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





06 October 2014

Shame Resilience, Part 2

I have started 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.

Brown's theory about shame resilience is that we live in a culture that measures success, especially in the younger generations, by how much attention we get and how big our lives seem. A small, quiet life, she fears, looks to be a life that means little because it has none of these hallmarks of how we measure success. She believes this phenomenon induces shame. I agree with her premise, and would add to her concern other markers of success -- how much money we make, how important our job is, what car we drive -- as well as the ways we regard and treat those around us and ourselves when we don't measure up.

Her words struck me as very relevant to the lives of those of us who struggle with chronic mental or physical illness and/or chronic pain. In my previous post I began to discuss Brown's theory of shame resilience, as described in a few paragraphs at the end of the interview, and as I felt it relates to our circumscribed lives.

Here again are what she calls the characteristics of people who are shame resilient (nota bene: in my previous post, I referred to these characteristics as 'steps' toward becoming shame resilient, but that's my interpretation, and not what the few paragraphs say):

People who are shame resilient -- 
     know what shame is
     understand what activates their feelings of shame
     practice critical awareness
     reach out.

Looking at these as steps (again, my idea and not Brown's), I said the first step would be to understand what activates our feelings of shame, and I talked about the ways chronic illness triggers shame.

The second step would be to use that self-understanding to practice critical awareness. 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. That takes some ability to step back and notice our thoughts and feelings, something I believe can best happen in the context of a life that includes daily practice of meditation or prayer or reflection.


Here is a series I wrote a while ago on meditation:
'Trying to Meditate' is an Oxymoron
Meditation for (Distracted) Dummies (Like Me), Part 1
Meditation for (Distracted) Dummies (Like Me), Part 2

In my next post, I'll write more about how awareness, meditation and shame resilience work together.




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


03 October 2014

Practicing "Shame Resilience"

I linked to an interview of Brene Brown on a previous post because she talks about vulnerability and shame in a way I've not seen before:

How Vulnerability Holds the Key to Emotional Intimacy

Her thoughts about shame, in notes at the end of the interview, are even more intriguing. I want to explore them in the next few posts, applying her formula to the kinds of shame we may feel with chronic illness or pain, emotional or physical.

"Everyone is going to experience feelings of shame, yet we can become more 'shame resilient.'"

Brown lists four characteristics to shame resilience:
     Know what shame is.
     Understand what activates your feelings of shame.
     Practice critical awareness.
     Reach out.

KNOW WHAT SHAME IS and UNDERSTAND WHAT ACTIVATES IT
Many of us avoid vulnerability because shame can be closely attached to it. We've shared with people who turned out to be untrustworthy and mocked our vulnerability. Or we have learned shame through religion (for example, the concept of original sin) or the way we were taught in school or disciplined by our parents.

Brown's first step is 'know what shame is.' She says that people who have a healthy relationship with shame can simply name it without guilt, without applying an emotion like embarrassment to it. I'm not sure why this is first on the list. To me, she has a process in these steps, and I wonder if knowing what shame is might come later in the process, if not at the very end. So I'm going to begin with her second step: understanding what activates our shame.

Being sick, in pain or emotionally distressed most of the time makes us feel very, very vulnerable. And though the vulnerability of having a visible illness is bad, the invisible illnesses -- mental health challenges, chronic pain from a hidden source -- can be as difficult in its hidden-ness. "You look fine." And there you are, self-esteem slipping away on that wave of shame that is often so overpowering.

Applying Brown's formula to living with chronic illness means you discover exactly what about your chronic illness causes you shame. Is it about being visibly different from others? Does it come from being unable to keep up, produce, or work in the way that your peers can? Are you afraid that others are judging you as lazy or unsociable or wimpy? Are you worried that your friends are tired of always having to accommodate your illness? Do you feel guilty because your spouse works hard to support the family while you cannot work at all?

Naming the source and character of our shame sets us on the course to healing, to what Brown calls 'shame resilience.' But even if we're accustomed to doing this kind of self-examination, it can be very painful to reveal to ourselves feelings we've hidden for a long time. It might be a good idea to have a trusted friend or family member, a counselor or a pastor talk this through with us.

Photo by William Marsh
I think this step is the hardest. But it's necessary in order to get to the healing. My brother and I have a saying: "You have to slog through the mud to get to the other side where the healing is." Naming our shame and talking about it sinks us deep into the mud. Don't start it without someone there to throw a rope.


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

Everyone is going to experience feelings of shame, yet we can become more “shame resilient,” says Brown. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/bren%C3%A9-brown-how-vulnerability-holds-key-emotional-intimacy/page/0/2#sthash.qUaqsvgD.dpuf
Everyone is going to experience feelings of shame, yet we can become more “shame resilient,” says Brown. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/bren%C3%A9-brown-how-vulnerability-holds-key-emotional-intimacy/page/0/2#sthash.qUaqsvgD.dpuf
Everyone is going to experience feelings of shame, yet we can become more “shame resilient,” says Brown. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/bren%C3%A9-brown-how-vulnerability-holds-key-emotional-intimacy/page/0/2#sthash.qUaqsvgD.dpuf