I spent decades of my life feeling shame for things I had no control over… I never measured up to what I was taught was the right way to live. I was miserable until I realized there was nothing wrong with me… my belief system was flawed… not me!
At some early point in our lives, most of us absorbed this false belief that causes the feeling of shame. As a result of not feeling seen, loved, valued and understood, we developed the belief that we were not being loved because there was something wrong with us. While some children were told outright that they were not okay… that they were stupid, bad or undeserving … other children concluded that there was something wrong with them by the way they were being treated.
It gives us a feeling of control over other people’s feelings and behavior. As long as we believe that we are the cause of others rejecting behavior, then we can believe that there is something we can do about it. It gives us a sense of power to believe that others are rejecting us, or behaving in unloving ways, because of our inadequacy. If it is our fault then maybe we can do something about it by changing ourselves, by doing things “right.” We hang on to the belief that our inadequacy is causing others behavior because we don’t want to accept others free will to feel and behave however they want. We don’t want to accept our helplessness over others feelings and behavior.
As bad as shame feels, many people prefer it to the feelings that shame may be covering up: loneliness, heartbreak, grief, sadness, sorrow or helplessness over others. Just as anger may be a cover-up for these difficult feelings, so is the shame. Shame is totally different than loneliness or heartbreak or helplessness over others.
Shame is a feeling that we are causing by our false beliefs, but loneliness, heartbreak, grief, sadness, sorrow or helplessness over others are existential feelings… feelings that are a natural result of life. We feel heartbreak and grief over losing someone we love. We feel loneliness when we want to connect with someone or play with someone, and there is no one around or no one open to connection, love or play. Many people would rather feel an awful feeling that they are causing, than feel the authentic painful feelings of life.
You can heal your shame when:
You are willing to accept that others feelings and behavior have nothing to do with you… When you accept that others have free will to be open or closed, loving or unloving… that you are not the cause of their feelings and behavior, and you no longer take others behavior personally – you will have no need to control it. When you let go of your need to control others, and instead move into compassion for yourself and others, you will let go of your false beliefs about yourself that cause the feeling of shame.
Just be honest with yourself about yourself… Be willing to accept what you feel deep in your heart… that is the authentic you! Covering them up with anger or shame will destroy you… stop doing it! When you learn to nurture yourself by being present with caring and compassion for your own feelings, you will no longer have a need to protect against these feelings with blame or shame.
I believe control and shame are intricately tied together. When you give up your attachment to control, and instead choose compassion toward yourself and others, you will find your shame disappearing. I promise you will have nothing to lose by releasing the things that are ruining your life.
I have a difficult time with the holidays. I’ve never been able to enjoy them to the levels I see at the mall or on TV. My world just doesn’t revolve around perfection… I accept it because I know spring is on its way and no one expects anything from me during that glorious time of year. The stress of December is difficult for many people, and I think there are a lot of reasons for it. While getting a haircut today, I read an article by Lara Rutherford-Morrison in Lifestyle Magazine that sorta put a face on holiday gloom. I thought I’d mention some of it on my blog.
If you’re looking ahead to the approaching holidays and feeling more dread than cheer, you may find yourself wondering, “What causes the holiday blues? Why am I feeling more ‘Bah humbug!’ than ‘Holly jolly’?” In the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, everything from holiday TV specials to music to advertisements is telling us to be happy; one holiday classic insists “It’s the most wonderful time of the year… It’s the hap-happiest season of all!” But for many, this demand to be joyful only emphasizes the depression and anxiety that frequently crops up this time of year. In addition to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and irritability, people with the “holiday blues” can experience a number of physical symptoms, including headaches, stomach problems, and sleeplessness.
The holidays can trigger depression for a number of reasons. It’s important to note, however, that some people’s depression during the winter has nothing to do with the holidays, but rather with the season itself. According to American Family Physician, about five percent of Americans experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the autumn and winter, a condition that can cause fatigue and feelings of depression. Women, young people, and those with a history of depression are most at risk for SAD, and living far away from the equator (and therefore having less light in the winter) is a factor, too. If you think you may be suffering from SAD, talk to your doctor; light therapy can be a simple, effective treatment for the disorder.
Although dark skies can contribute to the holiday blues, there are a variety of other factors that can make your holidays less than merry:
Perhaps the biggest catalyst for the winter blues is simply the monumental amount of pressure that we tend to put on ourselves to have perfect, cookie cutter holidays. Throughout the season, the media bombards us with images of perfect family gatherings, free of conflict; people exchanging profoundly meaningful gifts that they’ll cherish forever; and everything that’s bad in the world melting away in under the awesome power of the “holiday spirit.”
I need to tell you the truth… it’s all bullshit! No matter how much people try to orchestrate holidays to look like Norman Rockwell paintings, the world will continue to be an imperfect place. By putting too much pressure on ourselves to have “perfect” holidays or to recreate the holidays of our childhoods, we set ourselves up to fail when things don’t turn out the way we want them to.
That isn’t to say that we should all just give up and expect the holidays to be awful, but it may be helpful to have more open, flexible ideas of what good holidays might look like. If, for example, you have a history of family conflict, maybe a good Christmas doesn’t mean having the whole family sitting in perfect harmony around a crackling fire. Maybe it means getting through the day with as little conflict as possible, and treating yourself to a separate celebration with friends or indulging yourself by relaxing with a book on your own. Allow your holidays to be their own thing, regardless of what you see on TV or in other people’s lives.
The holidays can be particularly difficult for people who are feeling lonely… because they can’t be with their families, because of a breakup, because of the loss of a loved one, or any other reason that they may feel isolated or alone. If you can, seek out opportunities to be with others, like going to a friend’s house for Christmas or participating in a community event. I want to encourage people to be active, rather than passive, when it comes to loneliness during the holidays. If you’re going to be alone, make a plan… when you feel in control of your experience, that alone makes you feel better. That may mean that you volunteer, go on vacation, or simply decide to stay home and cook a feast for yourself. The key is that you decide what you’re going to do.
If you decide to do absolutely nothing…. Enjoy every minute of it!