galabasana). 

Yoga came to me on a mountaintop, not in a classroom. (Yoga studios didn’t really exist much back then.)

A tremendous relief came over me.

(There were no mirrors. There weren’t yet images of what a yogi looks like. There were no branded clothes.)

Years later when I would walk into my first formal yoga teacher training (auspiciously it was on a mountain top), I would see that women’s bodies came in many shapes.

Though I was symptom free with my food and exercise behaviors, my mind was still prone to comparison/competition with other women’s bodies.

(This had never turned out well for me.)

The Shock:

My comparison and competition mind tried to get an edge over my curiosity. It weaseled its way into checking if I was going to be okay in this yoga teacher training. Into checking if somehow this “okayness” was going to be granted to me if I wasn’t the worst, nor the biggest, nor smallest, nor the most dimpled, nor the clumsiest.

(I realized I had spent years waiting for “okayness” to be granted.)

And yet, the beauty of all those different bodies in motion exploring yoga with curiosity… My comparison/competition mind got shut down!

I was amazed at how many variations of bodies could all be so beautiful!

It was an altered state of being! My comparison and competition mind was drifting away…

And, I couldn’t stop it. (This was truly weird!!!)

Having succumbed to vast amounts of conditioning for what it means to look like a woman (which, by the way, wasn’t how my body was “turning out” at 29 years old, at this yoga teacher training), I had struggled with body acceptance for years. It was an ongoing source of disappointment and confusion.

The confusion? Why didn’t I have more control over how my body would be “turning out” if I had “control” over what I ate, how I exercised, and how I thought? (Note that this all tells you how deeply conditioned my eating disorder thoughts were.)

In this luminous moment at the top of a different mountain, I was dumbfounded that beauty was actually something so diverse and arising from within!

Just to be clear, the shock was really two-fold. One was a whole new vision of beauty emerging in my view of self and others; and second was that my comparison and competition mind was NOT winning!!

Years later, when I was introduced to Ayurveda, I would come to understand myself and my mental habits SO MUCH BETTER!

In earlier life, I had no idea that body types and doshas and genetics were even important. (Didn’t even know what they were.)

It all just seemed like “YOU should be THIN!”

No matter what.

I was not fond of the muscular nature of my body (even as a top athlete).

Why were my thighs so strong? And, good lord, why did they touch each other?!

Why were my arms so “buff”? It might have helped me on the uneven parallel bars, but weren’t arms supposed to be thin and shapely?

I was also not fond of being short, unless I agreed to be called “Cute”.

Though, I wasn’t fond of that all the time either.

It didn’t match up with another deep desire I had – to feel Empowered.

Somehow Cute didn’t collaborate with Empowered, unless you consider the false sense of power that can come from cute flirtatiousness.

It was a circular mind pattern of self-dissatisfaction.

And, then Ayurveda told me this:

With your primary dosha being pitta, you will have a medium body type with a muscular build.
When out of balance, you will also be prone to competitiveness, and fury (aka self-hatred in my inner world).
You will also have a fiery appetite. (No wonder I was not able to “succeed” in long-term restriction patterns, aka anorexia.)

When you’re in balance, you’ll be capable of keen insight, integration of concepts into action, and leadership qualities will emerge in you.

Yikes! This would only be available when I am in balance?!

I was already a seeker. I already wanted to know and to have insight!  I wanted to “get it all figured out”! (By yesterday.)

I also had a furious appetite, which often led to painful binges after excessive restricting and compulsively exercising.

I hated my appetite.

I thought of it as a fire that consumed me. It was not me consuming food. It was food consuming me.

I hated it deeply. And, I did not feel empowered. Nor did I feel cute.

Yet, my Ayurveda teacher was so kind, and present with me. I heard his teachings and I considered it loving, wise and genuine.

I became willing.

It was the first step.

Self-acceptance led to self-appreciation, to self-nurturance, and beyond.

In fact, my relationships to my body design and to my appetite were deeply transformed by my inherent Pitta nature, when I welcomed his genuine care and kindness.

(I have since cultivated Ayurveda as the foundation for my health. I recommend Ayurveda as a guiding force in our recovery processes, and I would rally for us to incorporate Ayurveda into treatment centers, schools, prisons, and everywhere!)

The Cycle of Shame . . .

I listened empathetically as she described the way the morning “should have gone”. Those were the plans she’d made. Quite thorough she was in sequencing what was supposed to happen. Including the good feelings that should have come from those plans.

 

There’s a cycle we can get into that is understandably compelling and yet often destructive. And, paradoxically, in Hunger, Hope + Healing I do recommend we create beneficial structures for ourselves and our recovery. However, from what brain-state we make those plans makes all the difference between “plans” that lead to healing and those that lead again to the perpetuation of self-harm.

 

Here’s the cycle:

  • feel disappointed or uncomfortable; or let ourselves down again with self-harming behavior;

  • decide that tomorrow will be different;

  • anticipating the luminous efforts that will be made tomorrow, we experience relief of our painful (and often self-imposed) despair today (and some of us also escalate how badly we’re feeling by taking it more deeply);

  • when tomorrow comes, we don’t live up to our own expectations (which are usually too high, too complex, too driven by shame, too out of alignment with our basic needs, too unkind toward our unmet needs);

  • we suffer more.

Lying in Wait

In situations like these, the shame lies in wait like a hungry tiger waiting to pounce on us. We might “wonder what’s wrong with us” that we could behave so “pathetically”, yet we already believe we know what’s wrong: We are. We’re convinced that it’s intrinsic. While the pain of this is rolling in us, we dare not try on a moment of self-kindness. (Even though that would actually save us.)

 

From certain perspectives, self-kindness can look like its mimicking apathy or resignation, like giving ourselves a pass. In the time it would take to either run from the shame tiger or offer ourselves self-kindness for getting caught in a self-hating cycle again, our primitive brains are already geared up to fight off the tiger. One way we do that is by becoming “more” perfect, “more” better; or,  by promising to do so tomorrow.

 

A practice we can explore in these moments is a Befriending practice. Based on our deep needs for love and belonging, and the recognition that I discussed in my last blog to you, We Can’t Do It Alone, befriending is a way to warmly welcome ourselves back into the possibility of not being eaten by the tiger of shame. From the kindest part of ourselves to the part that is in pain, we practice befriending.

 

Keeping in mind that shame was originally a protective mechanism, which actually had your best interest at heart, but became distorted over years of loneliness. In hindsight we didn’t know shame was helping us when it isolated us, the exhaustion from it’s hard work protecting us from shame by being in shame, or by overwhelming us with fear of our shame being found out. With all of this in mind, and the amalgamation loneliness, exhaustion, and the sense of being overwhelmed, we’ll be making an offering from Befriending.

The Offer of Refuge

Draw a large empty circle on a piece of blank paper.

In the center of the circle, draw a smaller circle.

From that circle draw lines toward the outer circle. This will look like a bicycle wheel with spokes.

With your non-dominant hand, write in the center of the circle the word Loneliness or Exhaustion or Overwhelm (whichever you feel is appropriate for your personal journey).

On the spokes of your wheel, with your non-dominant hand, write some synonyms for the quality of befriending. Use one spoke per each quality. (some ideas from past group participants include: warmth, soothing, tenderness, understanding, compassion, and so on)

 

Here are 3 things to notice:

  • how you feel while you’re doing this,

  • which of your words have the most ‘zing’ or energy,

  • where you experience resistance (the fight part of us that isn’t afraid that if we practice befriending, the shame Tiger might get us).

 

Supports you can offer yourself:

  • slow down your efforts,

  • breathe into your belly,

  • remember that I’m with you in this exercise.

 

As you sit back and gaze at the spokes on your wheel, quietly turn the page (like a wheel) until you arrive at today’s word.

 

Let’s say for our example that your word is Refuge. And, let’s say that the center of your wheel is Loneliness.  A self-kindness mantra may emerge. It might look something like this:

 

To the part of me that is lonely, I offer it Refuge.

 

And, could get utilized like this:

Inhale and say silently to “Toward that in me which is lonely,”

Exhale and say silently to this part “I offer your refuge.”

 

 

As you move about your day, this practice can be integrated discreetly, silently, lovingly.

Instead of Good Food versus Bad Food try First Do Less Harm, Then Do More Good

In our latest Hunger, Hope + Healing newsletter, I introduced a new offering for us at our Portland home, the DAYA Foundation. That offering is the Restart Program led lovingly by Courtney Cronk.

In response to this newsletter, I was honored by an email expressing a valuable perspective. One concern was that Restart might activate the parts of us that think of Good Foods and Bad Foods, keeping some foods in the “scary’ category.

Please know, that I completely understand living with the view that there are Good Foods and Bad Foods and that we are Good or Bad People when we don’t or do eat these foods.

During my own disordered eating days (years), there was little to no direction available. This was back in the late 80s and early 90s. I floundered with self-generated ideas about what to eat and what not to eat, mostly based on fear of food, fear of gaining weight, a desire to lose weight, and anger about having to eat, wanting to eat, and deserving to eat (funny how those aren’t the same things – those are all distinctly able to express themselves, and, at times, in conflict with each other too!).

Somehow, I came to a ‘decision’ that I was willing to explore. I would eat three meals a day, even if I had also binged. And, for a time, I would avoid eating the foods with which I seemed to be bingeing the most. Those happened to be sugar and carbs (since I was starving myself much of the time, this makes sense). I had a deep desire to have a relationship to all foods as valid, and to have no foods be off limits. It just didn’t make sense to me that my mind would label any foods as evil, forever, and only for me (since I regularly saw other people eating those sorts of foods and not falling to pieces).

But it also seemed consistent enough that when I ate such foods, I was overwhelmed, not just mentally, but also physiologically.

So, I decided to avoid the following things, specifically: the art openings at my art school (I was in college at the time and these openings were always buffets of sweets and wine and cheese, the latter of which had no appeal to me, the former of which was terrifying). The walk home from art school to my apartment led me by three different ice cream shops, two cookie shops, one bakery, and the cookie aisle at the grocery store.

Over a period of 5-6 weeks, while researching how it would be to actually eat three meals a day (my hope was to become someone I could rely on to feed myself, someone trustworthy to myself) and not putting myself in danger (which is how it felt at the time), that I might find some inner sanity. Which is actually what happened. My brain started to feel better. I slept better. I was less anxious about where my next calories would be coming from and whether I would fall into a pit of despair because I was walking too closely to a cookie shop (or a cookie at all!).

A chapter in my book, in the section on Forgiveness and Freedom, comes out of the changes required in my thinking. It’s called First Do Less Harm, Then Do More Good.

For the past 15 years, my recommendation to the HHH community is to grow into a recovery where we’re not labeling foods as good or bad, and into a relationship with food and feeding ourselves that respects our body and our brain (which for example, needs healthy fats to help with cell metabolism and to balance blood sugar). We often start the process of self-nurturing discipline (the stage of recovery yoga calls Tapas) with the gentle task of hydrating (gentle, but not necessarily easy or uncomplicated). Once relationships feel safer (including relationship with me, with each other, with our bodies, with certain foods) then we start nudging ourselves to consider small, wise nutritional action items with the guidance of a sensitive, skillful, encouraging nutritional therapist.

This is where my colleague, Courtney Cronk, comes in.

While there is a list of “Yes” and “No” foods during the program, food is not talked about in terms of good or bad (except for dangerous foods like hydrogenated oils). Participants decide what is best for their bodies and make choices about whether or not to keep dairy, legumes, nightshades, and grains on the menu during their detox period. Each of the five classes ends with a “word of the week” for participants to think about. These include: Kindness, notice, practice, accept, and navigate. The mantra of each class is: “Whatever I eat, I choose it consciously, I enjoy it thoroughly, and then I let it go.” The goal is to separate guilt from eating.

The RESTART Program is not designed around eating disorders, which can be helpful – normalizing getting healthy. It’s based on a nutrient dense, whole foods model, where a balance of complex carbs, proteins, and healthy fats are eaten throughout the day. There is absolutely no counting of calories, weighing or measuring food (or participants), counting points, etc. It’s a real food program – one that is healthy and sustainable.

As each of us navigate our own journey from disordered eating to more healthy relationships with food, our bodies and our minds we must use all the tools available to us to ensure our recovery. I hope that my First Do Less Harm, Then Do More Good approach can help and I believe working with a nutritionist in a thoughtful food program is another good tool to use along your journey.

We Can’t Do It Alone

Since our last discussion about shame as a force of isolation (an early protective mechanism), I’ve had the blessing of intersecting with new areas of community in the yoga world and to engage with other yoga visionaries, activists, entrepreneurs, as well as people courageously rowing the rapids toward their own recovery. Some things we’ve agreed on:

We can’t do it alone.

And, we weren’t meant to.

The forces are too big.

The isolation makes us too small.

We all deeply hunger for love and belonging.

And, we are all welcomed by the love and belonging that is larger than the pain we’ve been in.

(And larger than the pain we’ve caused to others.)

Our seeming powerlessness over shame is diminished each time we are able to authentically connect, even more potently, when we authentically connect in the conversations about shame. It becomes something that we can talk about, rather than something that we are; or something about ourselves we feel we need to keep hidden.

Looking back over my own journey, these conversations continue the healing that began 25 years ago.  These conversations also continue to be retro-actively healing to the younger parts of me that were convinced, not only that I had to do it alone (and that needing help meant I was incompetent), but also that other people would not be able to help me anyway. The feeling that I was beyond the bounds of help, and beneath the capacity of other humans to understand me.
My recovery required me to figure out how to both reach out toward and to welcome the connection that was available in the world around me. This was a big shift in paradigm for me. Prior to that, my perception was primarily that the world was there to judge me, to evaluate me, to determine my worth.

Just today, while traveling in New York and Massachusetts, I had to make three train transfers with two suitcases while not really knowing where I was going. Each time I embarked onto a new train, I had to ask for help to put my bags up overhead (or risk hitting someone in the head as I strained toward the luggage rack on Metro-North and Amtrak). Each time I disembarked, I had to ask for help again. And, twice I had to risk “inconveniencing” (alternatively known as Connecting With) the same person twice! I also had to ask for help between trains to make sure I was going in the right direction for my next connection. Today, I placed a higher value on not being staunchly independent in the chaos of New York city, over staying hidden in the world of other humans, which would have added to the likelihood of getting lost, overwhelmed, and then determining that somehow other humans don’t actually care about me (no love and belonging for me!) and my well-being (because, paradoxically, before my recovery days, I too often set situations up to keep living this painful misperception.)

It was ironic that I was writing this blog about shame, connection, and asking for help.  I’ve this realized before:

People prefer to be the one helping, not the one who needs the help.

I have a working hypothesis that I got to explore today:

When one of us needs help, and asks for it,

it provides an opportunity for another human to provide help.

We can’t all be givers all the time.

Some of us have to be receivers, some of the time.

In these moments of helping each other a connection arises. Our separateness fades, our shields come down, and prior to my recovery, I would have stayed inside my isolated shell not asking for help. Today I am able to feel and lean into the connections available around me. They’re momentary, yet nourishing. My introversion doesn’t feel so overwhelmed by these interactions; likely because so much of the shame has dissipated.

Here’s another example from a friend, yesterday:

I was talking with Kia Miller, Kundalini, Bhatki, and vinyasa yoga teacher, former model, and former bulimic.  A pivotal point in her recovery journey was her direct realization that she could not do this thing called, “no longer being bulimic”, on her own. She very clearly knew she would need to tell other people (trustworthy, loving people) and she would need to ask them to help her. She didn’t just stop at the brave threshold of telling other people, but she also went to the next threshold of asking them to help her. In fact, she went beyond that threshold too. She told them when she was lying to them.

She told them when she was struggling.

This month, I would love to hear from you. Where have you been able to ask for help? Even in small ways? What did you notice in yourself when doing so?  Where have you been able to tell someone, genuinely and safely, that you were struggling? Have you been the person to whom someone else reached out? How were you able to be present with them?

A Break in the (Shame) Storm

A Break In the Shame Storm…

In case you’re dropping into our conversation without having read the prior blogs, I want to underline a certain aspect of shame today, specifically, one of the ironic ways it acts as a “protective mechanism”:

Shame is isolating. Shame isolates us. We isolate when we fall into shame. We might even flail for certain kinds of connections and then still succumb to the isolating story shame is telling us. This is often the story of not being good enough, being broken, being unwanted by others, or the possibility that if we do reach for connection about shame, we might get shunned or rejected, or, even blamed.

When we’re in a shame storm (my term for this overwhelming cascade of mental, emotional, and physiological surges), we are also isolated from our inner resources. Our brains collapse into survival mode where short-term decisions are urgently navigated from our primitive and limbic brains. We lose access to our wiser self (our neo-cortex goes ‘offline”).

When we have the chance to lean back, to gain perspective, and when we do so together (even in an internet conversation), we’re more able to see how widespread and insidious shame is, and has been. We also begin to see how unkind, unreasonable, untrue it is capable of being; though it asserts its worth (and its apparent truth) by being forceful, loud. At times, unrelenting.

When our shame shows up in this way it is acting more like a bully. Which is one reason why shifting our lens to see that shame was trying to protect us initially is so essential, and yet, such a paradigm shift can seem very perplexing. Even paradoxical.

When shame emerges, having a wise and curious relationship to it helps us consider how it once aimed to protect us. Today, it may be absurdly trying to ‘motivate us’ (for some behavior change). It may be ‘reminding us’ of what it’s been trying to tell us ‘all along’ (the story of our worth). It may be taunting us to ‘improve ourselves’, once and for all.

Something we may not realize while this is happening is that shame is also separating us from essential parts of ourselves. (This is a further internal isolation, deepening our sense of our external isolation.) We become separated from innate parts of ourselves. Those parts capable of self-respect, self-kindness, forgiveness, and love.

How do we move from isolation to connection? Both internally and externally? What if our brain is flailing too much?

Throughout the storms of isolation, we are confronted with many surges, which can ultimately push us forward towards re-connectivity or backwards towards desolation. Some immensely useful resources in ensuring taking steps forward often revolve around our mindset and our frame of reference. More often than not, what restricts us from being kindhearted and expressing self-empathy is the lack of acknowledgement of our selves, our earnest efforts (even the small ones), or our larger surroundings.

We’re often distracted from the tiny, poignant and beautiful nuances of daily life by our fixation with completion (as an example), but it is important to our brains (and our mental health) to also recognize the rhythmic intricacies of life. We ignore millions of people around us, and often regard them as invisible due to our directives being different. The acknowledgement of two very important facets of this are key to kindheartedness.

We live in an interdependent system that by nature forces us to confront our own diversities. Each and everyone of us are individuals, yet we are predominantly composed of the same three base elements. Oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. Like waves in the ocean or lightning in a stormy sky, each is an expression of a larger majesty. With this in mind, by recognizing our diversity and our undeniable molecular kinship, we’re able to appreciate and love each other for who and what we are. With a break in the storm, we glimpse this larger force..

Secondarily, there is another equally important facet of kindheartedness that manifests into self-empathy. Learning to love thyself is a continuous process. There will always be highs and lows, some of which are deceptive enough to convince us of the finality of “losing” in the storm again and again. The hopeful reality (paradoxically) is that this struggle is a part of the human condition and that every single passerby is dealing with something equally as difficult, but entirely unique to their own experience.

Keeping this in mind, we’re able to acknowledge that despite our own grievances, we are not alone in our struggles. We are here to help one another, and, in so doing, also realize the value of, and innate instinct for, helping ourselves. The illusion of separation fades. A Break in the storm becomes a new view. Our connection to others allows us to become more connected to ourselves. At the end of the day, we may have others looking out for us and wanting the best for us, yet we are still our own persons. We must look out, appreciate, and love ourselves as one immediate way for us to create and enable the healthy foundation for tomorrow’s versions of ourselves.

When Shame Takes Hold…

Thank you to those who wrote in response to our conversation about Shame.

Shame is a horrible, sticky, overwhelming, toxic, and shocking rush of physiological, psychological, neurological, and emotional storms. In the midst of this storm, our shame voice shouts at us. Demeaning, familiar, taunting, lightning-quick and capable of blind-siding us. We collapse into wondering why and how. Again and again, feeling ever more powerless over it.

This is head-spinning and heart-wrenching.

It’s been years since I have felt helplessly ambushed by shame. Yet, I can still remember its primal grip over me. When it would take hold, I became another version of myself. Robotic, unthinking, and incapable of interrupting its ambush.

Food was my savior, and my punishment. Relief turned sharply into torment. Torment would become the stupor that led to sleep, and an escape from the pain.

Had anyone told me that my shame monster was trying to provide me with protection, I would have felt unseen, misunderstood, more painfully alone, and stupid. (a by-product of shame)

I was unable to see how shame diverted me and isolated me. Nor was I able to see these as elements of self-protection. Shame swarmed with its teeming and relentless taunt for me to fix myself. This, I believed, was the purpose of shame:

to force me to fix myself.

It was completely plausible, deeply true, and utterly convincing that if I could just improve myself [in these specific ways], I would be protected from further pain. I could not see how this belief contributed to furthering the pain, nor how such pain was requiring my food behaviors to try to save me.

If this sounds like any part of your experience, please know that

  • I do truly understand.
  • That You are not alone.
  • Recovery is possible, and will require a shift in perception, paradigm, and the lens through which you are seeing yourself and your life.
  • This shift in lens is called Moving from Love, not Shame.

A time had to come when the pain I was in was greater than the relief my behaviors were trying to provide. Some people call that hitting rock bottom.

Somehow, in those (too oft repeated) bottom notes in the painful orchestra of my days, a whimsical notion came to me. What if I tried loving, not hating myself? Having seen the ravages of shame’s self-improvement efforts overcoming me everyday with more misery, what if I were to stop, to turn toward accepting myself (or a tiny fraction of myself) in this present moment (however fleeting or superficial it seemed), and try an internally loving, not shaming voice?
What if?

This what if turned into a new lens on my life… Blessedly, relief actually came.

With it came my self-honesty, self-nurturance, and self-empathy

In the second chapter of Hunger, Hope and Healing I delve more deeply into Shame and how it is at the core of the cycle of addiction. Our compulsive urges to numb, harm, or deny ourselves are rooted in the core sense of shame. With a foundation of shame at the core of our being, we’ll be prone to struggling with feelings such as anxiety, fear, depression, a sense of being overwhelmed, and urges for control, security, and safety. To help manage the painful experience of shame, we create survival strategies.

I’ll be exploring shame more in the coming weeks on this blog, but in the meantime don’t forget to re-read chapter two of Hunger, Hope and Healing for more on the subject.

Understanding Your Shame Monster

The Shame Furies

As the flu goes on, I am reminded that this horrible feeling with my skin aching from fevers is actually healing in action.

This is very different than the feeling I had many times in relationship to my body during my disordered eating years: the angry fire of wanting to tear my skin off.

That might sound dramatic to some (though perhaps not in this group). It was one way the symptoms of my body-hatred manifested. When I was caught in self-loathing (frequent and without need of any reasonable occurrence – it could be as simple as catching a glimpse of myself in the storefront window’s reflection), I often wished I could crawl out of my own skin.

This might seem paradoxical (it did to me): shame was, and is, a protective mechanism. My shame storms were sometimes fiery, like the fevered pain on my skin with this flu. They held me down, like being stuck in bed with this flu. These flu symptoms are preventing me from doing more than resting (and writing to you on FB), so that my body can do what it needs to.

The protection shame provided was similar though different. At the time we needed shame (usually we don’t see it this way), it would rise up, like a fury in my case, and prevent us from making ourselves more vulnerable than we already were.

With the flu, we’re already vulnerable. The symptoms it gives us that keep us in bed are to prevent us from making ourselves more vulnerable (by not resting, for example, or pseudo-resting while just ‘doing your taxes’).

Change the Way You Frame Your Shame

If we look at it this way, what changes in your relationship to your history with shame?

To be clear, I know that the feelings of shame are horrible, painful, sticky, torrential. Yet, healing from shame won’t happen by being angry about its occurrence. For me, the anger started subsiding when I saw shame had been trying to protect me.

Rather than wanting it to go away so badly, I became curious about it.

Of course, in certain shame storms, I still wanted it to LEAVE ME ALONE!!

And then I realized I WAS being left alone. I was isolated. Very isolated by my “shame monster”.

At this point in my recovery, two things occurred, neither of which I had any guidance about.  First, I started to move away from shame by connecting with ACTUAL other people. Real people.  And, I started talking with my shame monster, which caused me to move toward it.  This might sound like fun-house mirrors (and some of this flu actually feels like that too).

Let me unpack this a little bit: The part of me that felt overwhelmed by shame and saddened by the tremendous isolation it “punished” me with, wanted relief. So, too, did the part of me that had some notion that it was her role to keep reminding me about my shame (aka the shame monster).

When I reached out to other people (safe people, attuned people, willing people), my shame lessened in part because it was now “out-numbered”. Yet, it also lessened because the part of me that thought it was her job to bring on the protective mechanism of shame (which is to say to protect me from becoming more vulnerable) also got relief as she saw such connections lessening my vulnerability.

How does this possibility shift your relationship to shame?

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