C. and me (and a little bit about shame)

I haven’t written much lately about what is going on with C. (or at all, truthfully — I was derailed for a bit by “the scandal” and the holidays). They are going very, very well. We are taking things slowly, but we’ve both realized we’re as much in love as ever and care for each other very deeply.

I am still working very, very hard on my own issues of anxiety and insecurity. Meditation has helped tremendously, and the increased self-awareness always helps me realize when I’m starting to feel that stomach-clenching anxiety creep up.

I try to stay in the present moment more. When I start to get panicky about the future and do my “ZOMG WHAT IF WE BREAK UP AND I GET HURT AGAIN?!” thing, I take a few deep breaths and “center myself” again. (I really hate that phrase, but I try to pay attention to what’s going on around me — the sights, the sounds, the smells, the sensations.)

Another thing that has helped tremendously is listening to Brene Brown’s “Men, Women and Worthiness.” It’s a short (maybe two-hour) audiobook where she delves into shame and the different ways men and women experience it, as well as how to become more “shame-resilient.” She discusses that women frequently experience shame as “not being enough” — pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, a good enough mom, etc.

THAT has been a major battle for me … “I’m not hearing from him more because he’s realized I’m not interesting enough or fun enough or pretty enough, so he must  have decided he’s done! I really suck. I can never keep a guy. Something must be really wrong with me.”

Her four elements of shame resilience are:

  • Recognizing shame and understanding the physical triggers.
  • Practicing critical awareness. (For example, what are the expectations from society and are they realistic?)
  • Reaching out and telling our story. (Connecting with others who have had the same experiences and realizing we aren’t alone.)
  • Speaking shame. (Discussing it with someone we trust, and responding appropriately when someone shames us.)

I’ve been amazed at what a big difference it makes to be able to go, “Hey, that’s shame!” And in my case, it’s frequently not others shaming me, but me shaming myself, so a lot of it is recognizing that negative self-talk and turning it around.

Another thing that I’ve been doing is a “feelings chart” suggested in “A Gift to Myself: A Personal Workbook and Guide to ‘Healing the Child Within’.” I actually keep mine on a Google Sheets spreadsheet and bookmark it on my computer; when I feel a strong (and especially an unpleasant) feeling, I fill it out. It looks like this:

Name of feeling Associated situation and experience Associated needs Usefulness