People may have anger issues. Or get a sudden panic attack. Or be grief stricken. There are a lot of emotions and they all have their challenges. In certain respects, I consider shame to be the most difficult emotion to deal with.
We can find a way to justify our anger, anxiety or sadness. It is due to something out there. We can have righteous anger due to some injustice. Anxiety looms because of something that has happened or could happen, a situation that raises fear inside us. We experience loss of someone or something and feel grief. We can explain these emotions to ourselves, understand what leads to feeling them and in doing so, perhaps find a way to make peace with them. This is not to belittle any of these emotions and the possible impact they may have on our lives. There are versions of each that can be devastating and debilitating.
But shame isn’t about something out there. The essence of shame is that it is about oneself. Sometimes it is triggered by something as simple as making a mistake or not following through on a commitment. I’ve done something “wrong” and I feel ashamed. Shame is about me at my very core being bad or wrong or inadequate. We can’t explain it away by pointing to something out there. It’s the most naked of emotions. We can feel totally exposed and want to run away and hide. Sometimes we do. We feel ashamed and retreat from the world. Or sometimes we hide from our shame by transforming it into anger or a different emotion, often by finding someone or something to blame. Or sometimes we hide by creating a mask or armor that may shield us from the world but which also costs us by prohibiting us from being our authentic self. Whatever way we choose to do so, in hiding, it just worsens the situation because hiding tends to reinforce the shame, making us feel like an outcast. We often end up with a distorted sense of ourselves, a view that inflames the shame. This can lead to a vicious cycle in which my shame leads to hiding which leads to reinforcing my shame which leads to a greater need to hide.
The first step to healing shame is forgiveness. I need to forgive myself for my blunder, my mistake, for not being perfect, for being human. I know that such realizations sound trite and obvious. And, like any other realization, they are trite and obvious to the rational mind. But to the emotive mind, to that place inside that has the fears and doubts, to have such realizations and to own them is to start the reclamation of peace of mind through love and compassion for oneself. In doing so, we can let go, breathe deeply, and know that we are okay.
Welcome to the human race. Welcome home.
© Bibi Caspari 2012
In personal development, people often get frustrated when facing the same old issue again and again. Fear of failure, running away from confrontation, succumbing to temptations – whatever the issue, it tends to be present in our lives and in our healing work repeatedly. Often we are told by therapists or others who support us that healing and personal growth is a process. The image of peeling the onion is used as a metaphor. When a layer of an onion is peeled away, there is another layer underneath. When we are working on healing an issue, while we can make progress, it is like peeling away a layer. Another layer of the same stuff is underneath. We have to face it again. Perhaps it looks a bit different or has a lesser intensity but nevertheless, it’s essentially the same stuff. I think that the image of peeling the onion is supposed to help us be compassionate with ourselves by helping us understand that it is inevitable to have to face our issues repeatedly. After all, our issues are our issues. In some ways, they don’t really change. In peeling the onion, perhaps we uncover and discover something about an issue and understand it more. Or there is less of the issue/onion as we go deeper. Or we no longer need to cry when peeling it.
However, for many people, the onion image really doesn’t seem to be soothing. After all, the layers seem endless, perhaps even infinite. We keep peeling and the frigging onion is still there! Instead of being a way to compassionately explain the process of healing, the onion image can emphasize the futility of personal development. Or at least that was the way it sometimes looked to me. Until I started to have experiences that changed my perspective.
Yes, the onion/issue was always there. Yes, I would continue to find ways to process and heal the issue. Yes, it would appear less often and less intensely in my life. And then, all of a sudden, one day, it was gone! I don’t even remember what triggered the shift or what specific issue I was dealing with, but suddenly, it was like I was in a different world. There was this universe in which I and my onion, uh, issue, existed. And I was forever peeling the damn thing. And then suddenly, it was gone, totally gone, as if in a different parallel universe in which I could look across, like Alice through the looking glass, see that other world where the onion existed and yet be free of it. Here and now, where I presently was, it didn’t exist. I was at peace. Liberated. What joy! It was blissful. Later, a shift happened and I was back in the world where the issue existed. Yet, that world would never be the same because I had inhabited, for even a moment, that other world in which the issue didn’t exist.
Since then, I continue to peel the onion while I simultaneously cultivate my ability to travel to and live in that other dimension, the one without the onion. As time goes on and I do more of my inner work, I seem to be getting better at disappearing the onion.
© 2012 Bibi Caspari