January 01, 2019
Taking Power Through Shame
On the path to self empowerment we meet many villains along the road who challenge our authority and try to take us down. They do it because they have not yet mastered their own true sense of personal power, so they feel threatened by those who seemingly have. One of the subtle ways they do this is through shame.
Shame is a crippling emotion that walks hand in hand with guilt. Both give us feedback about the consequences of our actions. Killing someone, for example, usually evokes a sense of shame, remorse, and guilt, so we don’t indulge in it much. Many of us will feel this about stepping on a spider as well. These emotions are hard wired within us so that we will treat each other with respect. They can, however, be exploited.
Much of what we feel shame about comes from not fitting into cultural norms. Institutions, like churches and schools, teach us to suppress our emotions and conform to an external authority from an early age. Without the full spectrum of emotions to draw from, we can no longer hear our inner voices. This opens us to letting an external authority define the lines we must color within, if we want acceptance. Anyone who does not toe the line is “too:” too easy, too loud, too forthright. The list is endless but we all know when we have crossed that line. Stereotyping is an extension of this. Anyone outside our comfort range is fair game to be made fun of.
Accordingly, when one person feels threatened by another, instead of owning their feelings and working on their sense of self worth, they will often use these cultural directives to shame the other. Sexuality is a great example. We have all been taught that expressing it is shameful, especially for a woman. When we become overwhelmed by our attraction to someone else, and feel the attraction is not reciprocated, we can feel inadequate in their presence. If it is a woman we are attracted to, it is fair game to shame her for “provoking” us. We do the same with emotions. You made me mad. No one makes us anything, it is always our reactions to them, that catch us off guard. When these are uncomfortable, we clumsily blame, and shame, when in fact it the problem is in not knowing how to process these emotions.
We have seen shame weaponized in the form of sexual harassment. You want a job? I am an authority, and I attracted to you. I feel threatened by my feelings, so I will force you to do something demeaning to even the playing field. Or perhaps I just want to feel powerful. You can defy me, and be excommunicated, or accept my terms and have your success be forever tainted with shame. It works with emotions too. How dare you feel good about a job well done. Your success makes me feel inadequate so I will point out your flaws and shame you into compliance with my level of mediocracy. Much as a dragon slayer stabs at its foe, or a lion tamer cages a beast, those who wield shame as their sword try to win power by destroying another’s magnificence.
When we own those things we feel shame about, we can no longer be blackmailed by cultural shame. Yes, I am “too” sexual, fat, sensitive, effeminate, etc., what of it? Your discomfort is, well, your discomfort. Work on it. What if instead of teaching us how to defer to an external authority, and bow in shame to cultural norms that define our unworthiness, our institutions taught us how to honor each other, and find our power in listening to the internal guidance we come wired with. Wouldn’t that be a glorious world?!
Christina Allen, Shamanic Healer, Teacher, and Founder and Director of the Austin Shamanic Center, combines a strong science (BA Physics, MS Neuroscience) background with decades of applied ancient spiritual wisdom (Master Yogi, Reiki Master, Shamanic Healer, based, in part, on Q’ero Indian traditions of Peru). ASC offers profound Shamanic Self Development Workshops, professional trainings, and personal healings. Learn more at www.AustinShamanicCenter.com.
© Austin All Natural, January 2019