1. Shame and addiction: a personal window

We frequently hear about the intimate relation between addiction and shame, and many of us have experienced it. But what is the subjective feeling of shame that makes it not only very unpleasant but a potent trigger for further substance use? Today I want to explore my own experience of shame and get down to a description of the feeling itself. What is this feeling that we shun, and why does it make us crave more of whatever we’re addicted to?

I studied emotion for many years. According to the books, emotions are experienced in several ways: there is a bodily constellation, perhaps made up of muscle, organ, and joint tensions sending signals to the brain; there is a physiological signature, a specific pattern in the autonomic nervous system; and there is an action tendency, a readiness or an urgency to act in a certain way, to retreat in fear, attack in anger, and so on. The action tendency evoked by shame may be the urge to hide the self. But there is also a purely mental state corresponding with each emotion, a state that might be called the feeling itself. That’s what I want to explore.

Shame is one of the seven or eight basic human emotions. If you’re human, you know how shame feels. But that doesn’t mean you spend a lot of time bobbing in states of shame. Shame is one of the most painful emotions, matched only by profound sadness. Because it is so aversive, we do whatever we can to avoid it or to terminate it once it’s arrived. Very often shame leads directly to anger. Why? Because whether in reality or in imagination, someone has shamed us. Usually a parent or an authority, or someone who reminds us of those figures in our past. Or a lover, someone we reach toward who then spurns us. Shame can be triggered by being shunned or rejected when we are feeling open or vulnerable. Or simply by being observed doing what we’re not supposed to do. But knowing the triggers of shame doesn’t get to the essence of the feeling and the impact of that feeling on our consciousness.

The evolutionary purpose of shame is clear, and it reveals a connection between the human mind and the minds of other animals. Dogs, for example. Shame shapes how we behave in most or all social situations. Parents (or other “mentors”) use shame, often without ill intent, to punish bad behaviour — behaviour that can easily get the child in trouble outside the safety of the nest. And because we’ll do anything to avoid shame, it usually works. The trouble with shame and addiction is that the purpose of shame has been badly distorted, skewed off in a totally unproductive direction. Like cell growth in cancer, shame related to drug use evokes more, not less, of the destructive activity. Why is that?

Last night I had an argument with my wife. Isabel and I have been together for 24 years, and our marriage is generally peaceful and happy. But of course all intimate relationships include episodes of conflict. It wasn’t really very serious. She said something that hurt my feelings, made me feel small, inadequate, and objectionable, when I felt open and loving. That’s all it took.

So instead of letting the feeling pass or doing my best to chase it off, I lay in bed last night trying to identify the essence of this emotion. It wasn’t that hard. The feeling was one of churning or gnashing of my insides. It was a feeling of being shredded or ground up — inside my own body, and that’s the main point. I remembered my days of addictive drug use, and I suddenly understood why shame occupies a loop that both emanates from and returns to the urge to get high. The first half of the loop is clear enough. Using drugs addictively is universally shunned because it epitomizes the loss of control, sometimes viewed as self-indulgence or hedonism. But the second half of the loop is more mysterious.

The shame induced by drug use feeds right back to drug use because getting high — changing the way it feels to be inside your own body and mind — is a highly effective way to cancel out shame. To feel ground up and savaged inside…that’s a feeling that’s intrinsically hard to escape. Because it’s your insides that are fragmenting. What keeps shame in place is the thought that you really are despicable, undeserving of being who you are. The thought “I am despicable” is pervasive because it’s a belief you accept and endorse, deliberately or not, a conclusion that arises from your own opinion of yourself, no longer from the actions of others. And as soon as you start to think, I need to get high (or drunk or stoned or fucked or whatever it is), then the ammunition for self-deprecation rises to the surface. You are despicable, indeed, because all you want to do is more of the bad behaviour.

There’s really only one effective solution for shame, and that is to be comforted, soothed, loved — reconnected with someone who cares for you. But because addiction draws us away from others who might care, this solution becomes increasingly remote. I’m completely in sync with Johann Hari’s famous mantra: “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety — it’s connection.” Well the opposite of shame isn’t pride; it’s also connection. That’s no coincidence.

If you want to read some philosophical writings about addiction and shame, check out Owen Flanagan. I think he’s the acknowledged master, and his writing is both accessible and powerful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28 thoughts on “1. Shame and addiction: a personal window

  1. David Clark December 9, 2020 at 5:05 am #

    Powerful stuff, Marc, particularly your last few paragraphs of the main text. You hit the proverbial nail on the head – shame drives further substance use. Connection and love are key to tackling shame. The older I’ve got and the more I explore addiction, mental health problems, trauma, etc, the more I come to value CONNECTION.

    • Marc December 17, 2020 at 10:29 am #

      It is so much the right antidote. Interesting to think that in our hunter-gatherer societies of ten thousand years ago (and still now in some places) people were simply NEVER alone. Then, shame was targeted to get the young to behave for the express purpose of fitting in and feeling welcome in the clan. Now….we are so alone….and that’s the baseline! For addicts this has to be a nightmare.

  2. CM December 9, 2020 at 7:48 am #

    Thanks Marc

    Yes shame is the ‘pig in the room’ and I think personally it may have the potential for some to become so deeply entrenched and interwoven into the fabric of self that it may become impossible to distinguish times spent spiralling into ‘it’ or times out of ‘it’ for example as it becomes so deeply embodied the very core self is experienced as anathema to self and is phantasized as being so to the other (wether or not this is indeed actually the case).

    I think it often gets confused with guilt of which it bears in my opinion no real relation as guilt can perhaps be a guide to when values or moral compasses have been strayed from. So I also think it may also closely be linked to anxiety, fear and terror as it is in my view attacking and eroding our sense of ontology where we don’t just do something or act in a way that stinks but that we are ‘the stink’ therefore the threat of it to our very survival is such that it can bring about huge backlashes of what may be perceived as over reaction to seemingly benign interactions in relationships and the internalising nature of it further has the potential to cut us off from from the very human connections we need for our survival.

    It is in my opinion one of the most destructive experiences anyone can suffer from and it’s intensity, proliferation and its architecture based on its original (from childhood) genesis renders it a core threat not just to moving out or through and away from self harming actions but to the basic ability to function day to day.

    I agree (not wishing to simplify how complex this all truly is) that love and compassion are the only hope for an antidote to the feeling of gnashing and churning of the insides you so eloquently mention. Love and light CM ✌️

    • Marc December 17, 2020 at 10:51 am #

      Hi CM. This is an extremely thoughtful comment and I urge others to read it.

      You address the impossibility of having a sense of “I can’t be who I am” at the core of who I am….which makes it almost hopeless to try to be comfortable in one’s own skin. It’s awful! And yes, others see it and react to it.

      I totally agree about the difference between shame and guilt. Both can be in relation to norms, but guilt can motivate repair. Guilt is about harm done to others, and we can undo that harm. So guilt CAN BE constructive (as a few thousand years of Judeo-Christian codes make so obvious and often ironic). But the action tendency of shame — to hide — and the rage it often triggers, only because it hurts so much…make shame almost ubiquitously destructive. There is little good that can come from it. Then when you combine shame and guilt, which is so common in addiction, you are up against the wall. How can you repair harm to others while you’re tunnelling ever deeper into destructive behaviour and trying to rip out your insides to boot.

      Anxiety and shame. Yup. Being the bar-none most painful emotion, we have every reason to fear it. It is the snake in the internal grass, and the amygdala is well aware that ANY interaction with other people is potentially hazardous.

      But what you say about how the tortuous dance of shame drives others away is perhaps most important. I’m trying to help you! Why are you so angry….why are you pushing ME away?! says the helper, spouse, friend or whomever. Who eventually gives up, driving the shame that much deeper. And leaving the shamed one in almost total isolation.

      I know you saw my next post…and you sent those Rumi poems. Thank you! I tried the Guest House recipe when my previous marriage broke up. Not an easy recipe to follow, I can tell you! I wonder if it would be easier now that I’m a lot older and a little wiser.

      Take care. Your contributions to the blog are wonderful.

      • CM December 17, 2020 at 2:08 pm #

        ✌️🙏🌸

      • CM December 17, 2020 at 8:03 pm #

        Exploring what Melanie Klein’s theory of Projective
        Identification leading on from her work on the “paranoid-schizoid position” the resilient ego and thus personality and identity posited with the genesis of healthy resilient personhood versus the argument that the absence or lack of movement through psychical developmental object related age appropriate stages and subsequently therefore the adequate development of psychic
        structures and mechanisms which are then viewed as antecedent of later psychological disturbances.

        The theory by its very nature is deterministic and somewhat reductionist in its assertions and looks to explore what might be going “wrong”
        in an attempt to explain what is essential for things to go “right”.

        Therefore, does this way of seeing the person, or indeed ego or neural psychic development and the then later capacity for change, in relation to “human nature” whereby it is argued that “the significance of our existence is in many ways fixed as opposed instead a position that we are always recreating ourselves” fit with ideas of plasticity and malleability or is there indeed a fixed-ness locking us in that is indeed resistant over time to change?

        Has Ainsworth and Bowlby on attachment theory indeed been too simplistic to state the “good enough environment” can readdress the onset of attachment disorders that may permeate throughout life. If age appropriate object relations are disrupted do they indeed remain this way effectively resulting in core shame, an inability to maintain connectedness to self and others in an enduring and reciprocal and indeed reflexive way.

        If shame is indeed the unbearable part of us that is there in an innate indelible and natural part very early on in our development that we project out as infants and is then either contained or rejected!

        Is this really the source of wether the unbearable parts of our psychic and affective states are in some way set up as tolerable even if unbearable or intolerable and unbearable resulting in perhaps what Flores states as “addiction as an attachment disorder” and that the self is not fully assimilated and accommodated as in Piaget’s position on structural cognitive development.

        Klein’s theory centering
        although not exclusively gives a great deal of gravity from pre birth through and to around
        the 1st year or so and what instead is proposed is a complex and intra-psychic interplay that takes place between child and object(s) mostly of an unconscious Phantasy based nature.

        In particular Projective Identification is argued to help the primitive and developing “ego” by riding it of danger and badness and also good bits of unconscious affect by projecting these unbearable states out and into the (responding mother/other carers) “good breast” and
        whereby the parts of the self that are unwanted (shame sic) or unbearable are split off and away from the emerging self.

        It is proposed until the ego after a complex and ongoing process of splitting and reintegration is later sufficiently developed so to as to withstand the re-introjection of these affective and
        unconscious Phantasy like states and whereby along with other mechanisms and positions posited by Klein can then result in “healthy or normal” self regulation as opposed to a failure of these mechanisms and processes that are alternately argued to lead to pathogenic
        developments later in life.

        The focus of Klein’s work seems to hold well in attempting to describe pathological states of being, however on the other hand offers arguably a bad news bad news story of the genesis and development of mental illness. It is however argued in certain Psychoanalytic spheres to offer a great deal of illumination on the interplay in the therapeutic relationship between analyst and patient. For example, the therapeutic role of Projective Identification with its roots in Klein’s earliest theory is utilised but draws on the contribution of Bion (1959b) where introjection and identification are used in this therapeutic context to provide for an atmosphere where the failures in earlier object relations that have led to the development of later disturbances can be repaired by way of the client finding themselves in a mutually
        reciprocating environment Ogden also argues that the skilled analyst can “provide a pathway for psychological change by which feelings similar to those which the
        projector is struggling with (shame) are processed by the recipient, thus allowing the projector to identify with the recipient’s handling of the engendered feelings”

        The other and perhaps more salient of all is the theories insistence and perhaps fixed view that the earliest
        experiences are those that hold the utmost potential for disturbances into later life and
        perhaps the omission that these are open to change even without apparent intervention.
        For example there are optimistic neuropsychological arguments offered by Gerhardt, T. (2004) (and in your position Marc on IFT) in that “Whilst the hot amygdale stores powerful memories at an unconscious level
        and is not open to change, the “cool” hippocampus is involved in more conscious, verbal
        memory which is constantly being updated. This means that the verbal memory (relational) has much more flexibility and can play an important role in adapting to new circumstances.” See “Why Love Matters-how affection shapes a baby’s brain”. Relationship it seems really do matter in both a close and intimately felt sense and in a collective global external and contextual sense.

        As you say Marc a particular flavour of love and compassion offers much hope yet the journey is painful and the path is often less travelled as the more sedimented the unbearable sense of shame has become as seemingly fixed as if like the very colour of our eyes. It can feel indelible and in my opinion the more it has saturated then the more it is that we will inevitably feel cut out of hope, purpose and a meaningful possibility for lasting change.

        Thank you Marc and I hope this makes some sense it’s a real challenge trying to articulate something so concrete yet so arbitrary.

        • SMCG January 21, 2021 at 2:44 am #

          Your grammar is incredibly difficult to understand/read. Simplify.

          • CM January 21, 2021 at 3:00 pm #

            That’s fair enough and apologies it all kind of makes sense to me and if this blog had a delete button I’d probably remove it however there are other more succinct and hopefully easier to digest points made by Marc and others. Thank you for your honesty and I am sorry my lack of coherency made my points difficult to understand I will be mindful of this in the future ✌️✌️

            • SMCG January 21, 2021 at 7:45 pm #

              Thanks for the gracious reply. I was harsh in my comment but I gleaned a lot from your shared sentiments and just wish it was easier to understand all of the background research quoted.

              • Cm January 22, 2021 at 1:01 pm #

                Not at all harsh honest and direct thank you for the feedback have a great weekend.

                • Marc January 30, 2021 at 10:13 am #

                  Hey, you sound like such nice people. I’m glad you’re here!

  3. Robin Roger December 9, 2020 at 8:03 am #

    Your reference to animals brings to mind Frans de Waal’s illuminating book, Mama’s Last Hug, about the emotional life of animals. Extremely worthwhile to be aware of the emotional life of primates and how undeniable it is in human behaviour. You don’t use the word in your post, but I think it’s implied that humiliation is an extreme form of cruelty . Distinguishing the gradations of shame and humiliation might be useful, I’m not sure how similar and different they are. My impression is that people don’t completely come back from humiliation. It’s a form of soul murder.

    • Marc December 17, 2020 at 11:01 am #

      Hi Robin. I think of humiliation as the intentional evocation of shame in the “victim”, while shame is what that victim feels when the humiliation is successful. In small doses, humiliation can be useful. In fact I think parents in nearly all cultures use it to some degree. Here we notice the parent who “accepts” her child’s aggressive behaviour, and we think, that kid needs to be told off! Parenting without shaming can be like fighting a battle with paltry ammunition.

      But of course you’re talking about intense, focused humiliation, whose purpose is to induce pain, not to “improve behaviour.” And I agree with you. That’s real cruelty. We see that in movies (if not real life) and can’t help but cringe or look away. One thing that seems to separate us from other animals, is that “humiliation” is simply absent from their repertoire. Maybe other animals aren’t intelligent enough to imagine the pleasure of sadism. Even cats torment mice without a theory of mouse mind, without meaning to cause suffering.

  4. John Whelan, PhD December 9, 2020 at 8:59 am #

    Hi Marc: Thank you for keeping us in the reality of people’s lives. I have worked in addiction and trauma for over 35 years in more roles than I can count. Shame is probably the most important engine for addiction, especially for relapse. Based on my professional and personal experiences, I believe it is the re-experience of shame (in my case, experiencing alcohol blackouts as a teenager) already learned from other life experiences (being abused, bullied for being different in some way, growing up poor, or from any other form of ostracization) that both sets an addictive process in motion and keeps it going.

    I am a military veteran and have spent most of my career researching and treating serving and retired military for PTSD and addiction. Shame is central to the experience of military trauma (in most cases diagnosed soldiers report ACEs, began drinking/using drugs as teenagers but traded their reliance on substances for the promises of larger than life military identities). When substances again become the solution to self-soothe the crushing experience of loss of military pride – a fall from grace – I often see them just give up in disheartenment that is driven by shame. Your poignant comment that ‘the opposite of shame is not pride’ is incredibly important for military people to hear and understand. Often their unending search to restore identities based solely on pride keeps them from connecting with any other person in meaningful ways. Many of them just seem to get lost in a disconnected world centered on prescribed and non-prescribed substances.

    • Marc December 17, 2020 at 11:17 am #

      Fascinating. You make two important points. Shame from childhood wounds is often the driver of drug use. In other words, it’s the first cause on the cause-effect path that leads more and more deeply into addiction. And what shames us as children serves as a foundation for subsequent shaming experiences. It doesn’t go away.

      But your second point is often missed, and it needs to be understood. Pride is NOT the solution. If you read or listen to the song CM copied below, you’ll see a sweetened version of that very same dynamic. We try to overwrite shame with pride. I’m not afraid! I have a right to be here! I can imagine that, in war zones, this can lead to terrible abuses…viz aggression that is stylized and overdone, simply to prove that I’m not a coward, small and defeated.

      The only war zone I’ve ever fought in was boarding school — where the war was fought with cruel words and sometimes with fists. But my impression is that the ethos of wrenching oneself out of shame by proclaiming prideful superiority was the primary engine of male culture there and perhaps everywhere. (It was an all-boys school). It’s what we’re taught, often through humiliation by our own mentors. So it’s what we do. As you say, the final outcome is simply distance and disconnection, which is toxic for people taking drugs.

  5. Annette December 9, 2020 at 9:09 am #

    A lovely, wise and descriptive post, Marc. Aaaah, the heeby-jeebies of shame, how we hide but the blushing (mostly) gives us away and we excuse ourselves and go home to blame ourselves, or them, or all manner of things and people before we hit our fix once again.

    I recall many conversations with my brother about his drug addiction, but in a questioning way. He called himself a “fuck up” and that really saddened me. He couldn’t see anything good about himself. After he died, I got into the same state with booze, even though I held down a good job, and felt ashamed about who I’d become. And then one day, I’d had enough and put down the booze, before I ended up in a psychiatric unit like my brother, or my father (and he wasn’t a drinker.) Something inside me snapped and told me I was worth it. Five and a half years sober, I know I am.

    Self belief, faith and a solid community (tribe) of other pilgrims walking away from the shit-fest that is addiction. The latter is as important as the first two: getting sober isn’t a solo gig, it absolutely must be done in some kind of community, whether AA, NA or online forums including Club Soda and http://www.boozemusings.com

    And old friends. When I was most ashamed of myself, my old friends told me they still loved and appreciated me and that means and meant everything to me.

    These elements helped me find the real, deep and unique me, recreating a much happier, joy-filled life. My parents would be proud of me, and I know my husband and son are. That’s the reward…. <3

    • Marc December 17, 2020 at 11:50 am #

      Hi Annette. And a wise, descriptive response. Getting sober is definitely easier with a tribe (also moving in the same direction, cheering you on) around you. I’m not sure it’s absolutely essential though.

      When I got off opiates at age 30-31 I was very much alone. Which made it damn hard. But I think I felt what you describe as “something inside me snapped and told me I was worth it.” It was perhaps a fledgling feeling at that time, but I clung to it for dear life. I ran around my apartment putting up little signs urging me to keep at it.

      Now, my present addiction being IFS, I see this “something” as what they call The Self….a pretty unhelpful term actually, but it refers to that warm place right at the centre of you that recognizes your pain and shame and still loves you. I think that source of compassion and hope can work well for people in the process of quitting, even when they are mostly alone. For some, it’s all that’s available.

  6. C goul December 9, 2020 at 10:09 am #

    Thank you Marc, for this. Thank you all for your comments. Recently, after going over past( drug use) with counselor (whose facility already HAS my history) It goes back to age 13 (I’m 56). Anyway, I relapsed. 4 hits of methamphetamine. It WAS glorious!!! A relief. For 2 hours, then paranoia, guilt, remorse. Again. I will continue to trudge thru this life and fight that crap. The counselor was less than happy when I had told her I lied over past 10months. Then proceeded to tell me she was booked the whole month of January. lol oh well.

    • Marc December 17, 2020 at 11:54 am #

      It’s a shame that she seems to have punished you for the very thing you went to her for help with. But that’s often how the system works. All the more unfortunate, because these people, perhaps inadvertently, use shame to try to browbeat people into quitting. That almost never works…at least not for long.

      Good luck taking care of yourself. See the above comments, and tell yourself you are indeed worth it!

  7. Eva December 10, 2020 at 2:28 pm #

    Raised in a fundamentally religious family with a minister as head of household, I encountered shame regularly because my parents employed it as one of their go-to discipline strategies. The other favorite was corporal punishment. Shame has informed all my choices and my sense of morality as well as my addictive behaviors for as long as I can remember. My 5 siblings and I, ages 60-75, have struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues all our lives, and only now am I coming to understand how addiction and humiliation are inextricably linked. Thank you for your insights. I can see my way out of darkness.

    • Marc December 17, 2020 at 11:58 am #

      You’re very welcome. That sounds like such a dark and hazardous environment. No wonder you and your sibs had to struggle to fine a soft, easy connection with yourselves.

      It’s so tragic that religious people often turn against “soft and easy” because they are so afraid of what they see as wrongdoing. Perhaps their hearts are in the right place, or at least their intentions make some sense, but they get parenting so wrong… Quite a few of my clients, struggling with addiction, have stories similar to yours.

  8. Eric Nada December 11, 2020 at 12:03 pm #

    Marc, This is a really beautiful post, thanks. Shame is by far the most debilitating pattern of emotion I can feel. No emotional energy transports me so quickly into the most vulnerable and primordial parts of my personal wounds. Luckily I seem to feel it less often as the years go by but it is just so disruptive to experience. I will be referring people to this post for sure. (And I will be in touch after I have explored IFS in some detail for sure. Thanks).

    • Marc December 17, 2020 at 10:13 am #

      Thanks for sharing this, Eric. One of the most interesting things about shame is that it pushes us to either hide from or attack whoever we has dropped an unpleasant remark or whatever it is. When the actual cause of shame’s burst of pain has very little to do with that person or the present tense at all. Other emotions don’t seem to be so deeply lodged between the now and the then. Kind of fascinating.

      • Eric Nada December 18, 2020 at 11:19 am #

        Marc, Agreed. It reminds me also of being pushed more along the continuum of either chaos or rigidity. And I agree that any reactions I have to the outside world are just exposing what’s inside of me. But as you say, shame is one of those emotions that can get in there so quickly it’s hard not to blame the person or situation that inspired the internal reaction. It is both such a relief and responsibility to learn to take responsible for my reactions, learning to point the proverbial finger at myself instead of to the outside world. (And did I already tell you I will be in touch as soon as I get some IFS reading under my belt).

  9. CM December 12, 2020 at 6:51 pm #

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwLIBmoVgzU

    I am not a stranger to the dark
    Hide away, they say
    ‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
    I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
    Run away, they say
    No one’ll love you as you are
    But I won’t let them break me down to dust
    I know that there’s a place for us
    For we are glorious
    When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
    I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
    I am brave, I am bruised
    I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
    Look out ’cause here I come
    And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
    I’m not scared to be seen
    I make no apologies, this is me
    Oh-oh-oh-oh
    Oh-oh-oh-oh
    Oh-oh-oh-oh
    Oh-oh-oh-oh
    Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
    Another round of bullets hits my skin
    Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
    We are bursting through the barricades and
    Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
    Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)
    I won’t let them break me down to dust
    I know that there’s a place for us
    For we are glorious
    When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
    I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
    I am brave, I am bruised
    I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
    Look out ’cause here I come
    And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
    I’m not scared to be seen
    I make no apologies, this is me
    Oh-oh-oh-oh
    Oh-oh-oh-oh
    Oh-oh-oh-oh
    Oh-oh-oh-oh
    Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
    This is me
    and I know that I deserve your love
    (Oh-oh-oh-oh) ’cause there’s nothing I’m not worthy of
    (Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh)
    When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
    I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
    This is brave, this is proof
    This is who I’m meant to be, this is me
    Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)
    And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
    I’m not scared to be seen
    I make no apologies, this is me
    When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
    I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
    I’m gonna send a flood
    Gonna drown them out

    • Marc December 17, 2020 at 10:22 am #

      The song gave me shivers at first. But then, I hear this bravado as a counter against shame so often. It seems the culturally favoured response. And it kinda sorta works….not so well. “Accept me as I am! I’m not scared to be seen!” Yeah right, if only. I admire the audacity and the courage of fighting back in this way. And I feel the isolation and pain that powers this response. But as we see in every tough street kid, football hoodlum, suicidal rock star….and on and on….you can just end up beating your head against a wall and feel all the more defeated afterward.

      Mind you, when you get to movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter, when you get that kind of support and connection for others like you, marching together so to speak, maybe that’s when this kind of defiance really works…and is exactly what’s needed.

  10. CM December 12, 2020 at 7:11 pm #

    For us who feel that our struggles as humans mean we are less than who we feel we should be. For those of us who feel this way because we’re vulnerable and have human size struggles that leave us feeling ashamed of the very fact we struggle. For those of us who have wobbled and sometimes immersed in substances, alcohol or behaviours or have spent time under or over eating and have not done what we believe is right for us to give our minds bodies and spirit what it needs. For those of us who look out at a world where every one has their act all packed up and sorted when we feel we don’t. For those of us who feel because we struggle that our voices are not worthwhile and that because we can’t measure up to the worlds ideals that we don’t deserve our place at life’s banquet. For those of us who think we’ll never get it right and that maybe there’s just no point in trying.

    I’d like to say this!

    For those of us who currently feel like this, have felt like this or will likely feel like this. You are not unworthy, there is nothing wrong with you in fact you are an amazing and compassionate and enlightened human being who just sometimes especially more so maybe recently gets overwhelmed with the pain of existence and of trying to mediate the crazy messages from a crazy world. I’m telling you that you are just fine!

    Try asking yourself this the next time you spiral into self loathing and spiralling shame. What is wrong with this world that it would make such beautiful human beings feel so worthless when they are not. What is it about this world that places superficialities above the core essence and true beauty of human beings. What is it about this world that espouses to care yet promotes fear, control and self hatred and distrust of ourselves and others and then wonders why we all end up feeling so alone and odd and different and isolated. What is it about this world that’s so frightened to accept human beings for what they are – Self enabling, truth seeking, expansive, compassionately enabling, imperfect, vulnerable, magnificent creators who get lost by all the mixed messages that leave us blaming ourselves instead of the world that tries to extinguish our light.

    You already are all you’ll ever need to be!

    • Marc January 30, 2021 at 10:22 am #

      A beautiful meditation, or should I say tribute? CM.

      What is it about this world? Possibly that so many of us feel damaged, scared and shamed….the accumulation of our efforts to avoid and retreat lead us to distrust others and often to blame them. An enormous convergence of need, fear, and shame that takes various paths, like water finding ruts in the desert and turning them into entrenched riverbeds. This world…it’s just the natural tendency toward spontaneous synchronization, but the sad thing is that it’s our fears and doubts that often cohere…into cultural forces that feed back and harm us.

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