The other day I had a dark and demoralizing battle with shame. I was surprised at how deeply and quickly I sank into the much and mire that is shame. The journey began innocently enough – browsing Facebook and chatting with a friend. By it’s end I was a babbling mess who was convinced she had irreparably damaged several valued relationships.
Without going into too many extraneous details, while not in full control of my faculties I managed to carry on a number of Facebook chats as well as one phone conversation with little memory of any of them. When I logged onto Facebook the next day and realized what I had done, I was horrified. I felt my soul shrivel up inside because I was afraid I had said something that might offend or insult one of my friends. Upon reviewing the messages I will say there were some that were completely nonsensical, a few that were moronic and some that were perfectly fine I didn’t notice any of the victims of my idiocy unfriending me. I received no infuriated messages insisting that I never bother the or darken their doorway again. Unfortunately this knowledge did nothing to alleviate my shame. Instead I spent the next three days in solitude and isolation, avoiding Facebook on the off chance that my appearance might remind one of my victims that they preferred a life without exposure to me and my immature shenanigans.
Coincidentally I had a stomach problem over the weekend. I felt nauseous, dizzy and an awful pain in my stomach. I couldn’t figure out the cause. My hubby insisted it was some shrimp I had eaten. I thought maybe it was the lingering effects of what had caused my obnoxious behavior the night before. I’ve experienced lingering after-effects of both these things before but they usually clear up in a few hours and after a dose or two of antacids. This time it lasted for days. In fact as I’m writing this I can feel the knot starting up in my stomach again. It’s a physical pain but I’ve finally realized it’s cause is not.
It wasn’t until I compared the pain to the knots I used to get in my stomach as a child awaiting punishment for some misdeed. My father was a harsh, unyielding disciplinarian so even the most minor infraction usually resulted in corporal punishment. So there is an element of fear twined through this pain as well as shame. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop; for the punishment to be delivered. I broke a rule, violated an implied contract and I felt I deserved to be punished. As no one was taking me to task (my friends were either ignoring my faux pas, understanding of my flaws or tolerant of my screw-ups – or perhaps a combination), I was doing it to myself.
I have never experienced such a powerful, clear connection between my inner critic and physical ramifications. In fact had someone told me about something like this, I would have dismissed it as New Age claptrap. Feeling those inner demons roiling around in my stomach has been quite a wake-up call. I never would have believed that I could internalize shame, fear and criticism in such a visceral way. It’s eye-opening and infuriating. I like to see myself as invincible; not permanently scarred by the dysfunction that was my childhood. Clearly I’ve been fooling myself.
To help me move forward, I asked Sekhmet for some assistance in being less harsh and unforgiving of myself. She sent me Athena – the goddess of wisdom and strategy, clear-sightedness and rational thought. Her advice to me (as channeled through the Pearls of Wisdom Tarot) is 7 of Swords Rx and 7 of Cups. At first their message was confusing to me. Upon further reflection and exploring the images more, I began to see a clearer message.
The 7 of Swords was reminding me that I’m out on a bridge fighting an internal battle against attackers that are not real – they are inner demons; ephemera that are no less deadly despite their incorporeal nature. The face in the clouds blows wind against the figures back suggesting the winds of fate are pushing him against his will. Two green, feminine faces occupy opposite corners of the card. Their eyes may be closed or may be crystalline – either way they seem somewhat inhuman and unsympathetic. They have no interest in the fate of the man on the bridge. Being reversed, this card suggests that this is all being done within my on psyche; by me and to me. The truth is that people do care but many are probably unaware of this internal battle to defeat these devastating inner demons.
The 7 of Cups is showing me that I can choose; I can let the healing energy of love and inner joy pour over me and wash away all those inner demons. There is a centeredness and sense of peace and calm about the figure in the center of the 7 Cups. Her eyes are closed and she is undistracted by the cups surrounding her. The Sun swirling brightly above her head suggests that she is blessed by its radiance and warming rays. The rainbow above the sun connects the energies of this card to Temperance and suggests that the powerful energies of the Sun and Temperance can be tapped to aid in the healing process. All of these options are available to me, all I have to do is reach out and accept their help.
I might not be the complete cure but it’s certainly a good start. The best option is to reduce the opportunities for situations in which I am not in control of my faculties. If such a situation does occur, then I need to be more diligent about avoiding making phone calls or browsing Facebook. The most important thing for me to do is accept that I will screw up. With or without external aids, I will manage to say and do things that will offend. These actions are rarely intentional but that doesn’t make them any less embarrassing. From now on if I realize I’ve insulted or offended a friend, I will apologize for my behavior and move forward. If that person chooses to disassociate with me, I will respect that decision.
So here’s the truth folks – we all screw up. We all have times when we offend and insult friends and loved ones. We can only hope that they care for us and are tolerant of our quirks and embarrassing moments. We can take steps to reduce the amount of times such incidences occur. The most important facet of getting through these types of situations, as I have learned from painful experience, is to slay those damned inner demons that keep beating you up about your mistakes. Mistakes are learning opportunities and approaching them that way can help alleviate the anxiety, shame and fear. Of course, one should probably try to avoid making a recurring habit of such mistakes but I would hope that our friends can forgive our foibles and not hold them against us.
Hugs, sweetie. Thanks for sharing and being so vulnerable. Perhaps the other side of the shame coin is strength. We are all sadder and wiser when we journey through and out of shame.
Thanks for the hugs Gail. I think you’re so right about growing wiser on the other side. I just wish it was a little less painful. . Then again perhaps that what makes these experiences so memorable.