28 October 2014

Shame Resilience Final Post

What better way to wrap up a series of posts than to write about a personal experience that illustrates the main points? And even better if one hasn't planned it, if it just happens when one is out of control.

Photo by William Marsh
To recap a bit: I was diagnosed with occipital neuralgia this spring, and began treatments in August. At that time, I understood the doctor to say that the treatments may help or even eliminate the migraines. To my surprise and shame, I realized I was feeling afraid of getting better -- I wrote about it in this post in August.

(It turns out I'd misunderstood; the treatments rarely make a big difference with migraine, though they do well eliminating the neck and back-of-the-head pain.)

That was embarrassing. However, this blog explores and processes the interactions of spirit and chronic pain, so I wrote the post despite embarrassment. And shame. And feeling like there was something wrong with me. That post has turned out to be one of my most-viewed ever. It would seem that others struggle with the chronic-ness of life as I do.

As I reflected on and did some research about shame, I came across Brene Brown and an interview she gave, here in Spirituality and Health Magazine. The bit on shame at the end of the interview became the basis of this series of posts, of which this is the sixth and final.

So here's where the lessons all begin to flow together. Last Friday, I had a treatment for occipital neuralgia. Before the doctor began the injections, we talked about next steps. But I had a migraine, and was still caught up in the original confusion, and so I misunderstood my doctor to say that there was no further treatment and he couldn't give me more of these injections (they're steroids, and will atrophy the muscles). Suddenly I thought I'd be stuck with the pain whose absence the past 12 weeks had been such a relief. And I just about bawled, right there in his office. (I did cry, but later, while lying down until the dizziness caused the the injections passed.) 

While the tears smeared my mascara, I suddenly realized that the fear of healing I'd 'fessed up to in August was gone. I wanted the healing. I'd had it for twelve blessed weeks, had experienced some improvement in quality of life, and was NOT going to give it up. What a turn-around from the original post!

As I lay there I also realized how the blogging illustrates the process of attaining shame resilience.

Writing that August post helped me understand and name something that caused me shame. The process of getting it out, as well as
the comments and interest in the post, helped me practice compassionate awareness when the shame returned. More aware and open, I found the Brene Brown interview and ended up writing about what I was going through.

It's serendipity. Or God's guidance. Or the leading of a spirit guide. Or the will of Allah. However we understand and describe these marvelous comings-together of spirit and mind and experience, they are surely more available to us when we practice the awareness and compassion that come with greater openness and honesty. I have come to see shame resilience as an important part of it all.


Thanks for reading my blog. You can leave a comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.


22 October 2014

Shame Resilience -- Part 5

This is part of a short series of posts on 'shame resilience.' The concept is Brene Brown's, and I'm simply making written ruminations on an interview published in Spirituality and Health.

 To recap, I am recasting Brown's theory of shame resilience into a process of sorts. Using her four characteristics of persons who are shame resilient (found at the end of the interview), I proposed a series of steps:

Step One: Learn what triggers our shame (see this post)

Step Two: Practice 'critical' -- I prefer the word 'compassionate' --  self-awareness (see this post)

Step Three: Reach out (see this post)

Step Four: Know what shame is (today's post)

 The phrase, "know what shame is," is Brown's. For the purposes of this series of posts that reframes her theory as a process, I think "stay aware of shame" works better.

Photo by William Marsh



Shame is formed in us when we're very young. We're not going to rid ourselves of it reading a series of blog posts and practicing for a few days. The real work, at least in my experience, is on-going. But not on-going in the sense of endlessly circling. It's on-going in the sense of a spiral that is leading us into the center that holds our truth.



 

I've written a lot about awareness (here and here, for example) and how it has become part of my pain management practice. Awareness generally, and self-awareness specifically, are essential for a mature spiritual life. For shame resilience, awareness means being conscious of feelings of shame as soon as they arise so we can apply what we've learned from Brene Brown: practice compassionate awareness and, as needed, reach out to someone else for talk or counsel or therapy.

Two points, now:

1. Again, this is an on-going practice. Feelings of shame and its corollaries -- guilt, low self-esteem -- are ready to arise at any time, no matter how long we've practiced resilience. That's why awareness is so important. We're not going to be able to stop the feelings altogether, and although they will gradually lose their sting and become less present, our best defense is to be aware.

2. Mature awareness is non-judgmental. Meaning, we're not saying to ourselves, "Oh, what an idiot I am, here are these feelings of shame again and I'll never learn..." Rather, we say to ourselves, "I'm feeling ashamed of this." Nothing more, because that's all we need before we move on to compassionate self-awareness.

In my next post, I'll wrap up this series.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can leave a comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.
 

18 October 2014

Shame Resilience, Part 4

This is part of a short series of posts on 'shame resilience.' The concept is Brene Brown's, and I'm simply making written ruminations on an interview published in Spirituality and Health.

 To recap, I am recasting Brown's theory of shame resilience into a process of sorts. Using her four characteristics of persons who are shame resilient (found at the end of the interview), I proposed a series of steps:

Step One: Learn what triggers our shame (see this post)

Step Two: Practice 'critical' -- I prefer the word 'compassionate' --  self-awareness (see this post)

Step Three: Reach out (today's post)

REACHING OUT
It's a lot easier to talk about shame if we can name, or be encouraged to name, what triggers it and are willing to develop the compassionate self-awareness that helps us face it honestly and with loving forgiveness toward ourselves. 

Photo by William Marsh

Even then, we need to be careful who we reach out to. Simply put, this person needs to be someone we can trust with our vulnerability. If they prove unworthy of our trust, we need to find another confidante. And we want to assess the level of our need: is this a deeply held shame that needs the professional attention of a minister, counselor or therapist? Or it may be that we simply reach out in apology to someone, or
go back and re-do a task we're not proud of.
 



Brene Brown says, in the interview I've linked to above, that "shame can't survive being spoken. Talking cuts shame off at its knees."

I am no expert. For the past thirty years, I've felt my way through this tricky terrain with the aide of all the resources I could find: a minister, a pastoral counselor, a spiritual director, good friends, family, my husband. So I don't pretend that this series of posts alone is enough to really help anyone suffering from inner shame.

But I have learned enough to perceive a deep truth in what Brown says. And I hope these posts plant a seed or encourage others to look further in their search for gaining shame resilience.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can leave a comment below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.
 

16 October 2014

Resources -- Meditation and Prayer

If I were more spiritual, I might have a never-fail meditation and prayer practice every single day. But I'm not, and I imagine there are a few others out there like me, so here are some resources of the sort I've used when getting quiet is difficult and finding spaciousness is beyond the capability of my restless mind.


Photo by William Marsh

A video (with music, spoken words and photos) for morning Christian prayer:


I like this deep prayer video for its simplicity:


This is voice-guided, no music -- a basic, very practical guide for a Buddhist Metta meditation that is very prayerful:




Thank you for reading my blog. You can leave a comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.
 

14 October 2014

Shame Resilience, Part 3

This is part of a short series of posts on 'shame resilience.' The concept is Brene Brown's, and I'm simply making written ruminations on an interview published in Spirituality and Health.

At the end of my previous post, I said I'd write a bit about how I imagine shame resilience, meditation and awareness go together. I was using Brown's thoughts on the characteristics of people who are shame resilient, only recasting them as steps in a process.

The first step is to gain an understanding of what triggers our feelings of shame as persons with a chronic illness (mental or physical) and/or chronic pain.

The second step is to use this new understanding to practice critical awareness.This is where I believe meditation or prayer or deep reflection -- whichever suits you -- comes in.

What is critical awareness? The word critical in that phrase does not mean to criticize or to be critical in a judgmental sense. It's a matter of simply being aware -- without judgment or frustration and without rushing to 'fix' ourselves -- of when our feelings of shame are triggered. And my own experience has taught me that regular meditation is a wonderful tool for becoming self-aware without becoming self-judgmental.

There's an article I love about this in a magazine I rarely read: O, The Oprah Magazine. The article is called "Boost Your Self-Esteem With Meditation."

Photo by William Marsh
It begins with some rather generic encouragement and information about meditation and self-esteem, which is helpful mostly for setting up the final section of the piece, about how to meditate for self-esteem. And since I'm trying to get over a migraine right now, I'll just refer you to the article and take up this series when I feel better.

One final thought: meditation is not a magic, one-time fix. I have said before that these kinds of inner and spiritual changes come about only in the context of a life that includes regular practice of meditation or prayerful reflection.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can leave a comment below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com