“Shame is a soul eating emotion.”
~ C.G. Jung
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
~ Brené Brown
We did something very powerful yesterday, here at our retreat.
Earlier in the day we’d been doing some journalling, looking at our triggers and the things that upset, angered or depressed us. Bravely the women asked themselves questions and moved deeper and deeper into that place of self-knowing.
It was confronting. Challenging.
From there we began to name and examine the major obstacles in our lives.
Oh, how hard that was.
Many of the women quietly sought me out to ask questions or share some painful revelation.
And there was one common theme that ran through every conversation, although the subject matters varied greatly.
That theme was shame.
Just before we finished for the day, as we sat in our circle around our beautiful crystal mandala, I asked those women to be brave, and to share one of their shames within the group.
The courage of these women was remarkable, as they bravely bared their hearts to each other, and held a space of trust, love and deep acceptance.
There were shames over marriages, lost and broken relationships, addictions and family dramas. Shames about mothering, illness, depression, debt, and shames over choices or behaviours that were deeply regretted.
As each woman shared her shame many of us nodded. Or cried. That shame our sister shared could have been ours. So many of us held that same heavy stone inside our hearts.
Gradually the energy of the group shifted.
There was an easing.
A gentle opening and transformation.
Who would have thought that someone else felt the same way we did? That someone else had addiction in their family, or found motherhood unfulfilling – although they loved their children, or was isolated from their parents or siblings and was dreading Christmas. Who would have known that someone else had totally screwed up a relationship or struggled with money issues when they were meant to be examples of business success?
As the voicing of shames ended, a new energy came into the group. We began sharing stories of encouragement and support. One woman, swamped and belittled by her shame, would be given helpful and meaningful advice by someone who’d been through that same thing. Another, overwhelmed by her situation, would be helped by women who could see a clear way forward for her because they weren’t in that place of emotional overload.
In that circle of support and sharing, shames were transmuted and lost their power.
Those dark secrets we hold inside us rob us of our ability to feel joy, to move forward, to be our best selves. They make a lie of every good thing that comes our way. They hold us in a place that has no real truth for us, tainting our futures and stealing our possibilities.
Those shames we most fear to share are the ones which most need to be released and shared within a supportive environment – a place where we can be met with empathy and kindness.
Oh the magic that happens when those heavy burdens of shame are shared and released!