Shame on me, shame in me...

Facing the shame in our life is never easy.  I seem to have tons of it.  Apparently my perfectionist tendencies are a way of avoiding it.  Things have gotten so I can no longer avoid it.  Recently a friend pointed out how much anger I have inside me. Watching a talk in response to the Stubenville rape got me thinking and examining my own shame.

Shame for men seems to surround their masculinity.  If you are not "a man"  then you will be filled with the sense of shame.  I have always had a particular apathy towards the things that make one a man.  Maybe this comes from growing up in a home where it was women that were defining me as a man, rather than having a man define me as a man.  Or a culture that has always defined manhood to me with a negative connotation.  Fortunately, I have wound my way around into manhood defined by myself and secure in myself.  Or so I thought.  This has not been without consequences.

Dr. Brene Brown has a TED talk on shame that is very enlightening.  I like how she separates shame and guilt.  When you say "I am sorry I made a mistake" you are experiencing guilt.  When you say "I am sorry I am a mistake" you are experiencing shame.  My hair stood on end, this is me. 

Both talks talk about how shame thrives in silence and secrecy.  So here is my attempt to end my silence and secrecy to quell my own inner shame... Here goes...

Oh shit, this is hard...   (a little, but loud voice in my head says I will never get laid again if I keep writing...)

I am ashamed for having the mother of my child leave me when our child was only 9 months old.   My unspoken inner world told the story that I must really be a monster for this to happen.  Statistically women will typically wait till the child is 4 before leaving the father.  I knew this even then, and spent many nights berating myself over it.  I think unconsciously I still do. I felt really alienated, the females in my life left and "tended and befriended" my child's mother; the males in my life knew nothing of how to be with an infant and stopped calling to hang out.  But mostly, my intense sense of shame kept me from reaching out to my friends.  I have felt very alone in fatherhood for the past 4 years.

I am ashamed for wanting at times to leave my child to chase women, money, and success.  I have stayed with my child and have still gotten two of the three... I will let you decide which 2! 

I am ashamed for being in debt.  I think this ties into my ancestral past in slavery.  I still am in shackles, they are just in my mind rather than around my ankles.  Despite my success in work, my debt is such that it is unlikely that I will be able to pay it off.  I can make my payments, but this is different than paying it off.  Still feels like indentured servitude, only no one is beating me.  This debt also shames me in terms of not being a "good provider".  Despite the liberation of women into the joys and sorrows of working life, of not needing a man, I still feel intense pressure to "be a good provider".  I feel a great sense of shame that I am not.

Because I have not felt like much of a provider (and therefore not a man), I have a constant feeling of not being enough for all the women in my life.  I think my shame of this kept me from ever really showing up in my relationships.  (Surely, with the sheer number of women I have dated, the problem must be me.)  For a long time, I tried to blame women... Women this, women that... I am sure many of you have heard things along those lines come out of my mouth.  For this I am sorry. 

In Dr. Brene Brown's talk on shame (around min 17:00), she relates a story about a man talking about being vulnerable he said  the women in his life  "would rather me die on top of my white horse than watch me fall down... When we reach out and be vulnerable we get the shit beat out of us... and don't tell me it is from the guys, the coaches and the dads, because the women in my life are harder on me than anyone else."  This rings true for me as well.

It sucks to not be enough.  The constant criticism from the women in my life and my lack of a thick skin, has led me to always feel like I am not enough.  Couple this with not being a provider with resources or power and you have a broken individual and a shell of a man.  This leads to a worthlessness that sucks the life out of relationships and friendships.  And for some, it sucks the life out of them.  Rather than getting addicted to a substance to soothe my seething soul, I got addicted to perfection.  If I am perfect enough I will be loved and cared for.  I must never let someone see me rattled.  When I did those people left me.  Or at least that was the story I told myself.  (Abandonment... That will take a whole other blog!)

My inability to be comfortable in my vulnerability has robbed me of vital friendships, loving relationships, and my own authenticity.  I like how Dr. Brene Brown talks about how when you numb out from negative emotions and feelings, you can't be selective.  You also loose the positive emotions of joy and gratitude as well...

The irony of the whole thing is that every day I work with vulnerability and shame and am quite good at it.  Every day people take of their clothes, bearing their naked body so I may examine it for signs of disease and health.  Every day people bear their innermost secrets to me.  Every day people bear their souls deepest wishes to me.  Every day I walk others through the fear of disease and death that comes with a body.  Ironically, every day the things that would quell my angst come out of my mouth.  I am continually in awe of my patients ability to be vulnerable, honest, and authentic with me.

For my own healing, I am going to let myself be seen, love with my whole heart, find gratitude and joy, and finally be ENOUGH.  I look forward to the journey...