What has this year been like for you?
Most people have had a whole series of accomplishments. Everything from finishing a blog post to getting the kids fed, clothed, out the door and on time for school three days in a row to winning an award or making a bunch of money on a product launch.
Then, there have been the not so great moments.
Like missing deadlines or not meeting your income targets, or fighting with your spouse or eating that piece of pie and bowl of potato chips at midnight, even when you had just told yourself that morning that you were going to cut out sugar and salt from your diet.
These not so great moments are the ones that I am fascinated with. Because I think they hold the secret to a lot of our happiness and success in the new year.
Diagnosing Fear and Shame
I often tell people who interview me about my book that I have become an unintended expert on fear, since it is the main topic of conversation with many clients who are working on starting a business. The way to work with the fear is to diagnose it, digging for a truth that is buried in a feeling of panic or dread.
I think our failures and shameful moments hold the same hidden wisdom.
We are taught to avoid talking about failures, or admit feeling shame, because we will be perceived as weak.
It is kind of funny, isn’t it? We feel shame about feeling shame. Which is probably the quickest way to amplify and expand the feeling.
Shame is the feeling most exiled to the Island of Misfit Emotions. Click to Tweet
Thank goodness Brené Brown has devoted her time to creating a body of work around shame and vulnerability. As I have been reading her new book Daring Greatly, I alternate between shaking my fist in the air and wiping tears from my eyes (she also did a great interview on the Good Life Project by Jonathan Fields).
I don’t think I realized what a big role shame (or the avoidance thereof), has played in my life. It has been quite an awakening.
Yet I am convinced that buried in the stuck, the yuck, the frustrations and the shadows of my life are hidden jewels.
I am convinced because I have lived it. I have walked through some scary and dangerous times in my life (drugs in my teens and a horrible relationship in my 20s) that have made me a more kind and compassionate person and parent. In fact, I would describe my path out of these dark times as nothing short of spiritual epiphanies.
My latest stucky, sucky habit has been some weeks of severe writer’s block. Not coincidentally, it has coincided with a break from training mixed martial arts, after my beloved teacher was unfairly fired from his gym.
Rather than beat myself up about my sucky habit, I am seeking to understand it. And the best way to understand it is to acknowledge the shameful thoughts, then remember positive experiences with the thing I am trying to avoid.
Shame and Remembrance
Shameful thoughts alternate on different days, but some can be (I have nothing to say) (I am too far behind) (It won’t be good enough) (I have not spent thousands of hours researching, therefore my ideas have no merit).
Then I remember (I love to write) (Writing makes me feel free) (What is “behind,” anyway? Time is just a silly construct) (I always, without exception, feel better after having written rather than after having not written) (Even sucky writing may be just the think one person needs to read, which will cause them to take an action that will change the outcome of their life).
Who knows, maybe my shame about moments when I can’t write will be the key to becoming a better writer, much like numbing my emotions with drugs taught me to not to be afraid to hear people express deep emotion, and living in fear in a relationship led me to never accept dominance as a part of love.
And so rather than sweeping the shame and failures from 2012 under the rug, with the hope that they will magically evaporate in 2013, let’s bring them out in the light and examine them with a gentle eye.
Take a sucky habit – any sucky habit
What has plagued you this year?
Name it. Listen to it. Remember the positive things that happened when you were in positive relationship to it.
Example: I drink too much because …
Shame: (I am afraid to feel) and then … (if I feel I will have to admit I am angry) and then … (if I admit I am angry my wife may not accept me) and then … (if my wife does not accept me then she may leave me) and then … (I will be alone).
Remembrance: (I want to feel) and then … (when I feel I can release my anger) and then … ( when I release my anger I will be able to have an open and honest conversation with my wife) and then … (when I have an open and honest conversation with my wife, we can choose the path that leads both of us to truth and happiness, whether we end up together or apart).
Shame flourishes in dark corners.
Bring it out, and feel the grace of acceptance move through your life.
We can do this, and we will.