"Shame must be healed within relationship", my teacher recently said.
The instinct to hide parts of us, that for one reason or another, we have deemed unlikeable, inadequate, or unacceptable, is wired into our systems to protect us from rejection because, in biological terms, rejection could threaten survival.
We are tribal creatures. We depend on each another to survive from day one of our lives. If we are rejected from our parents or caregivers, it could actually mean death. This biology runs through our bodies. The drive to belong, to fit in, and to contort ourselves to be liked may not be a sign of unhealthy co-dependence and vanity, but instead, a survival need to be connected.
"Interesting", I thought. This backs up so much of my own experience, both with my own shame and that of countless students.
At Solsara, shame is welcome. What we have found is that shame dissipates when exposed. In fact, it is the holding, hiding, and concealing that gives shame power. When we stand in front of one, two, or even a group of people and name, "I am not good enough", "I don't like the way my body looks", "I doubt myself", or whatever is true for us, and stay in connection, shame releases its grip and fear fades.
Don't get me wrong here, this is not always easy. It requires courage and gets easier with practice. The "shame grip" can be so tight and so convincing that to reveal the shame would essentially mean... death. Have you felt that in your own experience? Perhaps the threat is not immediately physical, but the fear of social death can feel very real.
If you've ever stood in front of a group of people and shared vulnerably, then maybe you know what I'm talking about... wink, wink to the Solsara grads ;-)
All this is to say, we all have shame and we all hide it. Shame does not mean you are flawed (careful not to shame the shame 'cause that's definitely not fun ;-). Shame is an inherent part of being human. Wanting to belong and be 'a part of' is being human. How we go about tending to the shame is crucial.
My suggestion? Welcome it. Welcome it as an inherent part of life. Welcome it as an indicator of your desire to be connected, loved, and accepted. Be kind to yourself for having shame and do your best, in your own way, not to let it hide for too long or too deep. Find spaces where you feel safe to express, whether that's in your journal, with your partner or friends, with a therapist, or in an intentional group setting. I bet you'll find that the more you express your shame to loving, accepting, and understanding ears, the less and less shame will rule your life and the freer you will become.
This last part is important though. The other end of this equation, the person or people that are hearing about your shame-filled bits, need to be available to receive you with care and compassion. When my teacher said that shame is healed through relationship, this is what she was talking about; it's one part revealing and one part being received. This practice is what will build your shame resilience and lead to a whole-hearted life in which all of you is welcome.