Thoughts on Dignity
At the end of my drinking, I was so filled with shame, I never thought I'd have self-respect again. In fact, that's what kept me drinking for a long time; I was terrified to stop and confront my past. But I've come to learn my shame-based thinking started much earlier and was actually at the root of my desire to medicate. Shame was both an integral cause and effect of the cycle. Starting from a young age, I believed there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I was really embarrassed of my feelings, ashamed of anything around my sexuality, and thought that "liking" a boy/man or desiring a partner was a sign of weakness.
Most of us, through social conditioning, messages we received from family, teachers, or partners, and from a Western puritanical culture, grow up inheriting ideas about what's "right" or "wrong" without ever really learning or believing that we have our own internal compass. We are taught by having shame applied to us, which then disorients our healthy shame, which is meant to align our behavior with our ethics and values. Additionally, we get the message we're not worthy of honor and respect...that it has to be earned, that it’s something like a checking account where we start at zero: good behavior builds it up, bad behavior takes it down. The true message is that we are worthy of honor and respect simply because we exist. Because we are made from the Divine.
Last week, we worked to connect to our foundation. The practices of meditation, morning pages, and daily mantra were established and will continue this week. As we now travel up the body into the second chakra, we go into the world of movement and emotion. If we have a secure base, we are able to yield to this inner flow of prana (vital energy) and follow its natural course without losing our center.
You may feel your emotions are not safe—they are too much or not enough. You may also feel that your sexuality is not safe, that movement within that area of the body is not safe. Balance in this area of the body means we have the freedom to feel all emotions, there is a deep emotional core that is grounded enough to be contained and open enough to flow and connect.
This week, we are concerned with emotions (specifically shame) and movement. Both need to be streaming through the body freely to have balance, like water, the element of this chakra. The streaming of energy through the body is the body’s way of restoring balance. Feeling this stream while simultaneously providing a safe container will promote much of the healing.
Movement and emotion are essential. When movement is restricted, so too is the healing process. If your innate reaction to a given situation has been thwarted, then there is a constant tendency to recreate similar situations so as to complete the initial pattern. If the block is severe, similar situations may not allow completion, leaving us in a hopeless cycle of repeating negative traumas without being able to resolve them and move on.
Take great care of yourself as you do this homework and do your best to do the work from a place of a compassionate observer and not a harsh critic. You are on your path to healing.
Watch the Lecture
Continue from Week 1. WATCH: Julia Cameron on Morning Pages.
Practicing Gentle Kindness Toward Ourself by Sarah Blondin (9:00)
The mantra for week one is: I am not my past. I am a person of dignity and honor.
Write it down in your journal each morning before you begin morning pages.
Put it as a reminder into your phone to show up at noon each day.
When fear comes up, repeat it out loud or in your mind.
Note: Assignments 1, 2 and 3 are to be done in order and should be done in one session if possible.
Assignments 1 and 2 can be heavy and assignment 3 is meant to shake that off and free yourself from the negative charge of shame, guilt, or regret.
1. Write out your drinking and drugging history.
Write out the history of your substance use with the following format. Be thorough, but do not go into long narratives. You are doing an honest inventory of the past, what you used, when, and what consequences it had for you physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually. Note: It does not matter how drastic or frequent your behavior or the consequences of your behavior were compared to someone else. This history is meant to inventory your experience and specifically the emotional, spiritual, and physical consequences of your drinking (or whatever behavior(s) you’re working through.
Set a timer for 30 minutes and see how far you can get. If another 30 minutes is required to be thorough, do that. An example of mine is below. It took me 40 minutes to do this.
AGE/TIMEFRAME: e.g. 18-21, college
SUBSTANCE: e.g. alcohol, marijuana, food
FREQUENCY: e.g. alcohol 3-4 nights/week, to blackout or pass out. Marijuana daily. Food restriction daily + weekly bingeing.
CONSEQUENCES: Blackouts, loss of friendships, missing classes, unprotected sex, constant feelings of shame and guilt, wrecking car.
Did you learn anything new by doing this?
How did it feel to write it all out?
2. EXPLORE APPLIED AND AUTHENTIC SHAME.
Identify the sources and messages of applied shame in your life and check to see if any of those messages align with what you believe now, for yourself.
Applied shame springs forth from messages you’ve received from the outside (a critical comment from someone, messages from the media, “codes of conduct” passed down in your family or church) that you’ve internalized as your own. They are usually general ideas about what’s right and wrong, good and bad, admirable or not, about people or groups of people. When we go against these messages or ideals, we feel applied shame.
Good girls aren’t sexual.
Big boys don’t cry.
It is wrong to consider your needs above others.
Beautiful bodies are thin.
Authentic shame happens when you’ve broken the code of your character or integrity. When we feel authentic shame, it can help us correct our actions or make amends when we’ve broken our own values. It never feels good, but it’s useful.
As Karla McClaren says, “Shame is certainly an emotion that can overwhelm you, but when you can get into a healthy empathic relationship to it, it can be your best friend. Shame can make you very sensitive socially, so that you’ll be able to stop yourself (gently and appropriately) before you say or do something wrong. Healthy and appropriate shame will also help you make amends if you realize that you’ve hurt someone, stuck your foot in your mouth, or broken a social rule.”
Authentic shame helps you live a value-driven life. It acts like a curb, nudging you back to alignment with your deepest sense of integrity.
What messages did you receive as a child (from parents, teachers, peers) or as an adult, that you can see caused/cause you to feel applied shame? List them.
After reviewing your drinking and drugging history from exercise 1, can you see a connection to the messages above and your drinking/drugging/numbing?
Do these messages influence your life now? If so, how?
(Table the concept of authentic shame until next week.)
3. BODY SHAKING!
You live an animal that needs to move—it desires movement, for energy to flow through it and to express itself through the physical being. Your body is a record of everything you’ve ever experienced. And much of what you’ve experienced has been “locked” in your body, meaning the energetic result of your experiences were never discharged. This expresses itself in the body through physical pain, disease, and other difficulties.
This practice is simple. You are going to let yourself be in your animal and move it the way it wants to move. Now, if you haven’t done this before it’s going to feel strange and maybe even embarrassing. You may think your body doesn’t actually WANT to move or know how to move, but it does—trust me. If I can do this despite being self-conscious + terrified of showing my whole body AND posted it on Instagram, you can do it too! No, I'm not asking you to post it.
Simply turn on the music (playlist to the right and here) and start shaking. Quite literally, shake your hands and arms and feet and legs. Shake your butt. Don’t try to look good or coordinated. The weirder, the better. You’re trying to turn into a primal rhythm and it may take a few minutes for you to forget yourself (ego) and allow yourself to just move. You will also get winded and sweaty and this is exactly what you want. The list is 14 minutes long... do the whole thing, even if it means you take a couple breaks!
Post a photo of yourself after the shaking exercise and tell us how it felt.
SIT UP STRAIGHT!
How you carry yourself means everything. Set a daily reminder on your phone for 10 am, 2 pm and 5 pm to sit up straight. Practice using the prompts below.
Lift the crown of the head up, lengthening your spine.
Tuck the chin slightly toward the chest.
Draw your shoulder blades back, lifting the heart up.
Take a deep breath into your upper chest and exhale. Take another deep breath into your belly and exhale.
How does it feel to sit up straight?
How often did you find yourself slouching or make yourself "smaller?"
Did anything else come up while doing this?