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Shame & Should; What to do with Shame, Guilt and Fear

SHAME (Photo credit: BlueRobot)

I’ve felt uber-connected in some parts of my life lately. I have a blessed abundance of friendship, of caring friends whom, without their support the last few months, I would have dipped more deeply into some mindless-emotion-numbing habit.It’s true what they say about doing something kind for others. It really does make you feel better. Kindness is a kind of tonic that multiplies in efficacy. It benefits not only the beneficiary, but the donor.

That’s all well and great. Happiness, contentment, lack of longing, healthy, forgiving expectation. Aren’t they all terrific emotions? Sure my sweet little peach-pies. It’s all bliss and toothy grins.

But last night I had a different kind of conversation. A long conversation, about emotions much less pleasant. What about shame, guilt, fear, anger and addiction ?

They all suck. Quite often when someone is feeling these emotions, well-meaning friends offer advice about what you, ‘should’ do to cure the feeling. Should, has no place in a conversation with yourself or anyone else when these emotions are playing with your heart and mind.

Shame, guilt, fear and anger deserve our attention equally, if not more so, than the feel-good emotions we strive to cling to day after day, and moment-to-moment. After all, it’s human nature to run these bad-boy emotions out of our life. Why? Because they hurt. A punch to the solar plexus is much more tolerable than carrying the weight of negative emotion.

So, last night, during a conversation that was meant to encourage another person to seize the day and make the most out of life, even after crisis and loss, I revisited some of the indiscretions of my past. It was painful, for me and I’m not sure I made my point. I babbled well though, I’m good at that.

Experience comes from making mistakes, and let’s just say, I’ve had a world of experience my darlings. Although my decision-making, especially regarding personal relationships, has been much more healthy during the past few years, I alone know the truth about how I came to this place of strength and personal integrity.

I arrived at this place through much pain, loss and suffering. I had to learn painful emotional lessons over and over in order to make a change. An important part of ‘learning the lesson’ was forgiving myself and allowing myself to be loved, to believe in all of the things my heart ever ached for, and (gasp) to be vulnerable enough to trust other people who, being human and all, have also made shameful, guilt-provoking mistakes in their own lives.

So, it was not easy to disclose some of my more painful memories of indiscretion last night over a glass of wine and some food. It was much easier after the second glass of wine, but I digress

Still, I woke up this morning wanting to pull the covers over my head and stay there until someone noticed a funny smell in the hallway and broke in to investigate.

Being vulnerable, being open, being honest, can be very painful, especially if you think it was pointless.

My hope was to help a friend realize that we all make mistakes. We’re all assholes sometime, and it’s ok, as long as we learn and change for the better because of it. Life goes on even when you don’t want to wake up in the morning. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself and everyone else, there is no redemption. There is no spiritual growth, and you perpetuate pain and suffering. Your remain, simply, and plainly, an asshole.

So life isn’t what you expected. You screwed up. Tuck the lesson in your pocket and carry on hoping, with faith, and believing in love. Forgive yourself, give up on battering your ego to the ground with negative self-talk, and let the life you always wanted take root.

Oh yah, and don’t judge me because I don’t feel guilty or ashamed any more.

Earlier this weekend a friend told me about some advice that was given to her when life presented a challenge. “The fork in the road”, dilemma over what to do next. A man gave her some advice, ” You don’t stand there looking at the fork. You pick up the fork and go looking for your next meal.”

Trust me, when you pick up the fork, you’ll know exactly the kind of life you’re craving.

Link to a blog about sexuality and shame;


A little bit quirky, a lot a bit fun... Women have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to valuable experience. Throughout we history we have encouraged one another to live with courage. What better way to celebrate our gifts and wisdom than to toast our sisterhood with creativity, shared insight and laughter? Welcome to Sit down and stay a while. Invite your friends. Share your wisdom with us.

5 thoughts on “Shame & Should; What to do with Shame, Guilt and Fear

  1. 1) As always, I appreciated your honesty in this piece; you continue to be an inspiration to myself as well as others. 2) Watch out for that smell in the hallway; I’ve literally been there. 😦

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