At no point in my life have I had a healthy relationship with Shame. It is a force of nature, or maybe even an expanse of nature, such as a wood or a desert or an ocean that consumes all would be travelers within its relentless stomach. Often I have approached the edge of shame and even marched far enough into its maw to lose sight of the safety I left behind me, but never have I done so unequipped or unattended. It isn’t that I am a coward but rather that I lack courage enough to bare myself to the elements of Shame. Like biting cold or scorching heat, it tears away at me and I find myself unable to live in the element. Shame is a demon. It is a god. It is an Authority of immense breadth, and it has maintained tyranny over my psyche for my entire life. It sets its claim over me as my master and shall maintain that stance until I master my relationship with it.
Shame in my life is less an obstacle in my way and more of an obstacle course. The field is itself riddled with several more discrete obstacles all about it. Memories, inner voices, culture, belonging, remnants of Guilt and Fear, and the gaze of others all litter the landscape and present their own unique challenge and distinct pain. Through means of cartography, I know what exists on the other end of this boundary were I to traverse it. Love. Esteem. The chance to properly grieve. Vulnerable intimacy. A fulfilling livelihood. And the chance to exercise my authentic will in both selfish and charitable ways without the ceaseless cacophony of my inner monsters. Without consistent utterance of my worthlessness, my sinfulness, and my irredeemable case of humanity. As it is, staying as I am without conquering the wilderness of Shame will only continue to bring me self-loathing, a career I fail to identify with, and unhealthy submissiveness.
As is the case with most things (once left to their own for long enough), Shame has manifested in my life as very real and sometimes tangible representations. Shame has often and has again driven me to self-incrimination even where Guilt hasn’t fastened itself. I’ve experienced this with family, in businesses, and most presently in relationships and with the law. These representations need to addressed by understanding where my guilt is rather than feeling ashamed simply for being less than I would aspire. Shame also bars me from occupation. Not only have I been unwilling to change my career into one that best suits me out of embarrassment, but I have also been too ashamed to request work from new clients or request my payments from those I have done work for. Finally, shame keeps me from intimacy. The truth is that I don’t feel worthy of love and I so don’t actively seek relationships that would serve me. Instead I accept the ones that come, and often they come with abuse.
I have to overcome Shame. I have to overcome my expectations and standards for myself, because they will never be realistic or perhaps even ever attainable. Doubtlessly, I need to learn how to love myself. I need to find something in myself to love and something about myself worth protecting from the many tribulations I have invited to myself. Once that is done, I have a very specific need to claim my identity. I’m not a martyr nor a victim but I don’t claim the identity of a hero or a victor. This lack of resolute identity or ownership of my strength leaves me floundering in a sea of my unresolved problems. Presently I suppose all I need to do is convince myself and a judge. What I’m sure of is that I am unsure of myself and that once I’m certain that I am a firm footing to stand on I can tread forward in an affirmative way.
It isn’t in my nature to use an obstacle as an excuse the avoid a task, but I have been known to take the more difficult path forward in avoidance of the painful necessity. I regret the slower roads despite the insights I have found along them simply because I know that it has been my choice not to resolve my difficulties. It isn’t fear, but rather, disgust that is directing my feet in this instance, which is just one leg of a long instance of my developmental life. In this particular instance. Surely, however, I am integrating my many separated splinters through ritual and habituation. If nothing else, I’m beginning to feel comfortable with myself. I may not win against my aggressors, but I may very well conquer Shame this way. This has been my greatest obstacle in life, so it is paramount that I capture this momentum and carry it forward.