Archive for the 'self-love' Category

Shame and humiliation, embarrassment, guilt, and hurt

June 22, 2014

This is a just a brief addendum to my previous post, before I head out to take on digging out invasive flowering plants from one of my gardens.

It’s about what I think is correlated with people falling prey to addiction, or not falling prey to addiction.

I am wondering whether people who are prone to addiction feel shame where other people might feel embarrassment or guilt, and feel humiliation where other people might feel hurt.  My sense is that a primary emotion is transformed into another sort of emotion because a tint of a negative view of the self is added.  So instead of, “I messed up, I am so embarrassed and want to put things right,” we get “I screwed up, I am so ashamed, I think I’ll just deny and/or hide.”  Or, “That experience was really painful and I feel hurt and I am not sure how to make myself feel better” turns into “I feel humiliated and it confirms my worst thoughts about myself.”

Because I suspect that a key difference in the two outlooks is how the person views themselves — lovable but flawed, or unworthy and in need of perfection.  The problem, as I see it, that people who view themselves too harshly actually “mess up” more than people who find a way to manage their flaws and deal with their secondary consequences more constructively.  Harshness I think digs a hole where a more gentle approach encourages improvement.

I am not advocating that people not take responsibility for their mistakes and misdeeds, but that we use a framework that actually leads to constructive action instead of to paralysis and corrosion.

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Unworthiness

January 13, 2013

I don’t myself have a problem of feeling unworthy of spiritual help or transformation.  I read about unworthiness in Father Rohr’s Daily Meditations from time to time, like today’s, and it sounds to me like someone describing a place I’ve never been to on vacation.

I am quite familiar with feeling a lack of self-confidence developed from previous negative feedback from other human beings, which can morph for me into feeling deemed generally unworthy by others, but in terms of my relationship to things spiritual, it just has never in my lifetime entered into the equation.  The only feeling I can come up with to relate to a feeling of unworthiness is a knowledge that I’m no better (or worse) or special than anybody else, that we all have the same potential, and that we realize different parts or amounts of it in our different lives.

I thought it was worth bringing up because I am concerned that it is not a necessary or helpful feeling to have, and that it actually may be one of those flaws we need to remove in order to perceive without distortion.

I also want to ask, in all friendly amazement, “Where did you come up with that?!”

To me, its counter is something like, “Why not me?”, as in, “I’m nobody special but I’m nobody worse [along the axis that matters].”  Because we are talking about a particular axis — ourselves as conduits for God’s love, and for that we’re all equally well-suited.  The only thing any of us ever has which is relevant in terms of what we can bring to the party is (our) willingness.

Yearning

March 7, 2012

Having alluded to having had a sort of spiritual experience back in 2000, I thought I might write about an aspect of it that I haven’t yet understood to my satisfaction.  I wrote that “I found myself connecting with faith, joy, hope,”in my previous post, and that’s true.  I also found myself with a really strong sense of yearning.

My immediate association with the yearning was high school and unrequited romantic love, which was quite an experience at age forty-two.  I felt moved to write a poem, the first one I had written in decades, and it turned out to be about longing and previous loss, about the narrator as an adolescent and about a younger boy named Icarus lying dead on the beach beside her.  In it also figured her burnt hands, an accident, a great love from her past whom she hears singing in the distance behind her.  It started off with a question about how do you capture the emptied heart, and it seems to resolve it by not trying to possess the love of this man in the background but to accept it, to bask in it as being for her but not hers.  She winds up by the end of the poem being able to look at her scarred and misshapen hands and not hide them, as she had, and somehow by accepting his love as for her and but not as generated, in its origin, on her behalf, [“It is just what he does / for a living, his living], her heart has grown full again.

There are three kinds of yearning I’ve read about since I had that experience and wrote that poem that have rung a bell for me in connection with that experience.  One was C.S. Lewis’s sense of yearning in his own spiritual journey, another was something I read in a eastern religious context about yearning and about not confusing the willingness to serve (which does lead to a requiting of that yearning, through union with God, which does not and instead results in a “fall”) with desire to merge with God and experience that love and resolution), and the third was about a yearning for admiration and righteousness, as I recall it from memory from a recent David Brooks column.

So, to me, this all indicates that the yearning is for love, and for a very deep love.  Maybe some people hope that the sum total of the love they receive from others in response to their upright behavior will be the path to that love, while others seek it through an interior experience.  I’m going to speculate that the orientation of pursuing admirable and righteous behavior is a way, and a wonderful way, of keeping a person’s heart open during adverse circumstances.  My own experience of needing to keep my heart open was in the context of creating a family, and I knew after losing a baby, that I needed a child to nurture in order to keep from becoming angry and bitter, which I knew with a great certainty was something to avoid.  So my husband and I adopted children (which was actually something we had planned to do after having a couple through the biological process), and my heart was kept open through that (maybe also broken, but I’d prefer heartbreak to a closed heart).  When the heart is kept open, I think great things are always possible.

This leads me to my latest understanding of my old poem.  That there is, in the context of romantic love, some sort of equivalent to loving a child born to another set of parents, and that somehow I am trying to figure out how to do that, and to do it without lapsing into petty emotions like jealousy and selfishness and whatever emotion “neediness” comes out of.  If I can figure out how to locate that purer strand of love in the midst of romantic love, I think I will find the blessing in the difficulty of the situation in which I found that love, and, paradoxically, come to accept and appreciate the difficult context.

How that experience of love relates to love of the divine and to spiritual merging I am not sure, but I have this nagging and annoying suspicion that it involves learning to love myself better than I do.  I think my sense of what it meant to buy flowers might be an opening to that understanding — when I love someone deeply interpenetrated with me, I love myself, perhaps inadvertently, and that experience allows me to prime the pump and feel what self-love feels like, and from that have that kind of love grow inside of me.  I’m not sure, probably because I’m in the midst of it.  I know I try to love and help other people in a way that probably is unhealthy, that doesn’t come out of a place of strength and deep resource, and I am aware of trying to adjust what I do so that I love people and help as I can but not become drained myself.  My sense is that my struggles with this are related to my difficulties with self-love.  I think for me a huge challenge is how to love myself in the face of loss, to not let difficult outcomes that I can’t control affect my regard for myself.  And I do know that I am a work in progress (although I do have that voice that keeps asking, “Are we there yet?”  We are when I don’t hear it anymore, I think.)

In the meantime I am thankful for having great love in my life, even when I feel frustrated by its context.  I guess I hope that recognizing the blessing in that perceived difficulty, welcoming it, and developing the gift it offers me will lead to a sense of peace that may quiet the yearning, either directly or indirectly.