|SHAME I 11″x8″ mixed media on tissue|
I went through The Meadows Treatment Center program in Wickenburg, Arizona in 1991. There I learned that shame was separate from guilt. Up until then, they were ‘coupled’ or not separate.
The program taught that our emotions are a resource to help us heal from traumatic childhood events. I’ve come to understand emotions to be like guides through the maze that the mind creates for self-protection. They taught when we stop and face our emotions, when we embrace them, they give us a gift. The gift of shame is humility and the gift of guilt is strengthening or establishing our value system.
Shame is there to remind us that we’re human beings, we’re not the Supernatural, we’re not the All Knowing All Seeing. Guilt is an emotion that we experience when we cross the life sustaining rules, the Commandments, ancestral teachings…when we make a mistake. Guilt is the energy force that alerts us to the need to make amends, shame to remind us that we make mistakes, that we’re human.
Life gets complicated when caregivers behave shamelessly. When they cause harm and believe they are justified in their action–projecting their unresolved shame onto the innocent. When this violation against the innocent happens, the emotion of guilt arises and signals a wrong has been done and amends is the next action needed to restore spiritual balance. The function of guilt may also be rejected through justification creating a cyclic shame-bound existence.
The child who has been the container for unresolved caregiver shame then carries not only their small amount of shame to remind them they are human, they also carry their caregivers shame becoming shameful. A pendulum is created swinging from shameless to shameful.
Suffering is the result. Suffering for the innocent, suffering for the one who has offended and suffering of those in the environment. I have discovered that only the light of truth can free me from the cyclic existence of shameful to shameless behaviour.