I have started a short series of posts on 'shame resilience.' The concept is Brene Brown's, and I'm simply making written ruminations on an interview published in Spirituality and Health.
Brown's theory about shame resilience is that we live in a culture that measures success, especially in the younger generations, by how much attention we get and how big our lives seem. A small, quiet life, she fears, looks to be a life that means little because it has none of these hallmarks of how we measure success. She believes this phenomenon induces shame. I agree with her premise, and would add to her concern other markers of success -- how much money we make, how important our job is, what car we drive -- as well as the ways we regard and treat those around us and ourselves when we don't measure up.
Her words struck me as very relevant to the lives of those of us who struggle with chronic mental or physical illness and/or chronic pain. In my previous post I began to discuss Brown's theory of shame resilience, as described in a few paragraphs at the end of the interview, and as I felt it relates to our circumscribed lives.
Here again are what she calls the characteristics of people who are shame resilient (nota bene: in my previous post, I referred to these characteristics as 'steps' toward becoming shame resilient, but that's my interpretation, and not what the few paragraphs say):
People who are shame resilient --
know what shame is
understand what activates their feelings of shame
practice critical awareness
Looking at these as steps (again, my idea and not Brown's), I said the first step would be to understand what activates our feelings of shame, and I talked about the ways chronic illness triggers shame.
The second step would be to use that self-understanding to practice critical awareness. It's a matter of simply being aware -- without judgment or frustration and without rushing to 'fix' ourselves -- of when our feelings of shame are triggered. That takes some ability to step back and notice our thoughts and feelings, something I believe can best happen in the context of a life that includes daily practice of meditation or prayer or reflection.
Here is a series I wrote a while ago on meditation:
'Trying to Meditate' is an Oxymoron
Meditation for (Distracted) Dummies (Like Me), Part 1
Meditation for (Distracted) Dummies (Like Me), Part 2
In my next post, I'll write more about how awareness, meditation and shame resilience work together.
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Carol D. Marsh
- With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90 days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.