On Shame

I have been thinking a lot about shame.

Partly because I am only recently awakening to my own.

It is a new concept to me, and yet it has also been a part of me as far back as I can recall. I didn’t know that the sensations I had lived with for so long were actually a feeling, and not actually ME.

Sure, I had heard of it. Became a fan of Dr. Brené Brown years ago when her Ted Talk on vulnerability and shame went viral. (Brown’s 2010 TEDx Houston talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world.) She is sort of the Queen of Shame and Vulnerability. She is also a fellow introvert. (And a fellow Texan.) Read more about her and her work here.

Brown says: “I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive.”

Brown says she “became a shame researcher, because shame is the experience or fear of believing we’re not worthy of connection, and how people described their experiences of connection with me was by describing disconnection.”

Lately, I have been considering shame as being something that is getting in-between me and my desire to follow my talents as far as they can go into the world, as well as my desire to know and be known, to be intimate and have deep, meaningful relationships with people from a place of full authenticity. Once again, I am drawn to her work.

Again, in Brown’s own words: “One of the findings from my work that people get crunchy about is my belief that there’s no such thing as creative or not creative people. There’s people who use it, and people that don’t. I do believe – and this is where people get upset – that unused creativity is not benign. Ignoring that part of our humanity comes at a cost because, as you say, we are wired for creativity. It’s part of our DNA. My question is, if we are really wired to be creative, but people are not doing it, what gets in their way? So much of what gets in the way is shame.”

I have been at such a loss. I have healed so much of what stood in-between me and my desires, and yet still, I hold myself back again and again. So I am in a place now of asking what do I do about this?

Brown has developed the Shame Resistance Theory, or SRT, which she writes about in her book I Thought it Was Just Me, (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to I” am Enough”. [This article expands in detail on it.] What I take from it is that the way out is through vulnerability and connection, courage and empathy. Through recognizing shame and practicing critical awareness, recognizing our triggers, sharing our story with others, we grow our resilience to shame and develop empathy to build connection, courage and compassion.

Ah yes. So it will take more hard work and diligence. No magic pill, unfortunately, like the rest of this spiritual journey I have been on since birth and beyond. Great.

OK. I will dig deep and find the will to meet my shame head on. I have come this far. I am certainly not going to turn back now. Not sure yet what this will look like, but I am all in.

Who’s with me?

 #shamewarrior #theanswerisvulnerability

 I share my posts here.

 

 

To Share Or Not to Share, That is the Question

I got called out today, by a classmate. A colleague, really.

And it got me thinking about something that I don’t like thinking about.

It is about my tendency to hold on to the really personal things from my life.

I crave connection and intimacy. I love to go deep. But there are some things that I keep for myself.

Now, I am an actress. And the kind of acting that I am interested in practicing and experiencing is deeply, deeply personal and requires of me that I get deeply, deeply personal. That I bring to it all of me, the good, the bad, the ugly.

I want and need to bring myself to my art. I truly do.

And I need to take care of the part of me that needs to hold on to certain things.

So how, you may ask, do I navigate these two needs?

I am figuring that out as I go.

See, when my classmate called me out today, she was basically asking that I be more forthcoming about the details of the things I am working on in class.

It is not that I am withholding. I know that. I am generous about sharing my experience, my struggles. When asked, I will give all I can.

When asked.

The tricky part is that there seems to be something in me that doesn’t feel the need to share about it otherwise.

My colleague’s desire to know more has filled me with questions. Some are new, some I have been kicking around for decades.

The truth is, I do not seem to have the same need to talk about my personal process. In acting, in life. I like to be in it, experience it. To talk about it feels so…empty and falls so short of the experience itself.

Is this because there is a young part of me still very much alive in me who was traumatized at age 6 and who has held on to that experience with her life, as if to put it into words means to give away the one thing she was able to retain during the ripping apart, the shattering apart of her soul into a hundred pieces?

Yes, that is for sure. I have always sensed this. But it wasn’t until two years ago after years of healing layer upon layer of wounds that I finally got to almost rock bottom and found this part. I was astonished and honored when she let me in and let me know her. I was so grateful when she trusted me enough to let me share her story with a trusted healer. It became my responsibility then (at least my adult part’s) to make her number one. To make her my priority. To make her feel safe and seen and attended to. And I have.

But, I have also wanted to begin to share myself more and more with others through my work and in my personal relationships. This blog has been a big part of a series of actions towards this end. And thankfully, this young part of me has trusted me through the process so far.

And I know, as far as I have come, there is more to go. And so when my colleague called me out, I knew that the time has arrived to go further.

Even writing this feels like a bit of a betrayal, but the adult actress in me also needs my loyalty, doesn’t she?

I also come from a family lineage steeped in “keeping a stiff upper lip”. “Not letting the neighbors see” the truth. A family of secret-holders with Olympian levels of the ability to deny and to pretend.

I have had to dismantle these inheritances within my instrument in order to be present in my life, as well as my art. In order to have meaningful relationships. To become intimate with myself and others. And I have done a great deal of hard work to get where I am today.

What is my responsibility to my fellow artists in this class? I mean, it isn’t about me accounting intimate personal details. That is just story. I have always told myself that I am personal through my work. Well, perhaps I need to get even more intimate with my work, then. Perhaps that is what I need to take from my classmate’s words to me.

Or is that yet a continuance of my ability to avoid really sharing?

How do I care for that part that needs protection from exposure and get deeply personal in my work? Do I have to share my process to be a generous artist? I thought I was generous. I do share in detail when asked. As a scene partner or a director, as a blogger, a storyteller, I am willing to go to the mat, to put it all on the line.

But otherwise, it feels a bit like chit chat or gossip or something. It feels like I lesson the importance of it in the sharing of it. And for that part of me, it feels like she is in danger of losing the one thing that she could hold on to when the trauma was happening. All those soul parts flew away. What remained was the pain and the horror, and those became new pieces of my self. The adult me knows that can never be hurt like that again. Knows that I do not have to give anything away like that again. The young part? I think she feels a loss in the sharing of it.

Do I need to share if I do not need to share?

I know in twelve step programs and group therapy, we do not just share for ourselves. We never know when we share our experience how it will help another. I know this, and have given freely in those situations.

I am not sure what do to as a result of her request. Or even if there is anything I need to do, or change. I am simply asking, digging, considering, examining.

Is my approach to protecting that part of myself limiting me as an artist? If so, then I really want to grow my ability to go beyond the places that are comfortable.

I sit with all of this, feeling a mix of sadness, of fear, of loss.

And, too, a feeling of gratitude for this colleague, for putting her need on the line, for taking the risk to ask more of me.

Perhaps I am ready to go beyond what I know about all of this. Maybe all the healing has brought me to a new place. Maybe the part who needs my loyalty is trusting that I will always honor the validity of her experience and keep her number one, forever, no matter what else.

Maybe this is what is known as wholeness, of integration.

I do not need to know all the answers today.

Today, I take my 6 year-old’s hand. I hold her on my lap and sing her a lullaby, and the actress/adult me writes this post and asks the Universe to show me the way through.

I breathe and I type and I sing and I listen.

#theartistsway #integration #healing #wholeness

I share my posts here.

 

 

On Strike

Sometimes, life is too hard.

I mean it. Sometimes, I just have to give up.

Not permanently. Not in a dangerous or devastating way.

But yes, I am saying that sometimes you just have to say, “Enough.”

Do not get me wrong. I am all for positivity.

If it were not for having learned to watch my thoughts and understand that I am not my thoughts or feelings, I would surely be dead today. My thoughts have a tendency to the dark side. The side that urges me to death. The side that has had enough of pain and sorrow and wishes for me a return to the void as soon as possible.

I have come to respect and have compassion for that dark side tendency of my mind. It is, its own way, trying to help me survive. But I have put it in the back seat of my psyche as a passenger on this ride through life. I do not let it drive. It would drive me off a steep cliff, like that last scene in “Thelma and Louise.” I observe it. I am not it.

Back to positivity. I thoroughly believe, after much personal experimentation, that there is, indeed, a tremendous power in our thoughts. Choosing life on a daily basis and choosing  how to respond to life and the thoughts and feelings that arise as a result of living moment to moment are a crucial key to my having a fulfilling existence with some degree of serenity.

I have learned I can direct my thoughts. I can see when they are in a groove, an old, habitual, familiar song. I can pick up the needle off the record (remember those?) and set it on a new groove. I can literally rewire my brain over time with consistency and commitment.

I believe in and have benefited from the power of mantras and affirmations.

These are all tools I use to co-create a rich and full life each day.

Yet.

I also believe, after many failed attempts to do otherwise, that there is a value and a necessity to having times where I can throw my hands up, literally and figuratively, and say to the Universe, to God, and, perhaps most importantly, to my Higher Self and all of my selves: “I give up!”

Somehow, for me, exercising my ability to say “Enough, I cannot go on another inch, I am done, that’s it!” has been very important.

Some part of my spirit, deep down inside, perhaps very young, very formerly traumatized, needs me to heed her desire to say, “No more.”

I tried to push away her voice for many, many years. First, I drowned it in food and alcohol. Later, I drowned it in positivity and recovery. Finally, I stopped and listened. Really acknowledged and listened.

I had to truly stop snd listen. Once I could hear her voice, it was very easy to find compassion for her pain and her suffering.

She did not trust me at first. Understandably, she had no reason to believe that I had any interest in her needs whatsoever. I get it. I’d neglected her for so long. Denied her existence, or worse, judged and bullied her. At first, I didn’t trust myself to be able to help her, make her feel safe.

But I made a commitment to her to always be there for her. To listen and help her. To make her the priority over anything else, as a matter of fact.

To parent her. And as a parent, I do not let her run the show. She is too young. Too raw. Too wounded. But I do honor her needs. I take them seriously. I give her attention, affection, acceptance. I give her my love.

And when she says “Enough,” we stop.

Not forever. Not in a dangerous or permanent way.

But we stop. I stop.

I unplug from the striving. The adult-ing. The New York City drive-ing.

I go on strike. I take a pause. I withdraw from the world.

I take a beat. I let her relax as fully as she can. I hold her hand and say, “I know. It is hard. I hear you are weary.”

And then, when she has had my attention and has been given a rest, when we both feel that it is time, I get back into my life and the world again.

She snuggles back into my heart, and lets me enter fully into the moments of my life.

And so I enter back into my life again. Awake. Ready to strive. To pursue. To stretch and grow.

Whole.

Astral Projection

I learned long ago

How to leave my body

Escape what was

Incomprehensibly horrific

I saved my own life

Salvaged my sanity

(Such as it was)

But there’s a price to be paid for such traveling

You cannot escape the bad

Without missing out on the good

I could leave my body

At any time today

But I choose not to

I have other ways to cope

That don’t cost so much

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: astral

Swimming in the Shallows

Most of my life, I have dreaded small talk.

I’ve often felt very judgmental towards it, seeing it as superficial and not understanding why people would want to engage in it.

I usually felt very anxious around it. I’d often feel lonely and empty-feeling during and afterwards. A bit lost.

I believe some of this has to do with my being a heavily-introverted person. Introverts, as it has become widely known as of late, often do not enjoy small talk.

But why this is true for many of us is largely misunderstood.

Here’s an excerpt from a well-written article by Lecia Bushak: Why Introverts Hate Small Talk: The Myths And Misconceptions About Our Quieter Companions.

Introverts Are Exhausted By Small Talk. People who are introverted tend to prefer “heavier” conversations pertaining to philosophy and ideas, rather than small talk. Indeed, introverts can get easily intimidated, bored, or exhausted by small talk. They would much rather be “real” with someone and talk about more weighty things.

For years, I thought I was shy. I was told I was shy as a child, and the way in which it was said/used signaled to me that being shy was not a good thing to be. I grew up hating that about me, even though I wasn’t even really sure what it actually referred to about me.

In my confusion, I put together the theory that I was “shy” meant that I was quiet + I was thoughtful and that these things = that I was defective in some way.

To this day, I bristle when people use the word shy in reference to their children as in: “Don’t be shy, say hello,” and “She/he is shy.” In the former example, the “shy” is usually said with an inherently negative-messenging tone directly to the child. In the latter, it is whispered about the child, usually in their presence, as if it is something to be ashamed of, or apologized for. Why do we do this to our children — label them with such far-reaching labels? (Don’t even get me started on that word!!!)

There is a difference between introversion and shyness. Being shy is about social anxiety. An introvert may not have social anxiety. They may just really not need or enjoy being in groups to socialize. As Bushak says in her article:

Introverts tend to turn inward when solving problems or observing the world around them. They process stimuli better internally, rather than reaching out and socializing with others. Where extroverts become energized from social interactions, introverts regain energy through alone time. After going to a party or spending time forcing themselves to network, introverts often feel drained from the stimulation and must go home to recharge.

They’re more likely, in general, to want to stay home with a good book and a cup of tea, rather than go out and experience the night through partying, loud music, and meeting new people. But just because they gain energy from being alone doesn’t mean they’re shy or socially anxious. Social anxiety and introversion are two different things. “The number-one misconception about introversion is that it’s about shyness,” Dembling told The Huffington Post. “The best distinction I’ve heard comes from a neuroscientist who studies shyness. He said, ‘Shyness is a behavior — it’s being fearful in a social situation. Whereas introversion is a motivation. It’s how much you want and need to be in those interactions.’”

I sometimes do experience shyness and social anxiety. There are parts of me that are very young and are not adept at socializing and so become very anxious around it. It makes total sense to me. When that happens, I tell them to go play and let me take charge of the situation. I take care of those parts because they need taking care of in those situations. That does not make me a shy or anxious person. That means I am a person experiencing shyness or anxiety.

Conversely, there are parts of me (both young and adult parts) who are totally adept at small talk, joke and story-telling and being gregarious, parts who love making people laugh and think.

I tend to be an introvert, so yes, I tend to prefer one-on-one conversation and that it be deep rather than chat about nothing at a party. I do feel drained after social events. I do need to refill my well with alone time.

And I like to meet new people, and if I am in the mood, I am a great listener and converser. If I am in the mood, I love parties. At one time in my life, I was even considered to be a “party animal.” That did not mean I was out-going.

Once I began to really see what was underneath the “shy” label that so affected my early self-perception, I began to explore my introversion and extroversion tendencies and find compassion and appreciation for both. None of them define me as a person. They are simply colors within me.

I no longer judge all small talk as superficial or something that is for people who are afraid to go deeper. Today, I am able to appreciate that sometimes “pleasantries” are a useful bridge or transition in social situations, and have a time and a place as well as the deeper, meatier conversations I prefer.

I do not want to have meaningless conversations that avoid intimacy or risk, certainly. But there are times when there is something in-between. Hence, the phrase “small talk.”

I used to read that to mean “nothing” or “inferior” talk.

Now I get that it can simply be a “brief amount”, an “easy amount”, an amount that does not weigh or cost much.

It’s actually quite a lovely thing and perfectly named. Small talk.

So whether you are an introvert, shy or someone like me and a mix of it all, here is a great article with some helpful ideas for navigating the tricky waters of small talk: Christina Park’s “An Introvert’s Guide To Small Talk: Eight Painless Tips.”

And for more reading, here’s another interesting piece on the subject: Cherie Burbach’s “I Hate Small Talk Why Introverts Can’t Deal With Making Small Talk”

Here’s to those of us who sometimes feel shy, sometimes feel introverted, sometimes feel like stealing the show. It is all a part of being human, and it makes conversations work. Imagine if we were all one way or the other! Either we’d all be listening in silence or we’d all be talking over each other. Thank goodness, there is a need for it all.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: superficial

Elastic Heart

My elastic heart, once closed so tight-fisted

Like that ancient tree trunk in the park

Gnarled and twisted, hard and dense

Now stretched to capacity, unfurled beyond its former limits

Overflowing with golden-colored warmth

That’s what love did, it stretched my heart open

Like the petals of a tulip in full bloom,

Expanding daily, taking up more and more space in the world

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: elastic