I've been trying to write this post for months (or so it feels) but it hasn't been an easy one to piece together. I've struggled with what to say and how to say it, and also what not to say. Initially when I first felt inspired to write about shame and guilt, especially their relationship to fear, pain and grief, I thought it would all just come spilling out of me, and although I feel like I have those words and thoughts ready to spill, I'm also acutely aware that there are parts of my experience with shame and guilt that cannot yet be shared. They will be soon, when the time is right, but for now I have to skit around the edges and not delve into a really significant part of my personal experience. Not only does that feel frustrating, but it also feels like I'm dishonouring you by not sharing all that I want to share. Oh the irony of it all, feeling the shame and guilt over writing about the very same! There's nothing straight forward about us Humans is there?! We really are a multi-layered complicated bunch!
On that note, you are aware that just because I'm writing about this stuff and encouraging this discussion, it does not mean I have all the answers, yes? This is us engaging in a conversation so that we can all gain some kind of enlightened healthy perspective and take a little bit of peace and understanding into our days. None of us have the answers and that is why I believe this conversation is so important. It does not mean I've finished working through all my stuff, I'm not sure any of us ever actually finish working through our stuff. We shed, we gain, we work on it, we clear it and we become stronger and more able to recognise our stuff for what it truly is. We're able to play the observer of that stuff and of those emotions rather than attaching our 'selves' and our reactions to it. This is what comes with digging deeply and doing the inner work. We are Beings in a Human body here to have Human experiences. This is what it's about! So here I am sitting in this topic of guilt and shame, while feeling the discomfort of those conditions, and simultaneously writing about them. Now you see why this post has been a struggle? Plus, that experience right there is another example of that 'observing the experience while participating in the experience' thing that I mentioned in this post. Right now, I'm feeling it, observing it, allowing for said feelings and acknowledging their presence, but... BUT, I'm not attaching my 'self' to them and therefore they have no power or control over me. Because of that, they cannot influence my reactions and emotions. I continue to have the choice over how I feel in this given moment and how that shapes the direction of my future. Huh? You say. How does that work when I've just admitted that I'm unable to share the fullness of my experience in this part of my story...? Well, it's not my fear that is blocking that, it's the compassion and respect for some of my loved ones, and that makes it very very different. That is why I have my conflict, because I have to make a choice between honouring myself and our conversation (yours and mine), or maintaining necessary respect and compassion for those closest to me. Eeep... like I said, we're a multi-layered complicated bunch!
I decided I wanted to try and illustrate this Human Experience with a visual, so I designed a little flowchart. You can supersize it by giving it a click. It's a work in progress though, okay. This is the very first time I've tried to connect the dots in a visual way and even as I publish this post, I think it's highly possible that some tweaking is needed. The difficulty is that there are so many grey areas, so many blurred boundaries and interchangeable aspects. In truth, there could probably be a whole lot more detail and a thousand double headed arrows directing the energies toward and away from each other. But hey, it's a start and I didn't want to overcrowd it or make it too complicated! A simple visual always works best, less is more yes? And what I would dearly dearly love, is for your input. I would love to create a chart that we have all worked on together, so that this really can be a collaborative project. It is The Human Experience after all. And just so you know, the 'Triggers' are not limited to those I have listed, but I've just tried to focus on the massive significant 'game changers'. Our ultimate aim within ALL Human experiences is to chose LOVE over FEAR and no matter what has gone on, is going on or is yet to go on, we always, ALWAYS, have that choice!
I have a friend who recently shared with me her struggles with guilt and shame. Her guilt around not offering support to someone she loves during their time of grief. Her shame over her own avoidance of pain, and that compounding effect of shame over the shame! Like I mentioned in my initial Why Do We Run post; grief and pain are inevitable, fear is unavoidable, but guilt and shame? Well, I'm of the belief that they are a choice, what do you think? They definitely do not serve us any positive purpose and I'm wondering whether guilt and shame come about as a direct result of fear and are created when we forfeit our power to said fear? If we are able to fill our fear with Love and the self-worth and compassion that surrounds Love, would that grant us freedom from guilt and shame? I'm thinking that maybe it just might.
During that time when my friend was unable to support her friend through her grief, my friend was herself experiencing massive emotional turmoil and pain from another unrelated event. She has been carrying some level of shame and guilt ever since as she wishes she had been able to be there for her friend. Now I am unaware of her friend's response in all this but I do know that my friend needs to absolutely let herself off the hook! She needs to forgive herself and the great thing is that her process has begun. She now recognises it for what it is and how it has come about. Like I said to her, seeing the truth behind those fear based energies is the first massive step to clearing and releasing it, and therefore no longer attaching ourselves to it or allowing it the power to define who we are and who we wish to become. Her forgiveness of herself needs to come from Love and honouring her own worth. To choose compassion over shame, Love over Fear. She also needs to detach her response from that of her friend's. Definitely not an easy thing to do and not especially if her friend is unable to move through her own grief because she could very well project her own pain and fear onto my friend, which in turn would exacerbate my friend's guilt and shame... and the vicious wheel keeps turning.
Something I have experienced over the past two and a half years, but only recently worked through my negative response, is that you can't force someone to deal with their stuff. Encourage them, YES. Support them, YES. But force them, no. It's just like the old saying, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. What I mean by this is that there are many people who use to be in the life I shared with Tuck, who are no longer in my life now *. Each one of these people spoke many promises to me during those early days. Those promises have not been kept and you know what? That's totally okay! I didn't necessarily feel that way twelve months ago, heck I'm not even sure I felt that way six months ago! I've had to dig deep and work through my fear based reactions that manifested as disappointment and anger. As soon as I shoved my Ego (read fear) out the way, I saw the truth and I was able to switch those negative feelings into compassion. These people, their response, their lack of action? It's nothing to do with me or my children, and it's only very loosely connected to Tuck. It's about them. It's about their pain, their fear, their grief. They were/are not able to support me because they did/do not have it to give. They have not fitted their gas mask (explanation coming), in other words, they have not yet honoured their own healing. They are hurting too much and are consumed by their own fear and their own pain. And they are the only ones who can take responsibility for that. It's a self-care thing and around that is a self-worth thing. Guess what my 'Word For The Year' is for 2017? Ha, yep, WORTH! KABAMMM!!!! There we have it.
There was an article I wrote last year that was published in an Aussie mag, where I shared about single parenting and used the analogy of flight attendants when they advise passengers to fit their own gas masks before assisting another. You know the one... in the event of an emergency etc etc... it's always standard legal procedure before take-off. We can translate that to ALL areas of life. The friend I mentioned before (my friend, not my friend's friend), and those other people in my life who haven't kept their promises, they are the passengers. We are all the passengers if we are not honouring our own self-worth and we continue to allow fear to drive the car. We have to fit our own gas mask before stepping up to help. You cannot step up to help in any true emotionally supportive sense if you yourself are in pain, if you are grieving, and any action of support will be diverted because of that emotional pain. Does that make sense? Let me offer an example, there are people who I have asked to help out in various ways, small things, easily dismissible things. Although willing and of good intent, the follow through of their actions has lacked because (I believe) of their own fear and grief. That action serves as a reminder to the pain they themselves are trying to run from. It's harder to ignore if it's right in your face and that is what the 'follow though' to their promises, that action of support, does. It shoves it right back into the forefront of your consciousness. The reason my friend needs to detach her response from her friend's response is because depending on where her friend is at, it may not serve as a benefit. If I did not feel compassion for these people who were unable to support me, then my grief, my pain, my fear, could create a very ugly scenario and add layers of guilt and shame to what they are possibly already experiencing. We should never try and project our fear onto someone else, that's ours to work through, not theirs. No doubt they have their own and it can get very confusing when we subconsciously take on that which belongs to someone else. There's an acronym for this and my dear friend and healer calls it, OPS (Other People's Shit!)
So my friends, how about we make a pact? Let's all connect through our Love not our fear and let's remove our attachments to our own and each others fear so that these things called guilt and shame are no longer a part of our conditioning. No one said these Human experiences were easy! But you know what? When you actually learn how to observe them instead of attach to them, it becomes a bit of a game. I like to think of it as a golf game in particular, not that I've ever properly played golf but I have done the odd 9 hole in the past and here's the thing... if you get lazy or cocky, even just for one stroke of the club, if you slump on your stance or short cut your follow through, your games gonna go to crap!
So people, let's stand up tall, straight and strong, let's breathe, let's focus, and let's play shall we? ;)
* A part of this distancing from those other people in my life is also connected to the natural evolution of things. I am just emerging from my chrysalis, that forced metamorphosis brought on by Tuck's death. I have changed, absolutely. I believe my experience has created a difference within me that is better than how I was before. With that comes a natural shift, one that is part of the cycle of life. I am not who I was before and I don't want to be. I wonder if a butterfly ever acknowledges it's life as a caterpillar, or whether it even remembers that life? Some things, some people, some friendships, I recognise as belonging to who I was, not who I am. They are part of a previous season now, one that is doing it's own thing and undergoing it's own adventures as I welcome the new things, the new people and the new friendships that are helping me create the seasons of my future.
** The little bits and pieces in the top photograph were temporarily taken from my Vision Board for this year for the purpose of that pic - they're back where they belong now... pinned among all the other things that are important to me and are a part of my annual focus. My Board is positioned right above my desk where I can see all those good things, all day, every day ;) And my Word For The Year garland? Well, I have this box of pretty wooden letter cuts, only at the start of this year I couldn't find that box for all the tea in China, so I used what letters I could from the scattered random ones I found in my search and Evie offered to make the remaining, "W" and "T". I have since found my box, but I rather like that my girl and I collaborated for my "WORTH" so I kept her homemade letters!