Lani: The Choice

freakoutLately, because we are a lively and fun couple, Alastair and I have been having a lot of conversations about shame. We’ve been sort of clearing out the old bullshit, as you know, and one of the things we both struggle with is this idea that there’s just something Wrong about us, even if by most people’s standards we’re fairly lovely people. We don’t kick dogs, we don’t beat children, we try to be fair and kind and when we’re not, we try to own it. We’re your standard issue flawed but overall good people, but still… we just have had it ingrained that there’s something Wrong with us as human people, and it’s a tough mindset to kick. We both picked it up as children, and the things you believe as a child adhere to your soul with a death cling that’s near impossible to shake, no matter how much you might understand intellectually that you are not history’s worst monster because the propane ran out on your watch.

Recently, though, I’ve had something of a breakthrough. I’ve started to be able to choose not to feel the shame. This was never an option before. Every time I start to feel that shame, that guilt, or the panic, I just think, “I’m not going to do this,” and this huge sense of relief flows over me. It’s not perfect; many times the shame and guilt and panic just comes right back, and I choose again, and it ebbs away, and we go on like this until either the situation is resolved or I’m distracted by shiny new guilt, shame or panic. But sometimes, more and more often as we go, the choice works. I just choose, and the horrible feeling is gone, that internal poison (which really is physical poison, those stress hormones are supposed to come on when you’re being chased by a lion, not when you’re accidentally late on the car payment) just fades away.

It’s just… a choice.

The other night, we were having this discussion and I told Alastair, “You just choose,” and he couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Intellectually, of course, he could; we all understand intellectually what it is to choose. But inside, where it matters, where the poison seeps in, he couldn’t get it. How can you just choose and make it go away?

Quite honestly, I don’t know. I think I’m starting to be able to do it because I was loved so completely. Because I had people who loved me unconditionally through the worst part of my life and I was too weak to fight them off. Because things were so bad that I had to accept that these people just loved me, something in me began to heal. It’s been almost four years since all that began, and only now, just recently, am I able to understand that I really can choose. It’s so deceptively simple, and yet so infernally impossible.

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about this week. I’m so grateful I’m beginning to be able to turn it off, although there’s still a long way to go. What’s your experience with this? Has anyone else been able to do this? Can you explain how it works? Because I can’t, at least not any better than I explained it here. I feel like there’s something here I’m just not able to put into words; can you?

38 thoughts on “Lani: The Choice

  1. Clancy says:

    That’s amazing and so wonderful, Congratulations! May this trend grow and spread!

    It is very cheering to read, too, thank you.

  2. Catherine says:

    To me it’s a shift in thinking from accepting what I’ve been given, to realising i have the power to make. To me it’s a quarter turn of the kaleidoscope. It’s as though my mind body and soul have finally synced.

    Big stuff. I’m glad it’s kicking in for you too.

  3. Great insight and great post, Lani. Here are my thoughts. Choosing is not waving a magic wand over the issue and wishing it away. Choosing is a definitive action that sets an intention. Saying no to guilt, shame, fear, embarrassment or whatever is the first step in shifting our emotional reactions to external factors.

    Say you’re out at a nice restaurant, excuse yourself to use the Ladies Room and, when you return you don’t know that the back of your dress is caught in your pantyhose so you’re mooning the room. When you realize it, in that moment you have a choice. The embarrassment can cripple you and send you rushing from the room or you can straighten your dress, remember that shit like that happens and doesn’t make you a bad person or an idiot. You laugh it off, sit and finish your meal.

    Choosing puts you in the driver’s seat and wrests control from situations, other people and our own histories of behavior. It’s like the Bad Wolf or the Good Wolf. Choose which one you feed and make stronger.

  4. I have a theoretical explanation (that I was taught when I trained as a rebirther), which is that what you think about yourself and the world determines how you feel about yourself/the world, and how you experience them. However, getting this in your head, as you say, is not the same as getting it in your body, as you’re doing now (fab! by the way). We used affirmations and the breathing meditation that we called rebirthing to help us integrate this stuff. But it’s a matter of keeping choosing, over and over again.

    One of my teachers put it really simply: In every moment you have a choice to focus on love or on fear; so you need to keep choosing love.

    I do think it’s about changing the habits of a lifetime. And that therefore you need to keep choosing your new way of seeing yourself/life. (By ‘you’ I mean everyone – and especially me!) And one of the things I realized when I was studying all this stuff, is that it can be harder to let the love in than to cling to the old fear (which is tried and trusted and safe, if completely depressing). So it’s brilliant that you had a crisis that broke down your resistance to the love that was there. A good crisis often has that silver lining, if you’re open to it.

  5. I didn’t have the worst childhood in the world but I was left to my own devices a lot and I think that is when I learned to shrug off the negative crap like shame and guilt. Why should I allow anyone to make me feel guilty when I was doing a pretty damn good job of taking care of myself? I won’t lament my childhood because it made me self-sufficient and who I am today and I have accepted that my parents did the best they could with the upbringing that they themselves had. That said, my sister is a guilt sponge (and I’m the one who went to Catholic school!). What made her different than me? Much of the difference has to be personality. If that is true then it has to also be true it is harder for some people to shake off the negative feelings than others.

    Or maybe the biggest difference is that I didn’t let those feelings ingrain themselves in childhood so it’s easier for me to choose to ignore them as an adult. Hmmm…

  6. Egads (Mary) says:

    It sounds like that psychological trick of saying “stop.” Anytime you catch yourself in negative thinking you simply say “stop” aloud. I’ve done it now and then, and it helps. The more you do it, the more effective it becomes in breaking the thinking. Then again, I now talk to myself…

  7. I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching reconstruction work on myself for a few years now. Still a ways to go but I’m getting there. ; )

    We’re all just big masses of energy. Shame, humiliation, anger, apathy, those are all weak energy/weakening vibrations. They can be ways of thinking, negative messages we’ve carried since childhood, and in most cases don’t even apply to our current life (or, were someone else’s view on life passed down to us like secondhand clothes) we cling to them like life rafts. We need to cut ourselves free from old views and habits by learning to trust and accept ourselves and life as it is.

    We need high energy vibrations in our lives(like trust, love, acceptance) and that way we move from weak to strong. It’s just a matter of taking charge of our own thinking (I think) and understanding that we control our own mind and not the other way around.

    Dr. Wayne Dyer says we have the choice when we wake up each morning to say “Good morning, God,” or “Good God, morning.” (If you’re not a religious person God becomes the universe/the spiritual being, whatever you prefer. You can even simplify this and just think “Happy day,” and that in itself will give you a positive, high energy start.)

  8. romney says:

    Well, I don’t say it out loud myself, but I think it is just a question of a) recognising what you’re doing to yourself when you are and b) dismissing it. If Alistair can do a) now then b) is possible.

    Its amazing how much of what passes for personality is just habit and camoflage.

  9. Kieran says:

    Perception *is* reality. Even the Biblical God-the ultimate Reality, if you’re a believer–ascribes to this tenet in the Adam and Eve story. Humans are creatures of choice, at their very essence. We create our own heavens and our own hells.

    Lani, when you exercise your free will, you’re tapping into your very essence. Every story–every life–comes back to the theme of death and rebirth, which is another way to say that every day we recreate our own lives based on what we choose that day.

    The mystery–the beautiful part–is the introduction of love into that dynamic. When love infuses a situation, we choose heaven: joy, generosity, peace. It’s not a blind choice. We don’t become puppets under love’s power. But the interesting thing is that with Love, we naturally align ourselves with others…

    And this is where it gets really mind-boggling for me: outside of our own heavens and hells, there seems to be that tendency to natural alignment, a compass point of sorts that we turn to when Love is involved. What IS this? I think it’s that greater Reality watching us establish our own personal realities. I think that’s God–the ultimate source of love.

    And that “not knowing” we experience is really a very deep understanding that goes beyond reason–our reason won’t lead us to it, ever. That’s why we’re frustrated–we can’t “know” it. But if you feel that space of mystery inside you, consider letting it abide. IMO, that’s your conduit to the Source. That’s what faith is, to the believer. You will never be able to pin it down in rational terms. But it’s there, nonetheless, as much a part of you as your brain and heart. Let it be–as Paul McCartney so eloquently said.

  10. Rose says:

    I don’t know how to turn off the sense of shame – or rather, I know that sometimes it’s just not there, even if other people try to make me feel it, but I don’t know how to choose not to feel it when it is there. But it’s cool to find out that it is possible to do that. It’s even cooler and less conducive to shame when I’m reminded, as I was by your post, that that sense of Wrongness is so widespread it might as well be universal. We can’t be collossally fucked-up; maybe none of us really are.

  11. I’ve been working on this for a few years now. I don’t know when or why I started, if I meditated on it I could probably figure it out.

    I got tired of being “wrong.” And now it’s easy to push off other people’s attitudes. If someone is trying to shame or embarrass me I have no trouble pushing it away.

    It’s when I sneak up on myself that it’s harder. But I can still choose not to buy into it. I’ve got too much to do to be wallowing in self inflicted bad stuff.

  12. I think of thought patterns like foot paths. Or ruts in a road. I believe we have some well worn neural pathways, and without some resistance, our thoughts run down the rut in the road. If that rut is shame, well then, there you are.

    So, for one, I worked to create alternative ruts. (Wow, that sounds icky.) It’s not really possible to think nothing, and since what we think is connected to what we feel, then we have to provide an alternative set of thoughts. If we think them often enough, then we have a new rut in the road, or path across the grass if that visualization is better.

    For me, that took plenty of repetition. To begin, the old neural pathway had a great deal of power. I’d think the new (saner and more positive) thought: it felt like pitting the 90 pound weakling against the big old sand kicking bully. But I kept after it. And it got easier.

    So, for me, choice involved creating a new habit. If I feel shame, then I pay attention to what I’m thinking. I dismantle the poorly reasoned thought and replace it with a more rational one. Having done that many times now, it’s easier for me to redirect. I choose to replace the shame’s hysterical over-exaggeration with reason’s sweet balance. I then make a conscious effort to think some positive thoughts about myself — because the same thoughts were an owie and released those nasty chemicals so I give myself good thoughts for repair. And if the shame is connected to something I still impact, then I think positively about my choice to make something better.

    I had learned the habit of shame. That habit is there and ready to be triggered. But I’ve created another habit and that’s the refocus.

    So how do you choose to turn away from shame? You build a new road. Brick by brick.

  13. I think of a butler in my mind. He decides who gets in to see madam and who is denied an audience. And those folks, he turns aside politely. If they refuse to leave, then my mental butler reveals that he is a badass with some awesome martial arts moves. This is what I do, or rather what I try to do. Some times, those negative thoughts creep around back and try to enter through an unlocked window. They are persistent bastards. There are cues that negative thoughts have managed to get in. For me, I start withdrawing from people and feeling lethargic. And I stop writing. Those are signs that I need to do some mental house cleaning. it requires constant vigilance.

  14. This is what I think. Those feeling are the enemy of the soul and once that is truly and fully recognized it’s easier to deal with them. They are set off by triggers in our environment. Those triggers lose their power when one chooses NOT to respond the same way one always has. It’s a gradual loss of power. Every time we choose not to respond the same old way the triggers become weaker.

    It’s not all that different from quitting smoking. And just as hard.

    Habits are hard to break.

  15. I think of a butler in my mind. He decides who gets in to see madam and who is denied an audience.

    I love that. Jeeves, slam the door in her face. 🙂

  16. Lani,
    I’m not sure how to do it, but I know we can, that we have the power. We get to choose how we feel about anything. We can simply reject the thought or the idea.
    There was a great deal of shame to my upbringing, and in the time I wasn’t strong enough to see that and reject the notion that I should be ashamed, I became someone I did not want to be, someone I didn’t like. And it made me very angry. The hurt and the confusion over the shame came to be expressed as anger. I was a very angry person.
    And eventually, I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I changed.
    The thing is, there are a lot of things I don’t remember about my childhood. But the memories that stand out so starkly, even into early adulthood, are situations about which I felt ashamed.
    You think of what you can and can’t remember, and that’s what you get? You feeling ashamed, lashing out at people who you perceive as treating you badly, because there were so many times when it happened as a child when you weren’t strong enough or didn’t realize people should be treating you that way. So you accepted it, let it in, and years later the anger over that is still rolling around inside of you, and eventually it comes out.
    Shame is obviously a very powerful emotion.
    I needed to first tell myself I didn’t deserve the childhood crap, and then that I chose to no longer be angry about it because I didn’t not want to be an angry person anymore. It was about me and my life being better, me being happier with myself, not about forgiveness or acceptance or anything else. About me and what I wanted for my life.
    Maybe that will resonate with your sweet husband. He can make that choice for his life right now. That he will no longer accept that shame or let it hold power over his life now.
    One thing a therapist said to me that I finally got was that we deal with these things now as adults and can reason things away and have so much more power now. But these ugly things and ugly words were experienced by a child who was three or five or eight. Those children didn’t have the power or the reasoning ability that we have as adults. She said to imagine the things that happened to me and then look at a child of that age. Imagine it happening to that child. That’s where the horror comes in an it’s so easy to see, this was so completely wrong.
    Maybe he can try that and see that he didn’t deserve it and doesn’t need to carry that now.

  17. I just nodded my through the comments so it’s easier to type “what they said.” It is constant work. I made a choice to embrace the positive. A friend said something as simple as “Maybe if you stop expecting the worst to happen, it will stop happening.” That was the beginning for me.

    All these years later, I still have to mentally pursue the positive and stomp out the negative, but it’s easier. And I don’t have to do it as often. Lately I’ve been asking, “Will this matter in five years?” You could even shorten it to five months. The answer is almost always no, allowing me to let it go.

  18. carolc says:

    For me it’s depression, gloom and doom. After years and years, one day it just clicked, and although I sometimes still struggle, it is progress. I can’t describe how, and I don’t know why, but I think I learned something when I read psychologist Albert Ellis’ theories on rational therapy years ago. If you’re interested, you can read a little about it here.

  19. I don’t have that or that experience. I have other things. There are always other things. Still, being raised in the spiritual teachings of Unity means that I learned as a child that you choose the way you see the world. You label experiences as good, bad, shameful, wicked, fun, etc…. Doesn’t mean that you are right, but more that you get to own your life as it is which means that you get to choose to change it and yourself whenever you want.

    Thanks mom and dad for going to Unity. This thought has been a huge benefit to my life.

  20. Your success with comes from the fact that you have committed to your choice. Without that, you’d be at the whim of every Magaera/Bad Wolf thought that entered your mind.

    I like the “Two Questions” method from Raphael Cushnir: 1. “What is happening now?” 2. “Can I be with it?” – It really helps to direct how to go with the flow and places me in the right mindset for resolution.

  21. pamb says:

    I struggle more with guilt than shame, I think. To the extent it’s paralyzed me in some important ways. And still is, unfortunately.

    Goodness knows I’ve over-analyzed every second of my life (g), but the most help to me has been the idea that there’s this scared kid inside, the one who had the idea if she were simply perfect, then the adults around her wouldn’t have melt downs and create chaos.

    I’ve had to nurture and comfort that kid inside the way she needed back then–down to virtual hugs and soothing words.

    My husband’s shown me unconditional love for 45 years. (Really–totally unconditional. It’s amazing.) Slowly it’s filtered into my brain that’s the way I should be treating myself.

    I think the shame/guilt words are past wounds talking. Maybe it would work for Alistair to think of kinder thoughts healing those old wounds in his spirit.

  22. Lou says:

    I think that choosing has to be practiced just like anything else. Lots and lots of practice. Also, stuff that clings to us from our childhood has to be owned and then put aside somehow, or the idea of it has to be changed.

    For instance: I realized in my 20s that my mother loved me because I was her daughter but did not like me because I was unwilling to conform to her ideal of life, and I reminded her too much of her cheating, deserting ex (many similar personality traits). But I have chosen to remember that she took very, very good care of me and tried hard in her own way to give me what I needed. So if I concentrate on those positive aspects, and put aside the guilt she laid on me for not doing things her way – I can remember the good things she did.

    All of this takes practice – practice to try to remember good stuff and practice to not beat up on yourself for what happened in the past. It’s not easy, but it can be done with lots and lots of practice… and distraction.

    Next time you are wallowing, remembering the bad stuff, put on your favorite rousing, cheerful music and dance around the house, go for a long walk on a nice day, jump Alastairs bones… remember you are now with a supportive person and you no longer must feel less than yourself.

    It can be done – just practice…

  23. Cindy says:

    This right here:
    …shifting our emotional reactions to external factors.
    took me a long time to grasp when I was younger.

    I would react to everything. I was a mess in every relationship. I was a mess with myself. Then one day it dawned on me that I had control over my reactions, I couldn’t control how I felt about something, but I could control how I reacted to those feelings.

    Just like you mentioned the skirt being caught in the pantyhose, well, if I was embarrassed, I could choose to laugh about my embarrassment or run out of the room crying. That distinction was the biggest change for me, the whole “I can’t control my feelings, but I can control how I react to them.”

  24. Kelly S says:

    “My husband’s shown me unconditional love for 45 years. (Really–totally unconditional. It’s amazing.) Slowly it’s filtered into my brain that’s the way I should be treating myself.”

    I believe we all treat ourselves worse than we’d every treat another person, unless we’re narcissistic or psychotic.

  25. Kelly S says:

    Slightly related to this post, but more to some overall topics on the blog, SB Sarah sent out a link today to Nerd Fitness on comparison,

    I’ll summarize some points I plan on dwelling on:
    – We compare ourselves to others without knowing everything about them so we assume they are happier and healthier than us which makes us more unhappy
    – Unhappiness grows when what our image of how we or our life should be is different from reality. Decrease unhappiness by changing the image and be grateful for what is good in our lives.
    – If I am going to compare myself to anyone, it has to be the me of yesterday so I can see how I am growing healthier & better (hopefully).

  26. Sally Mettlesome says:

    Wow, I have been mulling over this subject on my own behalf recently. Lani, you said very key things in your post, especially about being loved empowering you to make that choice.

    I have spent many years working on embracing positive thoughts, making good choices, etc., so I resonate with many of the comments. (Love the butler image!) But I would like to emphasize something different.

    I heard an EMDR expert mention yesterday that research now suggests that trauma is defined not by “what happened” as much as by *how* what happened is processed, or actually NOT processed, by our brains. He was saying, “we think of trauma as something big – war, explosions, severe abuse,” but it can be something that looks less dramatic but was painful and never processed properly by our brains. (Don’t ask me the definition of “processed,” that had to do with eye movements and consolidating memories.) He also mentioned that people who’ve experienced unresolved trauma often have a split between what they know to be the case (e.g., “I’m o.k. and I’m significant”) and what they *feel*. That got my attention, especially when he said he’d often seen that split shift and heal after memories were processed. (He was referring to processing via EMDR.)

    Two key points that I find personally useful: 1) REAL EXPERIENCES, not just my mental missteps, are probably responsible for the challenges I experience in feeling o.k., significant, and feeling like I belong. 2) REAL EXPERIENCES THAT ORIGINATE OUTSIDE OF MYSELF (such as experiencing unconditional love, as Lani explained, or undergoing EMDR therapy, as the radio guest discussed) are key in getting past these challenges.

    I mention these because personally I’ve been using my own intellect and effort my whole life to try to go futher, heal, and so on. And while I totally buy into the importance of choosing our thoughts and similar tactics that depend on ourselves, I feel I’ve mostly missed the boat on the hugely important areas of understanding causes beyond myself and solutions beyond myself. Haven’t heard the word “neurotic” much in the last number of years, but isn’t hyper-responsibility part of it? If everything is my fault, and the root cause is “I suck,” then I can fix everything, and everything is in my control, right? And I don’t have to face the potentially greater pain of accepting that other people or situations suck, or that I can’t control how they’ve hurt me. That was me for much of my life. (Congratulate me, I chained “is” to “was” in the previous sentence.)

    Having heard your podcasts, it wouldn’t surprise me if the two of you might sometimes use sparkling intellect and diligent effort as a go-to tactic in facing life. Which is good, right? But perhaps might obscure clear, simple cause-and-effect in terms of roots of shame and the road to release it.

    My husband and I will celebrate our 5-year anniversary this year, and being married to him continues to be a significant healing experience for me. Love that love!

    I love how you defined that the unconditional love you’ve received strengthened you to make that choice to reject shame. There’s our part – our thoughts, decisions, and actions, and there’s stuff beyond us.

    I failed to see this for myself because I didn’t recognize emotional neglect as a root cause of shame issues.

  27. toni says:

    I’m late to the conversation — have been on a plane all day — but as you know, this is a significant topic for me.

    I used to be driven by shame, and now, it has no hold over me. And here’s why:

    For me, shame was triggered by any failure to achieve a goal. Any goal. If there was a goal and I didn’t even know about it until retroactively, I would still feel that failure as a human being, a “I should have known” element that beat me over the head. It was much worse if I knew the goal (get an A, pay the note, bring something to the ballgame, anything), and failed it. Much much worse.

    Over a period of time, and I don’t think it happened fast, I began to see shame as a loaded gun, and the individual events as pulling the trigger. It took me a while to realize I was holding that gun and aiming it at myself. I’d loaded it–I, personally, had ascribed “shame” to “not meeting a goal”. Sure, there were reasons for that, overachieving parents, first born, a hundred small events, but the bottom line was: I had defined it for myself. I was the one pulling the trigger.

    So if I’m the one pulling the trigger, I can unload the damned gun. I can step back from that way of reacting and re-define shame.

    Shame, now, is knowingly doing something horrific on purpose, aware that it is either (a) going to hurt someone or (b) is illegal or (c) ignores my own personal moral standards. Failure to meet a goal, simple or complex = frustration, annoyance, irritation, but not shame.

    I unloaded the damned gun.

    What you’re doing, it seems to me, is starting to redefine YOU. How you think about goals, how you react. It’s not a fast, easy thing to do, but you, ultimately, control the gun.

  28. Danielle says:

    I love this! I think of mine as The Dragon of the Keep. If you piss her off, she roasts you.

  29. ChelSierra Remly says:

    All my life, Mom has told me, “You can get glad the same way you got mad.” Which tended to make me even madder. But I realize that she’s right. My thoughts are what make me mad, and I can reverse those thoughts, or I can stop them in their tracks before I get mad.

    Plus, now that I’m older, I’ve learned that having a fit doesn’t change the situation any. (Well, it can make it worse sometimes.) So I do try to nip any negative mood swings in the bud. Unfortunately, I’m still learning, so there are plenty of setbacks. But at least there’s two steps forward for every two steps back. Maybe sometimes only one step forward, but at least it isn’t all backward steps.

  30. I am late today, too, but I definitely dragged around a very heavy bag of shame for years and years, related mostly to a big blow up of a short, disastrous first marriage and the harm I inflicted (to him, my family and myself) when I fled in the middle of the day, never to return.

    I dragged that bag dutifully for years and years and years, and one day I just realized it was VERY HEAVY and I wasn’t really getting anything from it, and what would happen if I just left it there, where it was? I was probably leaving all kinds of other things at that moment, too, since I was clearing basements and house and getting ready to leave a city I’d lived in for 25 years.

    It felt so good to drop it that I never picked it up again. That’s all I can say–no miracle, no wild insight, no “work of forgiveness.” I just stopped dragging the damned heavy weight of it.

  31. Micki says:

    I’ve got my issues, but shame isn’t really one of them anymore. Sometime in my late teens or early 20s, I finally realized I wasn’t the center of the universe. (-: That sounds terrible, but what I mean is that most people weren’t watching me to see me goof up (aside from a few high school bullies). They wouldn’t care about my choices, and as long as I was a reasonably decent human being, I probably wouldn’t piss most people off.

    The second big step was when I read somewhere that parents may mess up, but at some point the adult is able to make her own choices and retrain herself. Be her own parent. I’m still working on that. But realizing that I’m an adult (and actually, the shocking realization that I’ve been an adult a lot longer than I was a child) helped me brush off the sort of shame that poisons and paralyzes.

    I still feel shame, but it almost always is a result of me doing something bad. I forgive myself for it more easily than I used to.

  32. Tai says:

    That is exactly awesome that people loved you loved in the worst times and that helped you heal! That is what opens our minds!
    When I went through counseling I learned all the best freeing knowledge that can allow any of us to be free. I learned that my thoughts, feelings and needs matter. I learned that I was made for relationships, for bonds with others which I had felt the deep need and longing for even as a young child. I learned that guilt and shame only cause me to repeat my mistakes and feel worse. I learned to accept all the bad and good about myself. I learned that I am responsible for my responses and not for making others feel better about anything. Before counseling I would agree with people just to win their approval despite that most of the time I completely disagreed or did not want to try to explain my perspective. I was afraid of rejection but never gave any one the chance to accept me as I was because I thought myself to be inherently unacceptable not matter what I did. I learned that the power and freedom lay in accepting myself with all of my complexities.
    I felt that sense of wrongness you expressed. I learned in counseling that I can choose how I think about myself. And that is what you can choose. Choose how you think about yourself and about everything. Empathy, love allow us to do this.
    I had times since counseling that I have felt just as desperate and needy as I ever did before I learned all of the freeing knowledge. I was needing emotional and mental support that is rare in my life. I open myself up to the same hurt I constantly experienced earlier in my life of being taken advantage of and abused in various ways. I have learned boundaries. To say, “no”. But when I do not have the support I need I withdraw as I always did as a child. Not as deeply as I had to just to survive but I find myself nearly frozen in my inability to reach out or relate to others or believe that they want anything to do with me. Obviously I have some deep insecurities which are founded in trauma I experienced at age six and fifteen.
    Choosing how I think is facing them and how they made me feel down, acknowledging that I am loved and lovable no matter how I was treated and (this is much more difficult)no matter how I behave. And I will and do behave better the more I acknowledge this. It is all about attitude.
    I struggle with my attitude everyday. But I know how blessed I am. I know what I choose. I choose how I deal with every situation. And I am responsible for the consequences of my reaction.
    Thanks for reading my “spiel” if you do. You have inspired me with all the things you have shared these years. I am forced (quite willingly) to believe in love and unconditional relationships and the emotional support people can provide each other by the example of your, Krissie, and Jenny’s relationship. You each inspire me and I am honored that I get to share your journeys even if I never meet you in person.

  33. Very late to the game, but Brene Brown studies and writes about shame. Her book “I thought it was just me” is excellent.

  34. Jen Wyatt says:

    No deep thoughts here but since I happen to have a whole set of luggage like the “bag of freak out” in your photo, I did laugh out loud.
    Thank you.

  35. CateM says:

    For me, the leap from intellectual to emotional freedom from shame came from reading novels. Because when you’re reading about a character who rejects shame, and you empathize with that character, you understand emotionally why rejecting shame is important, and you get to feel some of the relief and triumph that comes with it. In essence, you get to practice. Because it’s a lot easier to admit that someone else doesn’t deserve shame than to genuinely understand that you don’t deserve shame. And then once you’ve experienced that choice vicariously – then it’s in your emotional arsenal, and you can fake it till you make it.

    That being said, I think there are times people should absolutely feel shame. But those times are limited to willfully and maliciously hurting someone else. And I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that that is not a problem for either you or Alastair.

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