Healing Shame and Finding Well-Being

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”

― Brené Brown

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My reaction was similar to many other people I know when I first saw the hash tag ‘MeToo’ on twitter and on Facebook. I thought ‘Oh another hash tag on social media . . . Ho hum.’ But then in less than an hour, my wall was full of #MeToo from female friends on Facebook. Little did I know at that point how much Actress Alyssa Milano’s post would impact me personally. So personally in fact that I decided I had to get public with it on Thrive.

Of course, what we now know is that Tarana Burke, a native of Harlem, New York, was the original creator of the Me Too movement over a decade ago, before hash tags and social media. But it was Milano’s post, on October 16th that impacted me.

When I saw the original post, I felt vaguely uncomfortable, but ignored it. It wasn’t even when I saw my wall flooded with #MeToo that I really understood it’s impact. It was only later, over coffee with a friend, that it hit me, the full magnitude of how this related to me personally.

What #MeToo did, was to open up a huge, previously taboo, conversation with other women. Looking back at myself in my 20s, I was a ‘party girl’ and a bartender. I had a lifestyle that ‘invited’ that kind of behavior. I had convinced myself that I had deserved and been ‘responsible for’ the intimidation and harassment that I experienced.

Early in my own personal recovery process, I took full responsibility for my actions and my past behavior . . . full and total responsibility. And thus the shame lived on. I first read about this topic in John Bradshaw’s  ‘Healing the Shame that Binds You.’ Yes I read the book and yes I talked about the concept. But still, said the little voice in my head, if you hadn’t been that drunk, if you hadn’t put yourself in that situation… I still believed that I was responsible for the treatment on some level because of my own behavior.

What I discovered through conversations with other women is that there are a lot of us who still blame ourselves for what happened to us. “If I hadn’t been that drunk” and “If I had been wearing a bra” and “If I hadn’t been so stoned” then that wouldn’t have happened. And most of us have kept that bottled up inside of us, continuing to blame ourselves for our own ‘reprehensible behavior.’

This campaign has opened up the conversation, opened up the willingness to look at the behavior, not with shame, but with a desire to share the story. We are comparing notes and listening, and we are realizing that we are not alone.

There are so many layers to this problem. Looking at the culture of misogyny and who is in the position of power that enables this to happen. I’m aware of this and of course we still have so far to go. But today, I simply want to express gratitude, gratitude that even after so many years of recovery and therapy, these conversations have helped to heal a part of me that remained buried for over thirty years. I am writing now to say thank you for what was not just another ‘social media craze’ but instead was a catalyst to heal. Healing through deep and nourishing conversations with other women, initiated by a simple comment, ‘Me Too.’

I’ll close with a clip from John Bradshaw

 

 

I’d love to hear how the #MeToo campaign impacted you, or how shame itself has impacted your life.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.
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Moving toward Authentic Self

“Our sadness is an energy we discharge in order to heal . . . Sadness is painful. We try to avoid it. Actually discharging sadness releases the energy involved in our emotional pain.  To hold it in is to freeze the pain within us.”

– John Bradshaw


I’m incredibly fortunate in that I get to work with my best friend.  We run workshops together through a charitable trust called Figjam Workshops.  I love my work!

http://www.figjamworkshops.co.nz/home

Part of what I really enjoy, aside from the facilitation which is wonderful, are the long drives to and from the workshops, where Deb and I drink coffee and have long, deep conversations.  On Friday, on the way home from a workshop, Deb and I were talking about Authentic Self; about healing old wounds, about dealing with old, deep trauma and abuse – about doing the deep work – the work to move from being stuck to finding one’s Authentic Self.  We both agree that doing one’s personal growth work is essential to one’s well-being.

And because Deb is a good friend and we trust each other, she felt safe enough to challenge me a bit, and I felt safe enough to listen.  She asked me about some of my posts on this blog.  She said that I make it sound like “being happy” is the answer, that all one has to do is decide to be happy and everything will be better.   She said in her opinion it sounded like I was saying just act happy, maybe journal a bit and everything will be OK.  And after looking over some of my past posts, I see she is right and I don’t feel like I am honoring Authentic Self.  I want to state here and now that I believe that any of us with past emotional scaring, trauma, or abuse need to acknowledge it and do the work.  Staying stuck, staying in denial and pretending that everything is just wonderful is not helpful.   Pasting on a smile and saying I will just be positive when the pain inside is unbearable does not work.

In my previous post,   Who Was Your Teacher:

https://patticlark.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/who-was-your-teacher/

I talked about finally getting to the point where partying and alcohol were no longer enough to numb the pain.  I was lucky enough to have a sister who cared enough to talk to me about her path and pass on a transformational book called Creative Visualization.  Yes I did read that book, and yes it did help me begin my journey.  But it is important to say that then I spent many years doing my own work.  I went to one on one counselling, I did psychodrama groups, I did group counselling and I went to more personal growth workshops than I can count.  I did deep, deep work. Most of it was not fun and a lot of the work was very painful, but all of it helped move me forward on my path.  I was and still am committed to growing and not staying stuck.

In order to make changes in the present and not stay stuck, we have to look at the past and understand what led us to our current situation. We need to work through and move through our feelings of pain and loss in order to move on. Please understand I am absolutely and positively a believer in Positive Psychology and finding happiness.  But it must be Authentic Happiness.  And in my opinion Authentic Happiness can only be obtained when we have done our work and touched our Authentic Self.

A great teacher and author who helped me move through a lot of my own past feelings of pain and loss is John Bradshaw.  I have included a video here of John Bradshaw on the Oprah Show.

 

 

Please let me know what you thought of John Bradshaw on Oprah.  And I’d love to hear about how you move toward Authentic Self.

As always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.