“The creation of the second self (ego) doesn’t happen in love. Ego is created in defense of love.” ~ Russ Hudson, co-founder of the Enneagram Institute

Note: Some of this content may be upsetting or disturbing.

~~~

1968: I’m standing at the blackboard in my first grade classroom, after school, writing my numbers from 1 to 100. It’s my punishment for calling one of my classmates a crybaby.

My face feels hot and prickly. There’s a pit in my stomach. It feels like I can’t breathe.

I want to disappear.

I disconnect from myself.

~~~

I had felt the exact same way just a few days prior when my mother made me tell my stepfather, in graphic detail, about what I had done with some neighborhood kids in the woods.

It was a “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” situation that went beyond showing, to touching.

I can barely get the words out because I am crying so hard.

I want to disappear.

I disconnect from myself.

~~~

That’s why I was, a few days later, trying offload that feeling onto my classmate.

I get home from school that day, stand in front of a mirror, sneer at myself and say, “I hate you. You’re so ugly.” I scratch my face.

I believe: I am bad.

I disconnect from myself.

~~~

1969: I’m sitting alone at the dining room table. My mother is in the kitchen and my stepfather is standing in the doorway watching me. On my plate is a pile of cold lima beans congealed with margarine.

I had ruined dinner because I refused to eat them. My parents coaxed and threatened and laughed and rolled their eyes and told me there were starving children in Africa who would be grateful to have my lima beans.

I want to disappear.

Finally they lose their patience. Frustrated, my mother gets up to do the dishes.

“You will sit there until you eat them,” my stepfather says. “And if you don’t eat them now, you’ll have them for breakfast.”

With tears running down my face, I take a fork full, put it in my mouth, chew a couple of times, try to swallow, and gag the mess back up onto my plate.

“Now you’ll have to eat THAT for breakfast!” my stepfather says, teeth clenched.

I believe: I am a selfish, spoiled brat.

I disconnect from myself.

~~~

1971: I’m scrambling to finish the extra chores I was given so I could raise the money to go on a school trip to Washington DC. It’s the last day to make the payment and I haven’t earned enough. As the minutes and hours tick forward, I am desperate. I beg for more chores.

“Go get my slippers and I’ll pay you ten cents,” my stepfather offers.

And still it isn’t enough.

I am sure I’m not going to Washington, DC, because I haven’t earned it. I haven’t worked hard enough. I must not want it enough.

I want to disappear.

At the last minute, they say, “Okay, we’ll chip in the last dollar” (or whatever it was).

I believe: I am a pathetic loser.

I disconnect from myself.

~~~

2021, last Friday: I’m grocery shopping.

“Stop dancing in the aisles!” the woman whisper-shouts, teeth bared, hands clenched, at the two girls with her (her granddaughters?).

The girls shrink.

I lock eyes with an older gentleman as we navigate the crowded produce section.

I smile.

He dances a little jig.

“May you always feel free to dance in the aisles,” I say to him, and to the girls, with a wink, who are watching behind their grandmother’s back.

He nods and smiles.

Meanwhile, a young man turns to the woman with him and says, “Should I make a cobbler?”

She doesn’t reply.

“I think the answer to that question is always ‘yes’,” I say in a low voice, with a smile.

“Thanks,” he replied, in an equally low voice.

I believe: I am a joyful, intense, mischievous human. I show up. I connect.

~~~

Simple moments of magic. Of mischief. Of connection. Of repair.

These are the moments to cultivate and nurture. These are the moments that heal and transform.

As many moments of shame I’ve had in the past nearly 60 years, there have been at least an equal number of these moments. And I haven’t always noticed.

~~~

Shame is not about right and wrong (that’s what guilt is for).

The painful sensation you know as shame comes from the interpretation that there is something fundamentally wrong with you.

Shame is…

…a loss of connection. (Dr. Gabor Mate)

…the breaking of the interpersonal bridge. (Gershen Kaufman)

…the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing you are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. (Brené Brown)

…a combination of an emotion and a freeze state. (Bret Lyon)

…an invitation from yourself…to yourself…to love yourself for no other reason other than that you exist. (me)

~~~

Experiencing shame, trauma, and disconnection from self are part of being human.

You are not responsible for the shame and trauma you experienced as a child…or the resultant disconnection. And you were probably taught that forgiveness and absolution and approval and validation and healing can ONLY come from outside sources. Churches. Priests. Gods. Authority figures. Elders. Teachers. Doctors. Your parents. Your adult children.

I invite you to consider that the most gratifying connection of all is the one you have with yourself, and that it is this most vital of connections that creates authentic connection with others. And healthy, appropriate boundaries.

Start with curiosity and compassion and with all of your senses.

It’s not about never again, it’s about catching yourself sooner.

Much, much love,

Karen

Mentor to humans repairing shame + cultivating pride and joy

I can help you catch yourself. Reconnect to yourself. It makes all the difference. Click here to start a conversation with me about working together.

“We do not become healers.
We came as healers. We are.
Some of us are still catching up to what we are.
We do not become storytellers.
We came as carriers of the stories that
we and our ancestors actually lived. We are.
Some of us are still catching up to what we are.
We do not become artists. We came as artists. We are.
Some of us are still catching up to what we are.
We do not become writers. Dancers. Musicians. Helpers. Peacemakers.
We came as such. We are.

Some of us are still catching up to what we are.
We do not learn to love in this sense. We came as Love. We are Love.
Some of us are still catching up to who we truly are.”

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

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