I feel powerless when…
I am spiraling in my shame storm (right before I realize where I am). My shame storm always plays out the same way and what makes it so fucking awful, is that it bubbles up within me before I know whats happening. And although I am getting better at recognizing it, it still reeks havoc on my life.
Through consistent reflection and the time to really process what happens with my mind, body and energy I have figured out the pattern of my shame storm experience (which is the same every time). First, a thought will come into my head, that I have either missed, forgotten, or fucked-up something that impacts or will be noticed by (and of course judged by) another person.
This thought usually falls into one of three big categories for me:
- I am good mom and when I’m not, I fail my children and they suffer permanent damage.
- I am a thoughtful partner/friend and when I’m not I don’t deserve to feel loved.
- I am an excellent employee and when I fail I am not worthy of compensation.
Holy shit those are some pretty deep holes I’ve dug…large cavernous pits and when I fall into them it is very, very hard to pull myself out.
What ever the thought is or however it happens to come to me, whether that be through random thinking or hearing/ seeing something that triggers me, it will be exacerbated by my current physical and emotional state. i.e. Am I having a “you need a snickers” moment or already churning in negative self-talk for something else.
When the storm starts, I instantly feel anxious, my breath gets shallow, my heart races and pressure, felt high in my chest, makes me feel like I am choking. I get woozy and light-headed and within seconds I begin to manifest a deep rage from within my gut. And here in lies the problem…
My shame-storm rises in seconds and is much faster than my awareness.
The result of which is an outpouring of rage and negativity that attaches itself to anything and everything that is happening in my life at that moment. For instance, once I was in the kitchen when the storm hit and I noticed my husband had left something on the counter that didn’t belong there… I instantly started to curse him in my mind and began to play out scenarios where I would berate him and question his love and respect for me…all while not noticing that right beside his item was something I had left on the counter that didn’t belong there. In the past, before I was able to tap into a deeper awareness about my behaviour, I would easily get stuck in that storm for hours, days, letting the negativity fill me like puss in a wound.
The worst effect of my shame storm…
My children are (were) the mostly highly impacted…partly do to the fact that, as my children, they are often around me. And partly because when I am in that state, sound is the number one thing that pushes me past the point of no return. Specifically high-pitched sounds (like squealing toddlers) or sounds that overlap other sounds (like multiple toddlers yelling and whining at each other while watching Max and Ruby…who btw, are tied with Caillou as the whiniest cartoon characters ever) creating a sense of chaos and disorder (another tricky subject when it comes to my shame storm…more on that later). And guess what…kids can have super-high pitched voices, that can sometimes reach levels only dogs and my shame-storm-self can hear.
So within minutes of sensing the tightness in my chest and the burning hot rage, I would be screaming at one or both of my children (Yes they sometimes do need to be disciplined and I am not against raising my voice. The issue is the pain that comes from the lack of control, inability to be present and lack of awareness of the impact of my actions that manifest during a shame-storm).
This moment would quickly be followed by another layer of shame (refer back to category #1) that could only be squelched by entering survival mode…leaving my conscious self and falling into a pattern of “seek and control”…i.e. I would turn into a non-verbal, mommy-maid, cyclone…The more violent the storm the harder I scrubbed the base-boards, the more bleach I would use, the more laundry I would find, the more dirt and filth I would instantly become aware of and be compelled to eradicate. All in my desperate attempt to regain a sense of control over my existence. Every time the shame storm hit I would leave my Self, seek out external fixes and ignore the internal dysfunction until I was numb.
How I reclaimed my power
For over 20 years I exhibited this pattern…completely unaware of any of it. And it took almost another 10 years to fully acknowledge the layers and complexities of the effects shame has on me (thank you Brene!). This deep awareness has given me back much of the power I had willingly given up all those years ago. Yes I still succumb to the shame storm and happily, I have (and am still building) the strength to recognize it. I now consciously pause and take time to breathe (I take all the time it takes to stop feeling like I am choking). I find the courage to step out the storm, so that I can gain the much-needed perspective to notice what has triggered me. I then grant myself permission to let go of my unrealistic expectations that are rooted in shame (whether they are mine or not…many of of these types of expectations continue to abound in our culture today).
Do you have the strength, the drive, to make tomorrow better than today?
I wonder if you could pause and reflect on your shame-storm to look inside your self and own your behaviour. I believe that we each have the power within us to reclaim our lives. I know that when I am circling the drain, the one thing that saves me is the decision to take responsibility for every part of my life.
I know what it’s like to feel lost. To be constantly searching for “who you are”. The answer my friend, is simple and not easy…
Stop looking out and start taking the hard look inward.
If you are like me and you have built up a pretty hefty wall around your Self…then it’s time to pull out the sledgehammer and start swingin’. With each swing, each time you decide to take responsibility, the bricks will fall. As you break holes in what has been holding you back, you begin to take back the power of the storm…because let me tell you, the storm will keep coming. The trick is to not run from it, become it, take charge of it and wield it.
You are waiting, and yes it’s scary and yes it takes time and YES it is worth every fucking minute!!!!
Stop waiting. Be the storm!
All good things are rooted in love, laughter and learning!
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