community,  shame,  vulnerability

The Isolating Power of Shame

 

Earlier this month I announced I would write on the topic of shame. Little did I know that we would be walking through this together. I uncovered a new layer of trauma in counseling and I can’t stop going over the tendrils of shame that still try to sink their way into my thought life, my relationships, and my daily outlook.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to write a Biblical, grounded way to define shame but I can’t quite craft a succinct definition that captures it. Instead let me tell you what it feels like (maybe you can relate).

It’s heavy. Pervasive. Dark.

It feels like an erupting volcano that spills its hot breath and messy lava over everything in its path.

It feels like piles and piles of laundry I can’t quite stay on top of, so I succumb to the pile and just lay there in the mess.

It feels like a knotted ball of string in the core of my gut, growing and getting more tangled as I try to ignore it.

It feels like treading water in the middle of deep ocean waters, with tired arms and legs and no land in sight.

It’s chaotic. Suffocating. Toxic.

While I’ve been wrestling through this place, I’ve thought of you many times, friend. I’ve thought of you wading through the lava mess, trying to untangle yourself, on the other side of this very same ocean. I want to call out to you and say, “we’re in this together.”

Shame doesn’t want us to link arms. It isolates us and keeps us in fear, secrecy, blame, and judgment.

But here’s what Brene Brown says about shame:

“If we’re going to find our way back to each other, we have to understand and know empathy, because empathy’s the antidote to shame…The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too. If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path.”

Ann Voskamp’s words echo Brene’s:

“Shame dies when stories are told in safe places.”

So that’s what I’m doing this week. I’m telling my stories in safe places. I sit in my counselor’s office and tell her these new revelations to my past. She says, “Now it’s not a secret anymore.” We’re unknotting the ball and laying it down string by string.

I cry to my husband about my overwhelm, and then we dig into the laundry pile together (this is actually literal- I can’t stay on top of the dirty laundry ha).

I call my best friend and leave her a long voicemail filling her in, as I step out of isolation and the lava cools at my feet. She responds and says that she hears me and she loves me.

Friend, I may not have a perfect path forward for you to get rid of your shame. I’m just figuring it out myself right now, too. But what I can do is shout to you from my side of the ocean.

You’re not alone. We’re in this together.

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