By Jeff Brown
Lately, I have been having conversations with people who have read Soulshaping. The theme that emerges most often in these talks is that of shame. Something about the depth of self-admission in the book seems to trigger it. Some celebrate that self-revealing. Some are uncomfortable with it. Some are reminded of their own shame and want to head for the hills.
When I wrote Soulshaping, my shame was never very far away, diminishing my writing, listening in for that moment when I imagined myself relevant. If I kept myself small, it stayed asleep. But if I imagined myself worthwhile, the shame-a-thon began. There were times when I wanted to stop writing, stop the self-revealing, stop!
But I worked with it, talked to it, negotiated. Another voice inside told me to push on through: “Your call is to self-reveal and give others permission to do the same. Push on through. Tell the bloody truth.” For a brief period, the shame-a-thon went quiet.
It began to re-surface when Soulshaping was released. Just when you think the monster has died, he shows up on your doorstep begging to see you. I would feel uncomfortable going places where I knew someone had read it. Yoga class felt strange. My favorite restaurant, too. The inner voice was consistent: “They know everything about you. You’ve humiliated yourself. Hide your face in shame…”
And so I did. For three long weeks. But then something happened. My soul’s voice rose to the rafters of consciousness to remind me that self-revealing (soul-revealing) was at the heart of my journey. It was essential to my own healing and my contribution to the world. And it reminded me that writing the book was only one step in my journey. It didn’t end there. The next step was bringing the message of self-admission into the world, warts and all. For this moment at least, my face is exposed.
If there is anything that can prevent us from excavating and honoring our callings, it is our own shame. With our light hid under a bushel of shame, it is very difficult to imagine our highest possibilities. If we think we are worthless, how can we spot the God-self that lives inside of us? How can we know our inherent magnificence?
Unfortunately we often don’t know how much shame we carry. Some of us have no idea it is in there because it is all we have ever known. Some of us are simply too ashamed to face our shame. When we look in the mirror, we don’t see the soul’s light shining through. Distorted by misidentification and the messages of others, we see someone else’s idea of who we are.
Shame is rooted in the shame pit of generations before, perpetuating the self-hatred of the collective unconsciousness, still lodged in dark energies and imaginings. It is deep in us, deep in the messaging many of us received from our parents, deep in the culture at large.
There is no simple answer to the shame-a-thon. The one thing I am certain of is that we have to get to know it. We have to track it, understand its insidious impact on our inner life. What is the shape of my shame? How deep does it go? How does it talk to me? How does it hold me back? How can I move forward despite it? How can I love myself in its presence?
We also have to talk about our shame and bring it into the light. We have to create shame pow-wows where everyone sits around and talks about their shame. We have to share those things that we are ashamed of with each other, thereby freeing ourselves and giving others permission to be liberated as well. Every week, make a point of sharing something you are ashamed of with someone else you trust. If you doubt your sexual prowess, express that. If you despise parts of your body, bring that out into the open. If you doubt your ability to achieve your goals, just admit it. Every deep dark secret you hide is fundamentally human. How can it be any other way?
Self-admission is the first step on the road to self-acceptance. Your shame has nothing to say about who you really are, never did, never will. In truth, you don’t need anyone else’s permission to be here. God gave you all the permission you need.