Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Random Post on Shame and Belonging

I have been in Austin now for approximately 15 months.  After 20 years working for the same organization, and living in the same apartment for 17 years, to move to an entirely new city is a bit of a shock to the system.

Since I've been here, I've lost friends and made new ones. I've joined communities and had to remove myself from the same communities.  Not all, but enough to where I feel the loss as something irretrievable.

This is not at all what I imagined when I moved here.  For some reason, I believed that when I moved here things would be different.  I believed I would get to know what it feels like to belong.  To know...really, REALLY know...what it feels like to have relationships I can lean into.  I cannot say that those things have happened. Not in a deeply experiential way. Not in a deeply experiential way that I recognize.

Nor can I cast blame.  I cannot say that I blame my ex-friend for defriending me.  It's painful, but I think I get it.  The communities I removed myself from had areas where there were challenges, but it's not all on them.

It's on me, too.

For the longest time I resisted going back into therapy.  I'd done it before and didn't want to go back there.  Admitting to the need for more therapy feels a lot like having "TERMINALLY WRONG" written across the forehead with a permanent marker.  It feels like a place of shame.

As many of my previous blog entries imply, I've had enough really bad things happen to me from a very young age so that there are reasons why shame is a cornerstone of my internal house. 

And yet, shame is new area of exploration for me.  It is an area that will definitely be addressed in therapy.

Part of that exploration is reading I Thought it Was Just Me.  

As a book addict, I thought I would have to discipline myself to read this slowly.  I love Brene Brown's TED talks, and had the notion that I would be able to breeze through her book.  I was mistaken. 

I am not through the second chapter and have found this to be one of the hardest books I've ever read.  What was I thinking? 

In a recent conversation with someone around the topic of community participation I asked the question, "Is it worth it?"  The answer I received was a definite, "Yes!"  The question underlying the question was really about belonging.  About belonging when one doesn't belong, when the void on the inside is a constant thing, when the sense of being isolated is the strongest when in the midst of a group. 

I suspect the person would still say that it is worth it.

But I'm not sure.  The fact that I am still unsure that it's worth it says several things, I think.  It says that there is a value shift and a paradigm shift that has to take place.  It says that the shame goes very deep.  It says that shame and belonging are antithetical. 

That goes back to belief.  Core beliefs.  Beliefs about oneself, others, relationships, and life. 

This means getting to some basic things.  But how to believe what I/we don't believe?  Positive thinking doesn't seem to work.  From other things I've read, there seems to be a body of research that indicates that all that positive affirmation stuff is actually counterproductive to creating the kind of paradigm shift that is healing to such core identity issues as shame.

I wish I had the answers, but I don't.  I'm too new to this exploration.   There are others who have gone before me and I hope to learn from them.

Your feedback and thoughts are most welcome.  Please comment freely!

And extra warm-from-the-oven brownie points for reading this far...

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