SHAME FOR FUTURE!
My name is Ann La-Forker and this is my coming out. I am a shame gourmet. You might think I am crazy. So let me explain how I came to be a shame gourmet. “Shame blocks our natural instinct for connection.” is what Peter Levine, trauma expert and founder of Somatic Experiencing says. I agree. And I would like to add another perspective. Is it really shame that blocks us from healthy relationships? Or isn’t it our un-ability to deal with that uncomfortable feeling – because we are so deeply ashamed?
The rehabilitation of an unloved feeling
A large part of our life energy and creativity is bound up in a feeling that we don’t really want to know because we are afraid it could devastate us – shame. Shame is a central human relational feeling. If we want to tap into our capacity for caring and cooperation in a sustainable way for our future, we should turn to this “unrecognised beauty”. I have decided to unearth this treasure. Shame is our most valuable compass for restoring coherence. It is unjustly marginalised.
How do we meet the complex challenges of our time? The key lies in the most complex of all feelings – shame.Only serious work with our shame allows us sustainable future.
It determines the level of our integrity.
It holds the energy needed for change.
Without it there is no credibility.
With it we have direct access to the creator force.
Individual Shame – curse or blessing?
Shame is one of the most challenging feelings for us humans. Shame is really tricky. We can play it cool, deny or reject shame – but finally we cannot get around it, it is part of our humanity. In the healing process it is often the big invisible obstacle. But with a good portion of goodwill and courage and a good pinch of humour, we can face the “elephant in the room”.
Shame is often associated with very unpleasant memories. Spontaneous associations are the inner experience of humiliation, inferiority, even annihilation. All this arises from the field of toxic shame. We have been shamed. By being asked to do too much, by being neglected, by not having our limits respected, by being measured by our achievements, by being compared to others. This is not okay. And yet it was so.
An ambivalence that we will also encounter again and again later in our lives – as an invitation to mature into the unshakability of our dignity. But at first, our soul has only two ways to respond to existential shame. “I’m a mistake” or “I’m infallible” are early coping mechanisms to make sense out of something meaningless in a makeshift way – they simply ensure our survival.
“Did this really happen to me?” What is not allowed to be, is wrapped in a bubble of shame. A very effective protection to avoid feeling the pain and to prevent further injuries. Unfortunately, by doing so, we block access to our life energy just as effectively and lose a great deal of freedom. We build our self-image and our lives around these shame bubbles. That makes us feel secure. But it is a deceptive security. Because very likely our soul is starving to death by doing so.
So how do we achieve integrity with ourselves? In my experience, the way is through integrity with the feeling of shame itself. By building a real relationship with this dreaded feeling, the phantom loses its terror and we discover wonderful sides of ourselves that we never dreamed of.
Collective Shame – living in the goldfish bowl
Shame is a relational feeling. It can interweave and interconnect in many ways and invisibly. Our individual shame bubble is embedded in the shame bubbles of the environment in which we grow up. Family, home, society. Unnoticed, a silent consensus about “allowed” and “taboo” evolves until it becomes the norm. The “blind spot” blurs into a new “normal”. The original wound sinks into the unconscious. Everyone agrees to like “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.
It can be shameful to grow up in a traumatised family field, in a traumatised society. I feel wrong and alien with my “innocent impulses” because pretty much everyone around me has agreed on something else, protectively placing themselves around the hurt that has not been worked through. If we dare to question this inflexible construct, we face the harshness of the guardians. Blame, ignorance or exclusion, in short – active shaming, are common forms of shame defence – the energetic gap has to be filled with something.
It is not easy to face the dark part of our humanity. The cruelties, the murders, the humiliations, the betrayals. When it concerns us, the ground becomes momentarily wobbly. Our safety is in jeopardy. But our agreement that the emperor is wearing beautiful new clothes does not change the fact that he is naked.
And that is where the call for a paradigm shift comes in. We are faced with a choice. Do we allow the unfelt shame of the unresolved in our past to torpedo our precious relationships in the “today now and here”? Does the imperative of safety really take precedence over connection with our fellow human beings, our loved ones and our children?
Control at the expense of connection? Courageous border crossers keep us awake and ask us this uncomfortable question! They confront us with the limitations of our perception. Socially, too, we need a soul update from time to time.
Shame For Future – rewriting history
Even society needs a soul update every now and then … and right now we are negotiating nothing less than the rift between us and ourselves. It affects us when somewhere far away on this planet people deprive people of their rights or kill them. We can pretend it’s “the others”, somewhere, far away. I am convinced that in our depths we feel shame, as human beings among human beings, belonging as we are. What does this shame want from us?
A narcissistic society, much like an early shamed person, can only respond to shaming with shaming. In the truncated narrative of guilt – whether our own or that of others – the toxic spell of dominance and helplessness continues to have us firmly in its grip.
A mature society is composed of individually matured people who have empowered themselves to be able to consciously make a different choice. Who are capable of being touched and acting. Shame has a positive function. It reveals voids. Between what we want to see and the naked truth. Between what is and what could be. Shame shows us that we belong. Shame indicates that we share values. Shame shows us that we want to take responsibility. Shame shows our love for life. And because shame is a relational feeling, it also offers us the greatest opportunity for the sustainable healing of our relationships.
So the point cannot be to banish shame from the human experience. What are we left with then? The emperor IS naked. Only seeing the naked truth gives us the ground for insight and new action. And for being trustworthy again as human beings.
Feeling shame – can we stand at this highly energetic point of impending annihilation? And listen to what is the next evolutionary step into a more mature humanity? Where we don’t threaten each other out of self-protection, but draw our safety from connection?
Curious to read more? Find more articles on my Substack publication page Essential writings of a shame gourmet.