Saturday, September 14, 2013

Shame & Guilt!

The Prison of Shame & Guilt

Many of us are trying to measure up to the types of people we are meant to be as dictated by society and the one’s we love. From a young age we are bombarded with false images about what and who we are supposed to be. When we do not measure up to these standards we are rejected in subtle ways by others who show their disapproval. This disapproval and rejection fills us with unworthiness and strong feelings of not being good enough. What we are actually experiencing in the very depths of our being, is the heavy feeling of shame. We feel shame about who we are when we are unable to live up to these false expectations. Shame robs us of our personal power and throws us into a continuous spiral of needing to be perfect. We begin to believe that as long as we are perfect, (according to society’s specification) only then will we get approval and acceptance. Each time we fail to achieve this illusion of perfection, we set ourselves up for failure. This belief system unfortunately creates a vicious cycle of self-sabotage. The more we believe we are a failure, the more we sabotage our success. A good example of this is procrastination. Our inner critic keeps reminding us that it’s no use even starting a project when we know we will fail at it. So we keep putting it off to avoid the shame and humiliation of possible failure. Because we always hear that we are not good enough, we automatically believe that the next time round we also won’t be good enough.

The way we behave and who we are at the level of our essence, are two different things. At the level of our essence, we automatically have unconditional self-love and self-worth, simply because God created us. We are incarnations of God and our journey is the process of realizing God. That is what spiritual evolution is about. The process of realizing God takes practice and when we do not achieve this realization immediately, it does not mean we are bad people. Bad behavior does not equal a bad person, it simply means we were not the person that someone wanted us to be. We need to rid ourselves of this limiting perception of good versus bad.

If a child fails a test at school, they feel embarrassed and humiliated and they look bad in front of the class. Deep down inside themselves, they feel inadequate and inferior and they believe they are bad, because they did not live up to others’ expectations of them to pass the test. This makes them feel like they failed as a person. When we raise children, it is of utmost importance to make a distinction between the child and their behavior. We do not have to agree with their behavior, but we do need to love them unconditionally and accept them for who they are at that given moment. As adults, we need to make the same distinction when it comes to our own inner child. How can we possibly achieve self-love and self-worth when we constantly bully, scrutinize and criticize our inner child. The more we bully the child, the more shame they will experience. The way we were parented as children is the way we parent our own inner child. We will also parent our own children in the same way. To achieve unconditional love and compassion we do not have to agree with everything, but we do need to accept.

People filled with shame are very often comparing themselves to others. Shame bound people fail to see their own gifts and talents. Whenever others succeed, they feel like failures. Shame based people are constantly looking for approval from others. The only way they can feel good about themselves is when they hear that others like them, admire them and say nice things about them. These people are what I call approval junkies. They can never get enough and just like any addict, they need to keep increasing their dose of approval. The dose of approval they received yesterday will never be enough for tomorrow. When you have self-love and worth, you will not need external validation.

Guilt and shame work very closely together and often what we feel guilty about, is in actual fact shame. We feel guilty because of the things we do, but we feel shame for what and who we are. If a child lies to its parent, they feel guilty for having lied, but deep down they feel ashamed of themselves because they were not the person their parent wanted them to be. They feel inadequate. The feelings of guilt and shame make us want to hide. People who hold onto guilt and shame find it very hard to look at another person in the eyes. The eyes are the windows to the soul and shame based people are afraid that if you look into their eyes, you will then see all their imperfections or flaws. As children they were humiliated when punished or criticized. This caused them to become afraid to expose themselves for the fear of further humiliation. They constantly monitor their choice of words and the way they act to make sure that it comes out perfect and acceptable. By holding everything in, they hide what they think are flaws.

We find many ways of trying to escape our shame. One tactic many of us use is by becoming a people pleaser. We believe that if we can please everyone then the world will see us as a good person. Unfortunately this causes us to become a slave to others and to disregard our needs and wants. Being selfless means taking care of others. When we are too selfless, we become rescuers and this behavior builds up hate and resentment, because we neglect our own needs, causing us to fall into victim mode. Being spiritually selfish means taking care of yourself. When we are too selfish, we build up guilt, shame and an inflated ego. The trick is achieving a balance between the two and always remembering what and who your real self is. No person can be bad when you realize that pure consciousness is your spiritual essence.


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