May 15, 2018

One Man's Journey of Healing Shame - Part 2

This week, Dolan continues his series and explores how we can transform shame by connecting to it's meaning or purpose in our lives.


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When I first heard my therapist gently tell me, "Dolan, you are shamed to the core," I didn’t know how to react. What does that mean? It felt so disturbing. I didn’t like how it sounded, but it felt true.

What does shamed to the core mean? It means that shame goes all the way deep down to your core. Shame influences your core beliefs about yourself. It may mean you think, feel and believe you’re unlovable. Or it may mean you think, feel and believe you’re unworthy. Of course neither one of these are true. It just feels that way when you are shamed to the core.

I was shamed to the core. I thought very little of myself. This had many ripple effects. Shamed to the core could cross the line to self-loathing which was not good. But strangely, in this weird sort of way, self-loathing seemed right. A perverted sense of justice. Since I was unworthy, I didn’t deserve love. I deserved contempt. Shamed to the core made self-compassion and self-love difficult to give to myself.

One of the common themes in my therapy was to feel my feelings. When I started ,I didn’t even know what that meant. But I eventually learned. I trusted my therapist; I was willing to feel my feelings. She encouraged me to feel my pain and shame. That’s not really what I wanted to do. What I wanted was my pain and shame to stop. But after over 30 plus years of trying it my way without success, I decided to try her way.

Learning to feel my feelings had benefits. I learned I didn’t have to fear my feelings like I once did. I learned how to identify my feelings, which was helpful. But feeling my feelings never made my shame go away.

I had this idea in my mind, that if I could just get to the root of my shame, if I could just feel it deeply enough, I could get rid of it once and for all. So I kept feeling my shame, again and again, always trying to go deeper. 

One inspired day while reading some metaphysics, the author said that even single celled organisms had some form of consciousness. That inspired a thought. I wondered if I could feel shame all the way down in my cells.

I closed the windows and drew the blinds. I laid down on my bed and quieted my mind. I closed my eyes and became still. I was trying to feel as deeply as I could, all the way down to my cells I was feeling deeper and deeper. Bam! There it was. I felt shame in my cells. This disturbed me. WTF? My first thought was, I’m screwed. I’m never going to escape shame. What does that mean? Then I took a few breaths and collected myself. My next thought was I wonder if shame goes even further. I wonder if there is shame in my cell’s nucleus.

Again, I calmed my mind and lay still, feeling as deeply as I could. Slowly, slowly feeling. Slowing my heart rate and my breathing. Then boom! There it was. Shame was in my DNA. I couldn’t believe it. But this time I didn’t feel disturbed. I was curious. Shame in my DNA, hmm. What does that mean? I pondered the idea. Well, if shame is in my DNA, then it means it’s not my fault. It’s not my fault I feel shame. I have no control over it. Just like I have no control over my eye color, skin color, or height. It’s in my DNA. It’s not my fault. I’m normal. Whew, what a relief!

Shame is a normal human emotion. Everyone feels shame. But people just don’t go around talking about it. This is what makes shame tricky. There are so few models on how to deal with it successfully.

Realizing that shame was in my DNA, I began to change how I thought about shame. Getting to the bottom of it and being done with it once and for all wasn’t an option. I needed to learn how to resolve the shame.

It wasn’t till I read the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl that I found the missing piece. This book tells Frankl’s story about surviving multiple Nazi death camps. In his book Frankl writes, "Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning."

This was the key. This was the missing piece. I considered feeling shame to be suffering. So I needed to find the meaning in my shame if I wanted it to stop. 

As soon as I learned to find the meaning in feeling shame, the shame stopped. It was surreal and surprising. It is not only possible for shame to stop, it is a shock and an immense relief when it does.



Read Part 3


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Dolan Mayeda is an author, coach, and chiropractic kinesiologist. He enjoys swimming, cooking, and his family tradition of making mochi. He lives and practices in San Diego, CA. 


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