Today I finished the third chapter of Daring Greatly- Understanding and Combating Shame. Phew! What a journey it was, reading it! It demanded as well as supplied courage in copious amounts! I feel rubbed off and shining in places I hadn’t visited in years!
In the latter part of the chapter, Brene Brown continues to explore what triggers shame in men and women… and how they react/ respond to it. As an example of the way people (in this example a man) react in a tangential way when shame is triggered in them, was very insightful. I quote from the book:
“Covert shame hurts just as much as overt shame. Take, for example, the man who told me that he was always feeling shame with his wife around money. He said the latest instance was when his wife came home and said, “I just saw Katie’s new house! It is amazing. She is so happy to finally get that dream house. On top of that, she is going to quit working next year.”
He told me his immediate response was rage. So he picked a fight with his wife about her mother coming to visit, and then quickly disappeared to another part of the house. As we were talking about this conversation, he said, “It was shame. Why dis she have to say that? I get it. Katie’s husband makes a lot of money. He takes better care of her. I can’t compete.”
When I asked him if he thought that it was her intention to hurt him or shame him, he responded, “I’m not sure. Who knows? I turned down a job that paid a lot more but required traveling three weeks out of the month. She said she was supportive, and that she and the kids would miss me too much, but now she makes these little comments about money all of the time. I have no idea what to think.”
~Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
I took a deep, DEEP breath when I read this example. I felt as if I had been sand-bagged.
When I read it the first time, my perspective was that of a detached observer. And I was horrified- to say the least.
It seemed so unfair on part of the man! His wife had done nothing wrong. She was supportive and loving. Moreover, her words did not show her trying to shame her husband in any way. She was just sharing the joy of a friend. Surely, there was nothing wrong in what she said?! Why did the man react the way he did? And to pick a fight about an entirely different issue! That seemed even worse!
Then I reminded myself that our own guilt about certain things colors our lenses with which we examine and evaluate other people’s actions and words. They may not have said anything even remotely accusing, but since we are wallowing in our own guilt pool, to us it feels like they are highlighting and underlining our (supposed) short-comings and mistakes. More often than not, the other person has no clue what has colored our lenses and are at a loss to understand our (over the top) response.
Which brought me to the times I have behaved in unreasonable ways too… specially with my loved ones. I have reacted and responded in ways that was most unfair. It was not their words or actions I was responding to but my own invisible (to them at least, and often to me as well) Gremlins.
At such times, my guilt and false beliefs would take center-stage and skewer the play field entirely, making me flail when I never needed to. As I would tether precariously on that tilted ground, I would do and say things that would be inexplicable to someone standing on level ground. If they too were standing on their own tilted ground, we were surely in deep trouble. Inexplicable didn’t even begin to cover it. It would totally jump off the charts and go whizzing off to outer space.
And it often did I realized, as I brooded uncomfortably into the (recent) past.
I asked myself what I must do to ensure that I recognize and correct this very damaging and hurting behavior- correct in myself and recognize in those who matter to me the most. As I read on, Ms brown came through on this question also. She answered with her customary compassion and authenticity. I was certain she had heard the question ricocheting around in my head.
She recommended getting real in the way we communicate and interact with those who matter to us the most. Love is the only thing that can make us real- not only the love of another (which is easier to put into place) but even more, the love of self which also makes our love for another deeper and more enriching.
We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.
~ Brené Brown
If you keep feeling anxious about how your loved ones perceive you or how they are judging you, you will already have closed the doors through which love was to enter. To trust someone with your fears, to confess to what makes you feel Less Than or Never Enough is essential to opening that door. You must remember (and this is something I write for myself in reminder), that your Gremlins are awful liars. They will keep telling you that you will not be understood, appreciated, validated or celebrated. The reality is quite on the contrary.
They would be lying, as always. It is their insidious whispering that keeps you fearful and closed- not what the other has done or said. That programming is powerful, it is true. But to reject that script and tell the Gremlins to shut up, is vital for us.
Ms Brown closed the chapter with this absolutely fabulous quote from The Velveteen Rabbit:
‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’
‘I suppose you are real?’ said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.
‘The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,’ he said. ‘That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.’
~ Margery Williams
Love is the only thing that makes you Real. Once you are Real, you will remain Real forever. Even if Love goes away.
But can love really go away? Isn’t it for always, like Real?