I learned a few really helpful things today, so all those jelly beans I ate were actually earned.
First of all, I have been feeling “weird” about my unease with this COVID-19, shelter in place, on the brink of unknown sickness, wear a mask outside, and don’t report to office life. And by “weird” I mean shame. Insert sad face. I feel ashamed that this is hard. I feel ashamed that I am having a hard time, am stressed by it, and am not acting or feeling ok. I am not comfortable, and I am very uncomfortable admitting my uncomfortableness. So I feel ashamed that I am stressed. And, to make matters worse, I am embarrassed that I am ashamed.
It is like looking into a tri-fold mirror in a fun house that multiplies myself so my shame is made exponential until I can only see myself as dripping with it, my teeth have turned long and black, my hair is all stringy and snarled, and my clothes are all torn from the shame of not feeling ok.
I can barely type the word “shame”, my visceral hand-blocking of the term is that strong. I just started listening to Anne Lamott’s book Hallelujah Anyway on Audible. In Chapter 4 she describes how messed up we got with our messed up parents who messed up our childhoods. I think in Chapter 5 she may talk about how we are messing up our kids next. I am hopeful I am deranging my kids to a little lesser degree than mine did me.
So I am deep breathing through this shame topic now. Trying to get comfortable with my shame about the shame about the stress. “Many people are stressed, Anne. You aren’t weak and unworthy just because you are not OK with all of this crazy world’s crisis. ” I heard a phrase today from my friend Nancy at work –Name it, Claim It, Tame it.
This phrase means if we can put a name to our feelings, then claim those feelings as ours by saying them out loud, we will be bringing the secrets to the light of day and they will not have so much power over us. It worked a little bit so far (which means I can type the S-word, and am working on saying the S-word aloud… Baby Steps!!!).
I like to feel brave, courageous, like a woman who is Capable. Hello Kitty is NOT my thing. I want to be a she-lion with enormous muscles, strong teeth and a gorgeously intimidating mane, or atleast a luxurious coat. I want to be leading my children single-handedly towards meaningful and wonderful, not wallowing with jagged breath. So Brave Woman- you must:
- Say the words out loud in the dark. “This is scary and I don’t like it, and I really don’t even feel comfortable voicing my fears.”
- Find a person to bring the words to daylight.
- And finally, be willing to say it to many others. They will appreciate knowing that someone else is scared; someone else wants to be strong, but just isn’t feeling it. See if it helps me tame those long snarly jagged views of myself into something new.
See you on the other side~
P.S. Just to be clear, we aren’t taming the wild lion. We are taming the snaggle-tooth scraggly hair shame filled woman into a brave woman who has confidence and wisdom to offer the world. The brave lioness is our talisman.
A very perceptive post, Anne. I know you hint at it, but I wish you had said outright our parents were messed up because their parents messed them up, going back thousands of generations. It is a self-destroying pandemic all its own, but few people are willing to look at it, and even fewer people are wiling to admit it.
But the real mess that is bequeathed to us are the twin feelings of guilt and shame. Why are you struggling with shame? (rhetorical) Because your parents used shame to control you, and to “civilize” you to become as them. Shame and guilt are not natural feelings, you were not born with them, even though it feels like you were. How familiar are you with your parents saying, “Shame on you…” With every time they said that to you, they controlled who you were going to be. Do you use those same words with your children? If yes, please stop! There are better ways to teach children than to verbally punish them.
But how do you remove your own shame? Start by not feeling guilty about things you cannot control. Then move on to question yourself about why you are feeling shame in the first place. A child does things that come to it naturally. It wants to explore the world to find out how it fits in. By teaching it shame its parents are cutting it off from its explorations, from finding itself. They give no good reasons for this, “Because I said so!” or “It’s wrong!” or just “Don’t do that!” The child starts to put restrictons on itself, wanting to please it parents, wanting to NOT get yelled at, but it has no idea why. Its world gets smaller every time this happens, the box it is being put in shrinking the possibilities of life.
I hope you do not mind me saying these things. I am speaking from my own experiences as a child. My mother was always yelling at me, and my father was always beating me into submission. “For my own good!” I grew up a timid kid, scared to do anything, cringing every time my father came in the door. It only got worse after my mother died when I was eight years old. I had so much shame in me that I could not watch TV shows where kids got caught for doing minor things. I was ashamed for them.
But as I grew up I learned to question things, and to search for those answers. And eventually I learned that I did not need to be ashamed. Things I did taught me about whether I was right or wrong, and why. Not someone else’s why, but my own why. I learned what was naturally in me. I no longer do guilt and shame, but what I do are respect and responsibility. If these are not natural feelings, at least they are “my” feelings. They mean more to me.
I’ve used up more than my share of your time, for which I apologize, but your post brought up some very strong feelings in me. Ignore them if you like. This is just me ranting.
I am so thankful for the rant, it is all true and I am honored to have you describe your experience. I completely agree that guilt and shame are an unintelligent, untrusted, disrespectful way to bring up children. Radical re-wiring is necessary to get past it. “Shame on you!” Was such a common phrase growing up in the 60’s, 70’s (and probably going back 2000 years). It does not help children learn intrinsically what effects different choices have. That is why Love and Logic makes more sense.
All we can do is stay on the journey my friend!