Shame: Writing, regrets, mistakes, and grudges

Earlier this week, I listened to Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong as part of my coping strategy to drown out the distracting ambient sound.  Ms. Brown built on her premise about being in the arena, falling down, and rising up again – specifically the rising up and continuing after falling – in this book.

I’m really happy that I waited until now to read the book.  If I had tried a few months ago or years ago when I first discovered her work, my mind and body would have been ready to learn what Ms. Brown shared.  Especially not about the benefits of journaling, drawing/coloring/sketching, reflection, meditation, and writing one’s thoughts on paper in general.

I tried a few of the exercises as I listened to the audiobook and came back with some lessons learned.

First Lesson:
I feel and experience regrets, but do not want them to influence or take over my life any more than I want grudges or my past to influence my present and future.  So when I say that I live without regrets, it means that I am learning from and remembering what those experiences taught me, but I my intention is to not get caught up in them.

So the phrase “living without regrets” is a trigger for me and means something different than what Ms. Brown discusses.  That’s okay too because I hope that someday I can change my opinion and live with my regrets instead of treating them like triggers or grudges.

Lesson 2:
I feel a lot of shame about my writing, writing goals, and career choices.  That shame is partly fear-based, but also tied in with my sense of self.  It’s part of what makes using coping strategies like journaling and art therapy so triggering.  Writing is something I learned out of necessity because my voice was silenced.

But before the necessity, came a love of writing that had to do with story-telling and sharing information.  Less about teaching and more about helping others learn to think, do, and act for themselves.  aka independence.  It’s something both sides of my family taught me from a very young age.  And something I wanted to share with my younger cousins as soon as I realized how unsafe it was to depend on adults.

Lesson 3:
While I am good at offering help and giving to others, I’m not as good about asking for and receiving help.  Receiving and accepting help is a lot less scary and stressful now than it used to be, but I have a long way to go before the residual shame and fear go away for good.

Beyond that, opening up and letting others into my world is not simple or easy.  One thing therapy has taught me is to be my authentic self always.  In that sense, I am learning to accept and be comfortable as a mostly-solitary introvert who is more often than not anti-social too.  Part of it comes from my own anxiety about being in crowds or interacting with people.  And part of it has to do with questioning my ability to cope with the prejudice and racism that often interferes with activities I choose to participate in.

In this, Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) is my role model.

Here’s an example of my notes from one exercise:

Shame and writing

I feel shame about writing outside of the blog.
I feel shame about being a writer.
I feel shame whenever I try to write a book or think about starting a book.
I feel shame whenever I take steps to change my career.
I feel shame whenever I think about where to take my resource website and blog.
Talking about regrets:
I want to live without regrets because every experience is meaningful to me.  In my mind, regrets are kind of like grudges.  I acknowledge regrets.  I feel the emotions related to the experience that led to feeling regret.  I learn from the experience and remember why I felt and/or still feel regret when thinking about the experience.  Then I let those feelings go for now.  My goal is to acknowledge, experience/feel, learn from, and then let go of those experiences so that they inform my present choices without directly influencing or taking them over.

My favorite part about Rising Strong:

Throughout the book, Ms. Brown acknowledges that mental/behavioral problems and substance abuse along with trauma add complexities to the concepts and learning path she shares in her book.  One chapter towards the end specifically discusses this and clearly states that the purpose of this book is for guidance and support purposes; it is not a treatment plan or supposed to be used as one.

I really appreciate this message because trauma, substance abuse, and mental/behavioral problems really do change how an individual experiences life and emotions.

My Darkness or Shadow self:

I am or can be rebellious, stubborn, bad tempered, slow to anger yet easily triggered (reactive), sometimes insecure, sometimes arrogant, curious, slow to make decisions, sarcastic, sometimes mean, often blunt to the point of rudeness, and type A personality among other things.  I often fight back and stand up when running is the safer option too.

And yet, each of these characteristics helped me become who I am now.  As part of my healing journey, I had to learn that being strong, having boundaries, securing those boundaries, and showing confidence are neither good nor bad.  How they are expressed and how I react to others decides how those characteristics are perceived.  And part of Rising Strong‘s message has to do with embracing the dark or shadowed parts of oneself as much as the lighter parts and valuing all parts of oneself.

By valuing all parts of oneself, the light shines through the darkness, burning away the secrets and fears that feed shame and negativity.

Final Thoughts:

There’s a lot to reflect on after listening to one of Brene Brown’s books.  In the correct frame of mind, her books are inspiring and thought-provoking.  In a different frame of mind, her books could be (unintentionally) triggering.

If any of you do decide to read or listen to these books, please be cautious and mindful of how your mind and body reacts.

Thanks for reading.

Quotes & Affirmations: Revisiting the home page quote

INTRODUCTION

Today I am reminded that failure is more about perception and beliefs than reality.  In the same way mistakes are learning opportunities, failure also offers chances to learn and improve for “next time”.  Because there will always be a “next time”.

Since I made the decision to move and then followed up by moving, I’ve experienced many mistakes and failures.  Shame has been a companion as I tried and failed to become part of interesting groups or clubs.  Sadness came from an application that got denied.  Anger and frustration from being railroaded/blocked/ignored by people while trying to achieve goals and objectives.

PROCESSING INFORMATION (coping strategy)

My previous therapist used to ask me what I learned from each experience.  And then we talked through or “processed” my thoughts and feelings.  It was during the “processing” part that my imagination and problem-solving skills engaged.  We discussed options:

  • next steps
  • what didn’t work and why
  • what did work and why
  • and (most important) how could I change my words and actions to achieve the goal?

SHAME & SHAME RESILIENCE

And one night when the shame of past experiences overwhelmed me, I called the hotline asking for help.  I didn’t want to give in to self-harm or OCD compulsions to put myself in reckless, dangerous situations.  The pressure inside kept building up squeezing my chest and head until I couldn’t think or feel.  And the hotline volunteer talked to me about shame.  About resilience.  About research into coping strategies and something called “Shame Resilience”.

The counselor offered a TED Talk by Brene Brown as a coping strategy.  I was so moved by the TED Talk that I followed the link to her other TED Talks.  Then looked her up online and found her books.  My goal was to learn more about her knowledge and perspective of shame.  But then I started reading her book.  The topics sparked connections in my brain.  But it was the opening quote that pulled the connections together.

Connections that helped me understand why I kept going, kept trying, kept living in spite of the shame and the doubters working so hard to make me stop.

THE QUOTE FROM “Man in the Arena”

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LIFE LESSONS

I’d rather try and fail; apply and be deniedlive and make mistakes than stand aside and watch the world move around me.  How will I know if I can do something unless I try?  Life is an experiment.  Success or failure, each one is a chance to learn.

So maybe this time I failed or was denied acceptance into a program/group/etc.  That only means I’m not ready yet.  There is more to learn and experience.  And next time I will succeed.

Which next time?  Maybe the second, maybe the fifth – doesn’t matter as long as I keep on trying.

Failure really isn’t failure if I learn something same way mistakes are opportunities to learn (Thanks Mrs. O from 7th grade math)

If I did everything possible to succeed and failed because of circumstances beyond my control, is that failure or success?

CONCLUSION

I chose the “Man in the Arena” quote because it reminded me to live full throttle and not listen to the critics in the stands.  What do they know about living in the arena?

I hope this inspires you all to live full throttle too.

Thanks for reading.

 

Recovery: Resilience means more than bouncing like a rubber ball

Introduction

Throughout my recovery, many people praised or derided me for my resiliency.  I thought I knew what they meant about being a resilient person.  But I didn’t.  In my mind, resilience was just a word people used to describe how flexible and malleable I was.  Flexible meaning I was easily manipulated.  Malleable as in I was a doormat without my own thoughts who could be taken advantage of and treated carelessly and used.  They compared me to a rubber chicken, Gumby, a rubber ball who always bounced back, a puppy with too much energy – that was resilience.

And resilient meant weak, not strong, in my family.

But resilience is not weak.  Flexibility does not equal doormat.  Malleable does not mean easily taken advantage of or manipulated.  And bouncing back is not an indication of stupidity.

So what is Resilience?  And why is it so important to recovery?

Resilience is a mix of characteristics and values that allow a person to learn from experiences and move forward with knowledge and perspective.  Resilience means learning:

  • When to keep going
  • When to stop and think (reflection and perspective)
  • When to change one’s mind and try something else (not failure, making choices)
  • When to make the mistake and use the experience to try from a different angle
  • When to say no in spite of pressure to say yes
  • When to say yes in spite of pressure to say no
  • When to hold on
  • When to let go
  • How to accomplish all of this when drowning shame, guilt, fear, doubt, or negativity get in the way

Recovery is like growing pains.  It hurts a lot, feels overwhelming, and trips you up when everything finally seems to be going right.  

Two steps forward; one step to the right; three steps left, two steps backward; five steps forward…who knows what will happen next or how to make progress?

Every survivor is resilient because:

  • He is still alive
  • She fell and got up again
  • He stopped counseling; got into a bad place; started counseling again
  • She is still alive
  • He tried to reconcile with his family and had to walk away again
  • She relapsed; reached out for help; and accepted it
  • He failed a class in spite of hours with the tutor and extra help sessions; took the class with a different teacher and different set of people; passed; and didn’t have to take the final
  • She said no and fought back long enough to escape and get help; then took martial arts and self-defense classes only to become an expert trainer who volunteers at shelter for trauma survivors
  • Two friends walked away from each other after a surviving a car wreck that almost killed them and did permanently injure 4 others.  Years later, one reaches out to the other, and they start a respectful dialogue; their friendship blossoms and stays strong

What resilience means to me

I make mistakes.  I learn from my mistakes.  

I can be flexible like steel and break under too much pressure.  Or I can be flexible like grass and bend one way or the other until the pressure passes.

I can let fear win and be a medicated vegetable.  Or I can get up every time I fall and try another way to keep on going.

  • Every experience has value and can teach me a lesson that will help in the future
  • Failure means I got stuck and need to rethink the solution
  • Regrets mean I still have something to learn from the experience
  • I forgive, but never forget
  • My past comes back to remind me of lessons learned so I can make better informed choices now
  • A flexible mind helps me understand someone else’s perspective and be a more thoughtful person
  • Malleable means I can set safe boundaries and change them to suit who I am now
  • I shape the world around me instead of letting the world shape me
  • When no one listened to me talk, I started writing and didn’t stop

If you’re reading this, you are resilient too.  

And thanks for reading.

 

Coping Challenge: How do I Cope with happy, positive feelings? Part 1 – Background

Background:

Since I was thirteen, I dreamed about getting a tattoo.  When I was sixteen, I got my first henna tattoo at a fair in Canada (high school field trip).  It caused an uproar within my family – not in a good way.  But that was my rebellious year   the year after the forced abortion – when I acted out and got into all kinds of trouble.  A few months later (summer), my younger brother convinced his friends to help him get a real tattoo (something he lorded over me for years and used to make fun of me when I got other henna tattoos).

In college, I learned discovered a severe nickel allergy through a bacterial infection (nickel plated earrings) and a rash (metal-framed glasses and buttons on denim jeans).  Some research told me that people with nickel allergies couldn’t get tattoos because a) most of the inks had traces of nickel in them; and b) the stainless steel needles had high levels of nickel in them.  That was between 2000 and 2004.  Between then and now, various cosmetic permanent makeup artists and tattoo artists refused to talk to me about either option because of my nickel allergy.

On the good side, there had been improvements to inks and needles so that people with minor to moderate nickel allergies could get tattoos as long as they didn’t mind the increased risk of allergic reaction and infection.  That was about 3 years ago.  And yes obsessing about getting a tattoo helped keep me sane when life got really bad.  I even tried contacting Native American and other cultural societies that had different ways of tattooing (not using metal needles/inks, etc.) without success.

Two years ago, I moved to my new apartment in a small city/town southwest of where I grew up.  On my first visit to look at the building, I got lost.  Instead of apartments, I found a 1950’s diner inspired storefront that looked interesting.  It turned out to be a tattoo studio.  Then, the realtor found me and helped me to the apartment building.  Not perfect, but it had everything I was looking for at the time.  After 2 weeks of consideration, I signed a lease.  And kept thinking about tattoos in a diner.  Eventually, I looked up the tattoo studio.  The owner had 30 plus years of experience and only did tattoos – old school style.  We exchanged emails; I met him face-to-face once.

But I had a downswing in finances and physical health just as I got ready to make the appointment.

Event 1

Last Saturday, I finally got my two tattoos in black/gray ink: a turtle and a Tibetan Endless Knot aka Chinese Wisdom Knot.  Turtle on left inner forearm near elbow.  Endless Knot on opposite position.  My dream finally came true.  Since then, I’ve been so happy that I managed to sleep every night – real sleep through most of the night.

Event 2

Then I went to work today and shared my tattoos with friends and close co-workers who know my story.  They were happy for me; full of acceptance, joy, respect even though some did not like tattoos (especially on females).  Some asked me what they meant and listened with appreciation as I described the meaning.   The head of our division even told me to wear my tattoos with pride in the office too.  i.e. I won’t get in trouble for leaving my arms uncovered at work.

The Dilemma

I was and am overwhelmed.  I feel happy, sad, anxious, guilty, shamed, unworthy, joyous, content, safe and unsure how to cope with the happy feelings inside of me (hence the negative feelings worming in).  I know how to cope with negative, neutral, and mildly positive feelings.  I don’t know how to cope with this, and it’s making me feel edgy.  Especially with an extra heavy workload and other big things coming up.

Thanks for reading

ADMIN Post: About Comments

If I have not published or responded to your comments, my apologies.  I just recently realized that the Spam filter collected a few comments.  Some were obviously spam.  Others not.

To err on the side of caution, I deleted comments that were not recognizable as comments for site pages or blog posts.  Please feel free to comment again and put in a note that you are NOT spam.  I am happy to publish and respond to any comments that follow the site and blog commenting rules (same for both places).

This commenting and moderation part of running a blog is new to me, so please bear with my mistakes and learning curve.

Sincerely,

AlterXpressions