One of my weekly journal prompts was to look at what triggers me when I react with anger. Of course I skipped that prompt.
A couple of days later I found myself in a confrontational situation after a neighborhood meeting. The exchange upset me so much that I was unable to sleep that night. I continued reenacting the situation in my head the next morning and soon I was reimagining it with pithier and loftier responses from me. The journal prompt flashed across my consciousness, I had found a big, ugly, hairy trigger.
As I peeled back the layers of the anger, I realized that the trigger was shame.
One of Brené Brown definitions of shame is, “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.”
As I explored the ways I had felt shamed over my life I had came to two conclusions. First was that I often been shamed about things I could not change, particularly my body build. Secondly, I had been shamed about traits that are the essence of who I am. I saw how shaming had been used to try to force me to shrink, perhaps to make the shamer feel differently about him or herself.
Continuing to dig and explore all of the toos I have been given over the years (too tall, too big, too loud, too outspoken, and so on) I stared to see that my toos are part of my gifts. I believe that each person has gifts and talents that only he/she can bring to the world. We are not all going to find the cure for cancer, but that does not diminish the person that is here to bring joy by creating amazing cakes from scratch or raising money for cancer research or showing kindness to another person or the millions of other things individuals provide to each other and the world.
With age and retrospect, I am now healing by starting to fully accept all parts of me. To recognize when the voice in my head is that of a shamer making me feel like I do not deserve to be loved as I am.
Part of accepting all of me is exploring and understanding what triggers my strong reactions. Another part is learning when to temper a trait and when to unleash my full expression. The final part is not shaming myself after I my reaction continues to nag at me after the situation.
Listening to Brené Brown’s podcast and her research on shame, I understand that shaming myself or another is not productive. Shame does not create positive shame. Shame is more likely to create destructive or harmful behavior.