Shame is one of the three main blocks to seeing the face of God, according to the great Indian saint, Sri Ramakrishna. The first time I read that, something inside of me resonated so powerfully, because I realized that at a deeper level, it means that everything, absolutely everything, about ourselves has to be accepted. It also reminded me that just about everyone on earth has something deep inside that they feel ashamed of. In other words, we’re all ashamed of ourselves, but we’re all in this “shame-pot” together, and the irony is that shame usually arises because we think, “Oh, I’m the only one who feels this way or who did such and such.” And everyone else is thinking the same thing, that they’re the only one.
No matter what thought or deed you’re shamed by, you can be sure hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other people have had the same ugly thought or impulse. We all came to earth with egos—there’s just no getting around it, and egos cause us to do things, say things, think things that just aren’t pretty. But as Don Miguel Ruiz says in The Fifth Agreement , humans are the only species that keep punishing themselves over and over again for transgressions. When we carry around shame, we keep punishing ourselves nonstop, every minute, for something finished, done, gone.
The thing about shame is the more you try to ignore whatever shames you, the more you refuse to look it, the worse it stinks, like food leftovers stashed in the back of your closet. If you want to be free, you need to be brave and unearth the shameful truth. If you need professional help to do so, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Remember, even the professional you see undoubtedly grapples with shame. Nobody is above it—nobody, except maybe a handful of saints.
I just saw an amazing documentary called What I Want My Words to Do to You about women inmates who had committed heinous crimes and who sought redemption. These women had all done terrible things, murder and so forth, but now they were in a writing group in prison where they wrote about their crimes, in detail, dredging up the shame and guilt they felt, accepting responsibility, facing their darkest selves head on. Their courage brought me to tears. We all have ugly places inside, and to transform the darkness we need to expose it to the light with the absolute bravery and honesty of those women. If they can do it, so can we.
Dr. Hiyaguha Cohen offers life coaching by Skype or phone and in-person Hawaii counseling. Click HERE to go to her website.
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