This means dealing with the great debilitator – shame…
You wouldn’t think that a relationship built on mutual love and pleasure would have anything to do with the most icky and uncomfortable feeling we as humans are emotionally capable of would you, Yet it does! This feeling is shame. In intimate relating we find ample opportunities for both creating shame and for healing it, particularly in our sexual intimacy. Dealing positively with shame will take your intimacy and sexual pleasure to a whole new place.
What actually is shame? Shame is a feeling of going blank or numb, of wanting to hide, to disappear, even cease to exist. Shame carries thoughts of being wrong, or not good enough in some way, even in every way. The pain of shame is what causes us to disconnect from ourselves, our power and our light, to be less than who we are. Shame is one of the great unspokens in the world and it’s not actually intimacy we fear but the shame that lies within it.. Deny it though we might, shame is alive and well under our shiny, all together surfaces to one degree or another.
It is this belief in our innate wrongness or inadequacy that creates our deepest blocks to real intimacy (in-to-me-see).
Intimacy and the potential for shame coexist. To create intimacy, we need to expose ourselves, leaving us open to feeling shame. Shame disconnects us from ourselves, and we can only create intimacy with another to the extent we’re connected with ourselves. All the love and best intentions in the world cannot prevent moments of shame simply because in intimacy you have two different people seeking to connect their differences in the one place in order to be seen, understood, respected and loved. Our fear of shame keeps us from seeking the intimate connection we crave. It also prevents our surrendering fully to pleasure.
The joke here is that all of us are wrong.
Humans are about as imperfect a species as you can get! Yet it is in our imperfections that our perfections lie, it’s where we find as much of a meeting place as in the love and perfection we strive for. Shame is about wanting to hide, so it makes sense that healing shame is through its opposite- through openly sharing ourselves with another, inviting love into our shame.
Shame can be healthy of course, it is important to acknowledge the shame we feel when we’ve done something wrong so we’re motivated to correct it. What we refer to here is toxic shame that serves no real purpose apart from separating us from who we are.
For some, shame is a blip on the radar, for others it is a daily nightmare. Our shame gives us our core beliefs, even if we would rather die than admit to them.
Core beliefs such as:
- I am wrong/bad
- I’m not good enough/not enough
- I’m not important
- I’m not loved/wanted
- I don’t matter
- I’m a failure
- I’m invisible
- I’m unworthy/worthless
- I’m powerless/unsafe
- I’m alone/don’t belong
- I’m different/crazy
- I’m too much
- I’m bad for wanting to be sexual
In our desire to avoid the icky, uncomfortable feeling of shame we understandably develop an armoury of strategies to keep us safe from it.
Shame Avoidance Strategies:
- Intellectualizing, staying in our mind keeps us safe
- Tensing up and contracting in our bodies
- Disconnecting from ourselves to avoid feeling
- Not breathing, or breathing shallowly
- Focussing on things outside of ourselves such as work, kids, social media
- Avoiding our sexuality or having sex in a tense and defensive way
- Dumping our shame on others through criticizing, judging or shaming them
- Going into anger, fear or sadness to mask our shame
- Numbing ourselves with any number of addictions to avoid intimacy
- Seeking to be perfect as in perfection there is no shame (even though perfection is unattainable)
- Being unwilling to trust each other, for if we don’t reach out there is no risk of shame
- Keeping ourselves small, not taking risks, keeping our mask of persona firmly intact and not allowing our real selves to be seen
- Not having boundaries- not having to say no, allowing our partners to steam roll us
- Being in our Super Hero- when we’re larger than life shame can’t find us
Shame Busting Activities:
It’s vital to know that avoiding shame is avoiding relationship, it’s avoiding intimacy and sexual pleasure beyond our wildest dreams. So what can we do to minimize the impact shame has on our intimate relationships? As you’ve seen, avoiding shame doesn’t work. Instead, try playing with some of these shame busters that will help you reconnect with yourself…
- Play with becoming empowered in shame. The next time you feel embarrassed or shamed rather than making it wrong, turn it around and make it ok. Connect with the feeling, move towards it and say to yourself ‘It’s ok to feel shame’, as making shame ok helps to disempower it. Take a few deep breaths and let the embarrassment flow out of you. If you can stay present with it, even if just for a few moments, and know that it is connecting you with your humanity and your core self, your shame will shift into love.
- Take risks with shame- where you want to close be willing to open, where you want to hide be willing to show up and deal with your shame as in no.1.
- Share some, or all of your shame story with your partner (or a non judgemental friend). Own it as your experience. Sharing with another helps you get reconnected to your humanity. Remember staying open to the feeling as you share allows shame to shift.
- If your partner shames you, take control by agreeing with them! Say ‘yes, sometimes I can be an idiot’ or whatever they’re attempting to lay on you and have a laugh at it, find the freedom in your humanity! The power lies with the one who can laugh at and accept themselves as the truly are.
- Because our sexuality is layered in cultural and personal shame being willing to own your sexuality as a positive thing is a HUGE shame buster. Own your sexuality by believing it is beautiful, even sacred, giving yourself permission to have pleasure, create it for yourself and sharing it. Rather than blocking shame out and locking it into your body, feel any that comes up during sex and move beyond it, allowing your sexual energy to flow more freely.
- Shame busting will also make it easier to reduce your own shaming behaviours (and yes, we ALL have them) because in not running away from your own shame you’ll know directly how bad it feels. Reducing shaming behaviours in your relationship will make it a happier, more respectful and loving place to be.
- When you want to act out an addiction feel the shame that lies beneath it, release it then make a choice about your behaviour from a clearer place.
So are you ready to bust shame in your relationship (and in your life)? The gifts are never ending…