It’s risky to write an article on the sacredness of shame. The very origin of the word shame, defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation and distress,” comes from Germanic meaning to “cover up.” In feeling shame, our natural tendency is to hide, repress and deny it.
When we fully acknowledge, embrace and feel shame, there is a sense of personal wrongness to our very core. We fear exposure and being seen as “bad.” When shame is present, it’s not that we made a mistake, it’s that we are a mistake.
In exploring the sacredness of shame, we must look from another perspective, a very different perspective that suggests there is something holy in our shame and that in embracing it, we become more whole ourselves.
Shame is sacred, but not by itself or when hidden below the psyche. It is sacred because it becomes a pathway by which we find the courage to expose it, be welcomed into the light of our own humanity and learn to love all of who we are, shadows, shame, warts and all.
In my personal experience of shame, I know that I had difficulty owning my mistakes or apologizing for my behavior. Several years of personal work and shame healing allowed me to acknowledging when my shadows or defects showed themselves in my relationships with others. I no longer felt humiliation or that there was something “inherently bad” about myself. I could admit my mistakes and feel appropriate guilt or sadness when I hurt someone I cared about without raking myself over the coals for days or weeks. This was a great relief and allowed me to experience deeper intimacy and authentic connection in my life.
In Shadow Work®, those of us certified as group facilitators and coaches have undergone extensive training requiring money, energy, time and direct supervision. I’m grateful to work in the arena of assisting others in healing their pain and shame, which requires developed skill, sensitivity and ongoing accountability.
In these trainings we learn a particular set of values, one of which is the creating of “shame-free” environment. A shame-free environment allows for participants to consensually explore the parts of themselves that they have been hiding and then bring to the surface these painful patterns in their lives that play out over and over.
Often for the first time, people are able to speak honestly about where these patterns initially developed and how they continue to show up in their present lives.
Through various processes offered, individuals may choose to bioenergetically release the pain, reframe their beliefs, initiate new ways of thinking that serve their values today and experience a new perspective.
In freeing the energy used to keep shameful ways of thinking and behaving repressed and hidden, vitality is restored.
by Sally Bartolameolli
This article originally appeared in our free email newsletter in February 2014. To subscribe, visit our subscription page.
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