As men, we often want to begin taking more control of our lives, mastering and expressing our emotional truths, and attracting the kinds of experiences that we really want to have. However, one of the biggest things that gets in our way and stops us from being able to achieve this is shame. Before we dive in, let’s get clear on exactly what shame is.
What is shame?
Shame is incredibly slippery, and it can be hard to get a steady handle on it, because we often misunderstand shame to be an emotion, rather than what it truly is: a story. It’s a story that we instill in ourselves and continue to tell ourselves in order to explain why on earth something so terrible would happen to us at a given moment. When we have no way to respond to a terrible occurrence, particularly when we’re too young to be able to fully integrate the magnitude of the event, we find ourselves at a cosmic loss. In that moment of early violation, the first layer of our ego is created, and we begin telling ourselves things like, “well I must be unlovable,” or “I must be toxic, and that’s why I was rejected”, why this happened to me, or why I didn’t receive the love or acceptance that my soul expected.
We do this to protect ourselves from further violations. The only problem is the story keeps going past the point when we need the protection. Like today. Like right now.
We continue on building this shame-based layer of our ego, in order to protect ourselves from the core layer of pain beneath everything else. All the other feelings we experience are remembrances, reminders and reenactments of that core feeling, and we don’t want to feel these either, therefore to keep ourselves from feeling, we turn to shame. We actively shame ourselves and each other, and we cultivate a culture of fear to the extent that we suddenly find ourselves in a world where we can’t do or say certain things, for fear of the big bad wolf in the closet.
We do all of this just to avoid feeling, but we need to be able to properly feel our emotions and our pain in order to build healthy relationships. So, to help you sort through this layer of shame, here are 4 truths you may not have considered.
1. Shame is emotional antimatter
When we experience “big” feelings, we often tell ourselves things like, “I shouldn’t be feeling this”, “I must be a burden”, “I’m wrong”, “I’m unlovable”, etc. We keep telling ourselves these stories about ourselves and our faults because we’re afraid to go deeper into that initial feeling. One thing we all learn along the way is that emotions are important, and learning to feel them is a good idea. Shame stops us from feeling by never letting us get past our negative thoughts about the feeling itself. The problem with that is it keeps us stuck. Keep reading.
2. Shame keeps us stuck
Shame is responsible for keeping us stuck in the weeds of a feeling or an emotion. It “protects” us from the path that would ultimately lead to our healing and our authentic expression in the world, because our shame tells us that something bad will happen if we allow ourselves to feel that feeling properly. This may stem from previous childhood experiences where we were able to fully feel things, but it resulted in an overall negative experience, or even a traumatic one. So we associated the act of feeling a thing with the negative consequence it seemed to create. Naturally, we don’t want to repeat that type of experience, so we settle for the scraps of what we can, for a life that’s mediocre, rather than taking the risk of getting hurt in that way again. But we need to understand that this risk is necessary – we can only be freed and allowed to live our fullest lives by getting through the difficult emotions and feelings, and getting past our stories of shame. Again, shame is not an emotion, it’s a mental construct we created in order to not feel.
3. Shame causes disconnection + destruction
When you think about it, people who are hurt will in turn hurt others. Not on purpose necessarily, but because they don’t have the emotional capacity to properly recognize hurt in themselves, let alone others. When we see people, sometimes we think they don’t like us, or that they think badly of us, just because of an instinctive feeling we have, or maybe a misinterpretation of a glance they gave us. As a result, we may avoid engaging with them. Then, the response from them is likely to be negative as well: they see us not engaging with them and they think it’s because we’re judging them or don’t like them, when actually we were just afraid of an invented negativity in them.
We share this bullshit belief that we see each other as less-than, or as being wrong, or as jerks, and this circular belief isolates us; it doesn’t allow ourselves to be in true connection with each other. Shame spreads.
4. Shame is more powerful than fear
The simple fact is, people fear humiliation more than death. Men often can’t feel their fear because their shame is blocking them from that. It protects us from getting to our core layer of emotions, because it doesn’t want us to eventually get through to that place where fear can take over. We would rather stay at the protection level, or the shame level, of our emotional centers, than to actually go on the journey of learning how to integrate some of these emotions. What’s important to understand is that these emotions actually point to our core experiences, experiences that hold so much of our feeling, power, confidence, sexual drive, connective, creative, entrepreneurial drive, and passion. In order to unlock these qualities, we must work through our shame.
These 4 truths are the keys to unlocking our emotional core and pushing through to live full lives of creative expression and freedom. I want to help you unlock the idea of shame, and how you can use your understanding of shame as a tool to access core feelings and process them properly.
If anything I’ve said here sounds familiar to you, you may be interested in my upcoming masterclass, Emotional Flow/Mastery for Men. Check it out: https://www.pietervw.com/event/emotional-flow-mastery/