by Linda-Ann Stewart
When I used to facilitate tobacco-cessation classes, I told the participants not to condemn themselves if they relapsed. Feeling ashamed would just make them feel powerless and they’d give up. It’s much like someone on a diet who eats a cookie and figures, “Oh, well. I’ve failed. I might as well eat the whole bag.” In reality, the relapse is simply an opportunity to learn what else they need to do to become a nonsmoker. They’ve stumbled onto a trigger that they hadn’t planned on or had no strategy in place to deal with.
Shame and Guilt Are Different
Most of us dump shame on ourselves at one time or another. Shame is different from guilt. Shame is usually deposited on us by someone else, or can be an exaggerated form of guilt. Guilt signals us when we’ve violated some reasonable standard or value, so that we learn the lesson and don’t do it again. Such as accidentally stepping onto someone’s foot, feeling upset that it happened, apologizing or making amends, and moving on with our lives.
However, guilt morphs into shame when we do something we regret, and then the emotion grows to infect every aspect of our lives. Shame permeates our whole beingness and isn’t just about what we’ve done, but about who we are.
The more we wallow in guilt, and transform it into shame, the more powerless and worthless we feel. When that happens, we tend to act in self-destructive ways to try to numb the pain of how bad we feel, as well as verify the low opinion of ourselves.
A smoker will smoke more, someone with an eating disorder will spiral into more of the problem, a couch potato will avoid getting any exercise, a rage-aholic will lash out at those close to them, a workaholic will spend less time at home, and even those with no major addiction problems will do more of what made them feel ashamed in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle.
Stop the Cycle of Shame
As with everything else, “Energy flows where attention goes.” If our full attention is on how bad we are because of the awful thing we did, and we focus on that to the exclusion of anything good we’ve done, our subconscious has no other choice than to continue to recreate the negativity. It’s only doing what it perceives we want. The Universe doesn’t want us to suffer like that. It’s all our doing.
It’s not easy to stop the cycle. We’ve been trained to be very critical of ourselves. Our culture tends to shame those who don’t meet its measure of perfection. I’ve even heard spiritual people say, about someone going through a challenge, “I wonder what was in their consciousness to bring that into their experience?” It’s just another form of judging a person for not meeting some impossibly high standard.
It’s About Learning
We’re here to learn lessons, to become skilled at love, power and manifestation. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t be here. This life is a process of training. A child doesn’t walk the first time they stand up. They fall, and try again. After learning to balance, they then take a step and tumble down. They’re learning how to use their muscles. Eventually, through trial and error, they are able to walk, run and skip.
As we learn, we practice our new abilities each day. Sometimes we backslide to learn another aspect of the lesson. A child doesn’t shame themselves for not being able to walk as soon as they emerge into this world. They learn from their mistakes and get on with the process. We need to be more like children when we don’t succeed immediately, because the more we slip-up, the more we get to experience new facets of our lesson.
Whenever that shaming voice begins to shout, remember that the original issue isn’t about the whole being, it’s about a single event. Focus on that one incident, learn what you need to do differently, make any amends necessary, forgive yourself, and implement the changes you want to make. Then let it go and move on. In this way, we release and direct Universal energy to grow and evolve.
Shame is a denial of Universal love. Any shame I feel is false information about who and what I am. I am a worthwhile child of the Infinite. I give myself credit for the good that I’ve done. Whenever I take a mis-step or make a mistake, I realize that it’s simply part of my learning process. Guilt is a signal that I violated my own standards. I learn the lesson, make amends, forgive myself and let it go. In so doing, I move forward in my spiritual awareness and evolution.
As a focus coach, hypnotherapist, and speaker, Linda-Ann Stewart motivates women entrepreneurs and small business owners to focus and transform their business through deliberate actions that break through distraction and overwhelm to greater success, wellbeing and prosperity.To achieve your goals with confidence and ease in 4 powerful steps, register for her FREE training video and accompanying action planning guide at www.Linda-AnnStewart.com/setyourcourse.html. You can contact her at LAS@Linda-AnnStewart.com or 928-600-0452.