SHAME

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Last week I had the teeth-crooked-and-falling-out dream that I have had many times before.  This dream can represent many things:  loss of control, powerlessness or difficulty communicating, lack of self-confidence or embarrassment.  Recently, I have discovered that the worst part of these dreams is that I feel horrified that someone will see how ugly I look.  I think for me this dream symbolizes my anxieties and worries and my deep fear of being embarrassed.  I am so afraid that someone will find out about my shortcomings or see my faults.  I fear shame.

Shame is a core human emotion and a close cousin of guilt… but there is a significant difference:  Guilt is the feeling that you DID something wrong or bad.  Shame is the feeling that there is something wrong or bad about who you ARE.  This painful emotion can erode your self-worth and sap your power by making you believe that you don’t deserve to be happy.

What shame really boils down to is our fear of ego-death.  It’s the terrifying feeling that, at any moment, we could be humiliated and lose our sense of being loveable, capable and worthy.  What if someone sees under my mask?  What if someone uncovers the parts of me which make me ugly and undesirable?  What if I make a mistake and look like an incompetent fool?  What if someone sees that I am just not good enough and don’t deserve to be here?  What if I am exposed for all to see?!

Last night I was dreaming that I was shopping for a bathing suit.  I tried one on but it didn’t fit right.  I tried another but I wanted it in another colour.  I was desperately looking through the rack to try and find it.  I looked up swim suit in my dream dictionary and it means feeling exposed or emotionally vulnerable.  This pretty much sums up how I’ve felt recently.  I’ve been so sensitive about everything;  what I say and do, what others say and do, crying over things that normally wouldn’t bother me.  I think part of me actually wants to be completely exposed so then I won’t have anything to hide anymore–I will be FREE!  And isn’t that what we all yearn for?

We all just want to be accepted for who we are so we can live our truth and be the full expression of our authentic self.   Once we let go of the fear of shame, then we can truly accept ALL of ourselves, warts and all.  (funny, I just remembered we were talking about warts the other day) The next step is a little tougher– overcoming the worry of being rejected and having the courage to show ALL of ourselves to others.  It’s hard but rewarding.  As you expose more of yourself to others, your fear gets smaller and as your fear gets smaller, it becomes easier to show more and more.  This is how we can achieve real closeness and intimacy in relationships.

Unfortunately, our fear of shame often leads us into staying separate and isolated.  There are many strategies we use in our attempts to avoid shame.  We seek perfection, we are overly nice, we withdraw, we run away and we divert blame.   I have tried them all!  I tried being perfect and ‘good’, thinking that I could hide whatever I thought was horribly wrong with me.  I tried being super nice, believing that no one would reject me as long as I didn’t rock the boat.  I tried hiding away from the world but that only left me lonely and sad.  I tried dancing all the time, figuring that people wouldn’t notice my flaws if I was always moving.  And I tried putting the blame on the people around me but of course that didn’t alleviate the anxiety either.

Another sign of hanging onto shame is being rigid and judgemental.  Following rules keeps me safe, right?  If everybody just follows these rules and routines, things will go smoothly and predictably and there will be no chance of embarrassment, no chance of failure, no chance of something erratic happening and no chance of someone swooping in to reveal the real me.

How much we judge other people is usually a good indicator of how much we judge ourselves.  When we can have compassion for ourselves and our imperfections and forgive ourselves for our mistakes, then we can be forgiving and compassionate towards those around us.   Being open and flexible is so important, too.  By allowing others to be themselves and accepting them as they are, we open the door to accepting ourselves and allowing ourselves to go with the flow of life.

Lastly, to break free from the chains of shame, we can appreciate all the small victories.  I am working on this one!  I am so used to beating myself up whenever I make a mistake, telling myself that I am not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, capable enough.  I am so used to feeling disappointed and angry at myself when I believe I have failed in some way or haven’t lived up to my impossible expectations.  I forget to acknowledge all the good things I do and the good person I am.  It’s time to congratulate myself and say–GREAT JOB, Donna!  Wow!!  Look at what you have accomplished!  See how far you have come!  Be proud of your tremendous courage and strength!  You are inspiring!

It may seem easy to stay wrapped up in your cozy blanket that hides all your perceived flaws but really it is only living in fear; constantly worried that you will be ‘found out’.   Rather than dodging the ‘negative’ or more difficult emotions, we can observe them and use them as an opportunity to understand and grow.

As the saying goes, “the only way out is through”–you have to go through all the painful emotions before you get to the other side;  like we need to have rain in order to see a rainbow.  Waiting on the other side is the truth about yourself and all the beauty that exists within–your true colours.  You are not bad or unworthy or unlovable.  You are human–a magnificent being of life and light, perfect just the way you are.

Me and My Shadow

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I awake with a jolt.  These words flash in my mind–Don’t hate your dark side…it is the reason you have survived. –For the last couple of months, I have felt like I was in a battle against myself.  I have been determined to eliminate those voices of weakness;  I’ve been on a mission to obliterate my fearful ego.  It has been like “Star Wars” going on in my head.  Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader.  Good vs. Evil.   But the truth is light cannot exist without darkness and there is no knowledge of what is right and good without recognizing what is wrong or bad.

I’ve been beating myself up when I make a mistake or say something I didn’t mean to say.  I have felt so discouraged knowing how I want to be and yet seemingly falling back into reactions based in fear.  I’ve been so afraid that my dark fears would sabotage me again.  NOOO!

I’ve noticed that I am sometimes trying so hard to look smart or be right when what I really fear is being wrong or looking stupid.  I’ve caught myself trying to control situations when what really terrifies me is chaos and unpredictability.

They say that ignorance is bliss and lately I’ve been wondering if that is true because honestly awareness has been agony at times!! Part of me yearns to go back to the time when life seemed simple and I just did whatever I wanted to do, with no thought of the consequence.  But I realize now there is a big difference between being careless and being carefree.

Being careless means not thinking carefully about our actions; living with a lack of awareness.  We can only be truly carefree, or free from anxiety and worry, when we know exactly what our “cares” are.  In other words, we have to become well-acquainted with our fears and our dark side.  Trying to hide the parts of ourselves that we don’t like is what gives them more power.

Everyone has a dark side;  even those people who appear perfect and seem to have it all together.  We all react in fear sometimes.  It is part of being human.  Real fear is a good thing;  it’s what keeps us safe.  The problem is when this real fear becomes psychological, ego-driven fear.

After perceiving real fear, the ego tends to create a victim story to protect itself.  And the more we relive this story, the more it becomes part of our identity.  Anxiety then builds up as the ego fears discovery.

The good news is, if you can be aware of reactions that are based in your fearful and anxious ego, then you can also see the flip-side–the best actions which are driven by your highest self.

This week I saw my ego-driven fear in full action!  Unintentionally, I said and did something that hurt someone’s feelings.  I sensed that this person was mad at me and she later explained why.  I felt awful for the rest of the afternoon.  My mind soon went into default mode–“Oh, I am such a horrible person.  I’ve been trying so hard to speak up more but see what happens…I end up hurting someone.  What’s the point?  It’s all my fault.  I just won’t say anything anymore.  I’ll keep my opinions and ideas to myself.  I’ll keep quiet.”

Really!!  This is what was going on in my head!!  At first I was repelled, disgusted and I tried defending myself. –“I didn’t really do anything wrong.  I am not to blame here.”– But after a while, I couldn’t help but seeing the truth–and it was actually kind of funny.  It was merely my ego attempting to cling on to it’s sad story.

It was not easy to catch these subconscious thoughts;  they are subtle and sneaky and often hardly audible.  You have to listen carefully and it takes a lot of practice.  Luckily, I was able to stop these thoughts from spiralling into negativity and self-pity.  Instead, I owned up to my mistake and apologized.

What I realized this morning is that rather than having the goal of demolishing my dark side, I need to THANK this shadow self.  It helped me survive a tough time in my life.  It served a purpose.  I also need to accept so I can lovingly release those pieces I no longer need.  My ego will always be there and my fears will never all disappear but I can recognize what is a real fear and what is not.

I believe my new objective will be to effectively integrate my ego with my higher self.  By accepting my dark shadow and allowing it to peacefully co-exist with my higher self, I can become whole.  Here are some tips that I think will help me (and maybe you!) in reaching my goal.

1.  Keep an attitude of curiosity and fascination–be intrigued when another person sparks a strong reaction in you;  this might be a clue to your deep subconscious fears.

2.  Reassure yourself that you are human–own up to your mistakes and admit your faults but also have compassion for yourself;  know you are doing your best and you are always growing.

3.  Have a sense of humour–don’t take yourself so seriously all the time;  marvel at the absurdity of life, be light-hearted and laugh at yourself!

4.  Embrace the freedom of revealing your vulnerabilities!!–with nothing to hide you can be truly liberated and express your authentic self; this is where all creativity is rooted.

Last I would like to touch on another term that jumped out at me this week while looking at a Pokemon book with the kids–EVOLUTION.  Evolution is a key element of Pokemon games–evolving makes them stronger.  The same goes in the real world.  Evolution means changing into a more complex and better form.  In short, change is GOOD!

Life is growth, development and expansion.  We can choose to resist growth; staying stuck, shrinking away, hiding and holding back OR we can choose to be open to change:  allowing ourselves to adapt to new environments and new circumstances, allowing ourselves to flourish, thrive and succeed, allowing ourselves to be all that we can be and achieve all that we want to achieve.

As Darwin said–“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

And finally, remember that you are on a journey.  “Life is about change–sometimes it’s painful and sometimes it’s beautiful, but most of the time it’s BOTH.

TRUTHS

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There are a few truths that I believe are the core of understanding life.

1.  We are all energy and we are all ONE.

Many of us are so attached to (and unaware of) our thoughts and emotions that we believe they define our identity.  We walk around inside these bodies and we see ourselves as being separate from everything else.  And we often get so caught up in the material world that we forget who and what we really are.  Humans, along with all other life forms, are essentially energy.  Moreover, all the energy in our universe came from the same source.  If you believe the big bang theory, then it’s probably easy to grasp this concept.

So what are the implications for us?  First, since we ARE energy, our thoughts and emotions are energy, too and they have power!  Your thoughts become your beliefs, your beliefs shape your intentions, your intentions become your actions, and your actions create the world around you.  Embrace your response-ability!  Be empowered!!  You are free to think what you want!  Second, since we are energy, it follows that our bodies are not these solid unchangeable masses that we sometimes think they are.  We do have the power to influence our energy and therefore we can affect our health and well-being.  Tell yourself you are healthy and strong every day!  Your body might just begin to believe it!

The idea that we are all one may seem overwhelming.  “I don’t really have any big effect on the world,” you might think.  But let’s take a simple example:  You send a message to a sick friend to wish her well.  This makes her feel good and in turn she is kinder to her husband and thanks him for taking care of her.  Then the husband thinks of his mother in Indonesia and gives her a call.  The mother is happy to hear from her son and she decides to invite her friend out for lunch.  Our actions, which originate from our thoughts, have a powerful influence on all the people and living things around us.

I have become very sensitive to the energy that people put out.  I have sensed their warmth, kindness and positivity, their compassion and sadness, their low self-worth and insecurity, their love and tenderness, their mistrust and hurt, their power and confidence, their need to feel important and in control.  Whether you know it or not we all emit some kind of energy and other people can and will pick up on it.  Your thoughts and feelings show in your words, your behaviour, your gestures and body posture and your facial expressions.  I was oblivious to these subtle energies before but now they seem as clear as day.  EVERYONE emits energy.

A good way to keep this concept of oneness in mind is to send thoughts of loving kindness to ourselves, to the people around us and to human beings all over the world.  You can simply meditate for a few minutes a day while thinking–May you be healthy and well.  May you be peaceful and truly happy and may you be free– It’s important to get out of our own little dramas and connect with the whole world.  My happiness is your happiness and your happiness is my happiness.  Let’s be easy on ourselves and gentle with others.  Let’s forgive and have compassion for our fellow humans.  This is how we will create a peaceful planet.

2.  Our body, mind and spirit are all interconnected.

It’s was easy for me to forget these connections when all seemed to be going well in life but when my health challenge appeared, I soon discovered there was no denying that my healing process would involve all aspects of myself.   At first, I didn’t believe that my health issue had much to do with my emotions or thoughts or my soul.  It took me a while to really accept the tremendous impact my feelings had on my body.

I experienced an inner conflict–I had not been honouring my highest self and my soul had no reservations in letting me know that it was not going to settle!  I could literally FEEL in my body, when a situation wasn’t right for me or when I needed to speak up for myself.  Since releasing a great deal of old emotions, especially in the last few months, I have been feeling calmer and sleeping better.  Yes, your emotions DO influence your health.

Our emotions come from our thoughts and our thoughts help form emotions.  For instance, you feel stressed out at work and you go into your pattern of thinking–Oh, I’m just no good at this.–Then this thought of self-pity can lead to the feeling of sadness or helplessness.  And of course, this feeling of sadness will likely lead to more negative thoughts and so on.  Your highest self also plays its role:  it may hear you feeling sorry for yourself but it knows the your truth and will not allow you to tell lies to yourself or put yourself down.  It wants you to be the best you, you can be.

In our fast paced world, it’s also easy to forget how important it is to take care of ourselves and our bodies.  We skip breakfast, eat fast food, eat too many sweets, go to bed too late, get little exercise and have no time for self-reflection.  What we need to remember is that our mental, emotional and spiritual health is TOTALLY dependent on our physical health and vice versa.

The best place to begin is your body.  When you make self-care a priority, you are telling yourself that you are valuable and worthy.  When you take the time to make a healthy meal for yourself, you are telling yourself that you are important and special.  When you go to the gym, you are telling yourself that you are strong and powerful.  You can’t fool your soul.  It hears all the thoughts in your head and sees everything you put into your body.  IT knows.

It also knows when your actions are not aligned with your true emotions.  Maybe it really bothers you when your wife  doesn’t do the dishes but instead of voicing your true feelings, you do the dishes and keep your thoughts to yourself.  Not being true to yourself and what you feel deep inside is the biggest betrayal to your soul.  These repressed negative emotions can lead to health problems if they are left to build up over time.

Lately, I have this urge to help people see this truth.  I know the mistakes I have made and I have a strong desire to share my knowledge so others can avoid the same mistakes.  Sometimes I just want to scream—TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY!!!  WHY ARE YOU TREATING YOURSELF SO BADLY?!   DON’T YOU SEE HOW YOU ARE DESTROYING YOUR OWN POWER?!  But then I realize that I have to come off of my high horse and admit that I am still learning and healing.  I also need to respect that everyone is on their own path of healing and rather than judging them, I can try to inspire them.

The key, as always, is awareness.  Stay in tune with what you are thinking and feeling.  Reflect on your actions.  Ask yourself–Why do I keep focusing on this thought?  What is the feeling behind it?  Why did I do/say that?  What is my TRUE intention?  Make sure that your body, mind and soul are existing harmoniously.

3.  Your thoughts and emotions shape your world.

Many people have heard of the Law of Attraction–that you create every positive and every negative event that happens to you with your thoughts.  I think it’s a pretty good theory but I believe it leaves out the importance of the layers of emotions that we carry around with us.  You can say to yourself over and over, “I want to be rich.” and imagine money coming to you.  But if deep down you feel unworthy of success and wealth or perhaps you don’t even value having lots of money, you will never attract it.  I think it also oversimplifies a very complex universe and the extremely elaborate labyrinthine that is the mind.  You can’t just wish for something and expect to get it.

What is certain for me is that thoughts are what create intentions and intentions become actions.  Where it becomes complicated though, is in the web of emotions that lies under those thoughts, both the conscious and subconscious ones.  The subconscious thoughts are often the ones with the most power.  They lurk in the dark crevasses of your mind, hiding so you won’t see them.  “So how do I uncover these subconscious thoughts?” you may ask.  This is where interpreting your dreams can be very useful.  Your dreams can unlock all of your subconscious fears and desires.  I definitely highly recommend writing down your dreams and looking for any recurring ideas or symbols.

As I already mentioned, our thoughts and emotions are inextricably entwined.  Once you have untangled your web of emotions, you can look straight at your fears.  It is at this point that you can really start to override their power.  With fears kept at bay, the true alignment of emotions and thoughts, intentions and actions can occur.  You may still notice your fears popping up, but with increased awareness, you can now act in accordance with soul’s true desire rather than reacting in fear.

So after all that soul searching you may have found out that your biggest fear was instability.  You realize don’t want to be rich at all.  You only thought you wanted to be rich because it made you feel safe and secure.  Surprisingly, perhaps you discovered what your soul is yearning for is adventure and travel!   Be open to the possibilities!  We all want to create a world that is true to our highest and wisest selves;  a world where we can feel passion and enthusiasm knowing that we are doing exactly what we want to do.   This is how we live with real peace, happiness and freedom.

These are the truths that I see.  My goal is to find inner peace and harmony and if I can, to help others also find peace and harmony.  As Michael Jackson sang–“Heal the world.  Make it a better place.  For you and for me and the entire human race.”

I would like to acknowledge the book–“The path of the Dreamhealer” by ADAM.  It has given me inspiration for this post.

Breakthrough!

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The breakthrough happened on Monday.  I was so tired because I had only slept for about four hours but somehow my mind was wired;  I couldn’t stop thinking.  Connections started to form in my mind as I followed its trip.  I thought about those two voices:  the voice of weakness and the voice of passivity.  I contemplated what they had in common.  I realized they were both fear dressed in sheep’s clothing.  For a long time, I had this idea that I had said or done something wrong.  I had become terrified of making a mistake.  I concluded that the best way to avoid mistakes was to keep quiet and not take any action that might be noticeable or daring.

Unfortunately, what I was actually doing was holding back the REAL me.  Staying hidden, I never showed anyone who Donna really was.  I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself and my ego tricked me into believing that no one wanted to hear me anyway.  I never took any bold actions and often allowed others to make choices for me.  This was how I protected myself–how I maintained a sense of safety, security and certainty.

Uncertainty and unpredictability were my worst enemies.  My clever ego created a story that weaved everything together.  What I really feared was making a mistake and being rejected and/or causing something bad to happen.  But it fooled me into thinking that I wasn’t that important; that I didn’t have any power.  My ego constantly whispered to me–You are not worthy.  You are not important.  No one wants to listen to you.  You are weak and powerless.  Your actions don’t make a difference in this world.–  This was how it attempted to keep me safe.  That way I didn’t have to deal with my ominous fear which was that my words and actions COULD have a big effect on the world around me–What if I said or did something wrong?  Who knows what might happen?

So basically I had learned to not trust myself.  I had conditioned myself to fear my own POWER.  Probably for most of my life I have had this underlying anxiety–an almost constant state of uneasiness or apprehension about future uncertainties.  (It’s no wonder I ended up studying probability and statistics!)  Up until now, it has been buried under these layers of false protection.  My coping mechanisms have worked quite well;  keeping me safely sealed up.

When I first began to get a taste of my own power was through dancing.  When I danced, I felt this power and trust that I had never felt before.  The REAL Donna was unleashed on the dance floor.  I was strong, powerful, sexy, playful, expressive and creative.  I trusted every spontaneous movement my body made.  I felt guided by the music;  I had no worries of making mistakes.  I was speaking with my body;  saying everything I had always wanted to say.  I was bold and I was loud!  Everyone noticed me.  My essence pouring out of every pore.  I was completely me–joyous and free!!

On the dance floor, all of my fears disappeared and I was ALL of Donna–no holding back, nothing to hide.  I had come a long way from the girl who was afraid to read aloud in English class but I was still playing it safe.  In the club, in this fantasy world I escaped to every weekend, I was ME but in the real day-to-day world, Donna continued to live through her limiting beliefs;  through this story she had concocted for herself.

Now comes the hard part–changing these fundamental beliefs I have held onto for so long.  It’s time to break this pattern of not believing in myself, not trusting myself and holding back.  The fears underneath all the anxiety have been exposed.  I have stripped away their masks and see them clearly.  As long as I live with awareness, I know I can break free from these barriers and become the person I know I am:  A human being who is loving, accepting and compassionate.  A woman who is strong, powerful and courageous.  A soul that is expressive, creative, playful, joyful, unique and amazing.

I have already started speaking for myself as I slowly learn to trust my words and actions.  Sometimes I get this unyielding feeling inside me and I know I absolutely MUST speak up because staying silent would go against my truest and highest self–it would be a betrayal to my soul.  When I hear those voices of fear, I can now recognize them and counter them with–I AM WORTHY AND IMPORTANT AND I HAVE THE COURAGE TO SPEAK MY TRUTH.  I AM STRONG AND POWERFUL AND I CAN MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE.  This process of relearning and reprogramming will not happen overnight.  I still need to be patient and gentle with myself.  But finally I am gaining a sense of peace.

For the last few nights, I have slept very well and I have awoken feeling calm.  It’s such a relief to feel calm!!!  It’s so good to feel serene and at ease!!  The anxiety is melting away, like snow after a long winter.  Spring is coming and I am ready to bloom–BLOOM STRONG!!