Guest writer for Wake Up World
Toxic emotions are like weeds, that when left unattended, will fester and grow roots, eventually taking over the landscape of our internal garden. They upset the natural healthy balance of our personal ecosystem, causing disruptions, distortions and dis-ease. They influence and shape the way we feel about ourselves, and how we subsequently show up in relationships, which are often really entanglements in disguise.
One of the most toxic emotions that gets seeded in us early in our lives, and proceeds to grow very deep tangled internal roots, is shame. Being layered, complex and tricky, it is the close cousins of fear; and they tend to show up together to spoil your garden.
You can imagine shame as the pesky garden weeds, or dis-eased trees whose roots also become unruly, cracking through the pavement in your neighbors yard; and fear, as the garden pests, the hungry swarm of bugs that come in droves, whose sole intention is to devour your plants, for their own benefit, destroying your garden in the process (doing exactly what they were created to do, but none-the-less causing upheaval and disruption to the landscape of your beautiful garden).
Once acquired, shame becomes the scarlet letter we wear, branding us as sullied and sinful, wrong and bad; it can influence us to forget who we truly are as incredibly powerful energetic spiritual beings of light, instead taking on disempowered meanings for the symbols and stories of our life.
Shame is one of those taboo topics whose discussion is usually avoided at all costs. The things that make us feel shame may actually be some of the least comfortable things to talk about… ever. (Seriously, if you want to clear out a room in under ten seconds flat, simply start talking about ‘your shame story’.)
I used to feel that I would rather die than talk about ‘my shame’. It felt shameful to even identify with feeling shame. And when that feeling got triggered, it not only felt like everyone around me could see the scarlet shame story, and the crimson fear I carried around with it — like a large, not so subtle, merlot-colored birthmark suddenly appearing and covering my face for all to witness — but also that they were also judging me harshly for it. This only added potent lighter fuel to the already-toxic emotional cauldron of fiery feelings, creating an even bigger swirling downward shame spiral in me.
The shame voice in my head — which had an anxious fear-based quality to its tone — would create whole stories and entire scenarios around things that were not even happening, outside of my mind. Yet the feeling in my body was one of terror, pain and collapse, as if the ‘shame fantasy’, the shame filled illusions my mind was creating, were the most ‘real’ thing on the planet. I felt completely exposed and naked; I felt ashamed of my shame.
Maybe you can relate?
How do we begin to heal something that is so difficult to even talk about?
We embrace courage; we breathe; we dip our toe into the river of truth.
Leaping head first into this turbulent truth river and directly exposing the heavy baggage of shame I had carried (aka: dragged) around with me all my life, wearing like an 800-pound gorilla back-pack, was not something I planned on doing publicly, at any point.
Yet I faced my fear (and my shame) directly when I was divinely guided to share a healing testimonial in front of a group of over two-hundred people at a spiritual healing retreat (I’ve learned to listen to, trust and follow the divine guidance I receive).
Before I knew it, I was pouring my heart out (as it pounded and raced in fear of being brutally judged — by what was actually a room filled with some of the kindest and most loving people I’ve ever encountered) sharing about how I was healing the shame around my shame (gulp).
With an awkward lump rising in my throat, a crimson hue spreading quickly over my face and hands that were getting clammier by the moment, I shared how I was doing this by being as authentic and honest as possible, being vulnerable and real, and speaking openly about my healing process; even though it was super hard to do and I wanted to hide under my chair and pretend I was invisible instead; even when it felt awkward and uncomfortable and downright shameful to expose these parts of myself; even when it pushed me so far into unknown territory that I thought I might actually perish on the spot — from the crushing weight of the compounding shame, which seemed to grow teeth and multiply, increasing in size exponentially, each time I even uttered a word about it out-loud.
I shared all of this, out-loud, unscripted, standing in front of two-hundred people.
And guess what? Nothing bad happened as a result. No one stoned me; no one shamed me; no tomatoes were thrown; and I didn’t die. In fact, not only did I survive the talk about shame, I healed another layer of shame and toxic emotions that day.
Several people came up to me after I spoke, hugged me (I was shocked — or possibly still in shock from what had just come out of my mouth publicly), and thanked me for being so real and sharing my heart so openly.
And that right there, is why I continue to speak about the things that I’d rather stay completely silent about. Because without fail, every single time I take a risk and openly expose a piece of my soul, I make beautiful connections, opening portals of healing in those around me, who resonate with my message and experience on some level — who as a result, feel less alone and more validated, in their own private invisible worlds of fiery toxic emotions and downward swirling shame spirals. Each time I stretch and move beyond my comfort zone, magic happens. Every single time.
This experience taught me so much about myself, about courage and about the complex social dance of shame and fear.
I clearly saw how we hide behind our masks and often suffer alone in silence, trapped in our own internal prisons, creating illusory stories, which cause our lives to become very small and very dark. I saw how I found vulnerability beautiful in others, but shameful in myself. I saw how protecting this ‘shame’ and staying silent was making me sick.
As the well known sayings go: “you are only as sick as your secrets” and “the truth will set you free”.
It was in that moment I decided it was time to stop being so hard on myself and to release this constant need for perfection, along with the desire that I had always carried with me to receive approval from outside of myself; and to instead step into being authentically me, as courageously as I could, all the time, no matter what others thought, even if the shame showed up to silence me and tell me that I was not okay.
Here is the thing about shame…
Shame is slippery. It hides and lives, thriving in the darkness. It whispers rubbish in our ear, that says “if we speak of it terrible things will happen”. This is a lie. Shame is a frightened and insecure sad little bully who seeds us with fear (worry, guilt, embarrassment, anxiety, depression, shyness) attempting to convince us that darkness is more powerful than light and that we are powerless to what is actually a deception. Because in truth, it only has the power over us that we give to it.
Facing your shame head on will eventually allow you to see it for the distortion that it is.
We do not have to water or cultivate our toxic emotions with more toxic emotions (fear, anxiety, worry, anger, embarrassment, guilt); we can decide to simply remove whichever weeds from our garden we choose.
And we can even stop viewing shame and fear as the enemy and choose to have compassion for the deeply insecure, hurt and wounded parts of ourself, that hold and carry these toxic emotions around. When we water our garden with the light frequencies of love, compassion, forgiveness and authentic truth, the fear and shame (and other toxic emotions) are alchemized — transmuting their toxic disruptive elements into something beautiful and useful. We essentially create a light filled fertilizer, to now support our garden in transformational growth and becoming aligned with our desire for experiencing and holding high vibrational frequencies.
This is how we use our garbage and waste (we add light to the dark bubbling caldron of toxic emotions) to work in harmony with manifesting our creations into physical form. Everything has a place and purpose, the light and the dark.
Exposing your light, shining your authentic truth, and choosing love, will alchemize the fear, transmuting the darkness, setting you free, liberating you from the stifling shadow of shame.
When we speak about what we are ashamed of, and when we face our fears directly, we shed light on the very things that keep us bound in knots, paralyzed and internally crippled. Sharing our shame (with people we trust) lightens the burden we carry and connects us to the light.
The more we can find the courage to step into the wake of our fears and face them head on — which we do by being vulnerable and authentic, and fiercely loving ourselves through the process — the more they can, and do, dissolve.
A great thing about shame is that at some point, as it is released, its story and voice no longer hold the same meaning. Rather, it un-tethers and integrates into the fullness of your being, becoming an experience that inspired great courage and bravery in you. It no longer holds a negative emotional charge or feels ‘true’ anymore; it ceases to have any power or control over you.
As a result, we can stop identifying with shame or other toxic emotions from a space of ownership (”my shame” “my pain” “my fear”) and allow them to simply be. We can recognize what amazing teachers these emotions have been and embrace how wonderful and completely worthy of love we truly are.
While I stood in front of that room full of people, I noticed the crippling ‘shame’ voice inside of me surface — The one that told me no one understood or had the same experience; who brought the blush of scarlet shame to my face and said that said I was being critically judged by kind-hearted people — It suddenly became crystal clear that I was actually connecting with a part of myself that really needed to be loved and accepted by me; I was the one harshly judging myself in that moment and projecting this outwardly, which meant that I had the power to change this.
I also saw clearly, that in speaking about this topic to a group of people, I was indeed holding the space for the transformation of their collective shame as well — illuminating how we all have our stories in our head that say we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough; that we are unworthy, unlovable, all alone, etc. And they are just that, stories of illusion in our own mind, to which we hold the key to unlock and release ourselves from at any point we are ready.
When we show up authentically, we give others permission to do the same. When we speak about shame, we shine a healing light on it. When you find the courage to express your authentic experience, and to love all the parts of you that feel shameful, you can begin to heal and finally release all the self judgments, criticisms, ‘shoulds’ and negative internal voices that serve to cut you down and keep you feeling stuck in a web of toxic emotional debris.
Standing up to your shame is what actually begins to dissolve it and liberates you from its grasp. This is true freedom.
The next time shame (or any other toxic emotion) shows up to the party to tear you down, remember to breathe, embrace it with love and compassion, shine a light on it, be authentically you and watch as your shame story begins to dissolve and fade away into the distance — becoming instead the brilliant radiant light that cultivates an enchanted magical vibrant garden, potentially more beautiful and miraculous than you may even imagine is possible. This is part of what I call, The Alchemy of Awakening. And so it is. Aho. Amen.
Recommended reading by Diana Rose Kottle:
- Consciously Navigating Through Dark Times
- A Massive Wake-Up Call for Humanity
- Using Our Powerful Authentic Voice, Even When It’s Hard To Speak
- Are You In Relationships Or Entanglements?
- How Do We Liberate Ourselves From Fear?
About the author:
Diana Rose Kottle, MA, MFT is a Writer, Soul Alignment Coach™ & Psychotherapist — Inspiring Humanity to Awaken to who we truly are as Energetic Spiritual Beings through Being Authentic, Speaking Our Truth, Connecting to Our Inner Wisdom, and Attuning to Love.
Her professional training includes a BA in Psychology, an MA in Counseling Psychology, and a license in Marriage Family Therapy. She is the Founder of Mind Body Soulful™ and Soul Alignment Coaching™.
Diana Rose is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post and the author of ‘Drop Into Your Heart: Unlock A World Of Infinite Possibilities’.