“What is this fragment of humanity that I love & fear? Some may say that human beings are cruel & stupid creatures. The time has come to end the crucifixion. This fragment perpetually pulls me in & repels me. When trauma & drama takes the space of beauty & presence. I see it in others and I want to expose it I want them to own it Claim it Melt it To dissolve it Humans live for reflection And wallow in projection. Yet in all honesty, I know that it is there when I look in the mirror.” ~ Baba Dez Nichols
Healthy shame is energy in motion which allows us to know our limits & boundaries & mobilises us to get our needs met. When healthy shame is not felt & owned, it goes into the psychic shadow & is projected on to others as toxic shame. Toxic shame is the root of so much dysfunction, including emotional illness, addiction & co-dependency.
Many years before founding the International School of Temple Arts (ISTA), Baba Dez Nichols had a vision of how the temples of old came crashing down. The fall was fuelled by envy, greed, resentment, competition & misuse of ritual within the temple. Spiritual dogma polarised us & created separation. The rhetoric of guilt, fear & shame backed up by force created mass trauma & dissociation. A huge gap in our individual & collective emotional embodiment was the result. The threat is not so external these days. It has been internalized through toxic shame. Toxic shame is a desperate form of control passed on through generations. It gives us the illusion of safety & yet also keeps us powerless. We believe & follow societal norms, striving for more money, more success, more sex, more possessions etc. continuously looking externally to fill the unbearably large void that lies within.
"We are all in a posthypnotic trance induced in early infancy." Ronald Laing
Toxic shame begins in childhood when the vulnerable aspects of self are exposed before we are ready & we have no choice or ability to protect ourselves. These vulnerable parts are then pushed away & hidden from the self, dissociating us from our core feelings & allowing us to emotionally bypass our suffering, accountability & responsibility.
"The split off parts of our internal experiences (our feelings, needs & drives) clamor for expression. They are like our hungry dogs locked in the basement. We must find some means to quieten them. One way is through feeling conversion […] we convert what is forbidden or shameful into another more acceptable or more tolerable feeling." John Bradshaw
Other common ways of quietening our hungry dogs include the ego defenses of identifying with the aggressor to incorporate their traits, denying what is going on, numbing out, projecting onto others, & disassociating by denying, regressing & engaging the imagination to distract us.
"People in authority often use shamelessness to avoid their felt sense of toxic shame, which includes ‘perfectionism, striving for power & control, rage, arrogance, criticism & blame, judging, envy, people-pleasing & being nice. Each behavior focuses on the other & takes the heat off oneself." John Bradshaw
Instead of union, honoring & leaning into love, separation, domination & violence is normalized. Toxic shame maintains entitlement that reinforces power over the other.
It has been passed down though all aspects of life including religious, social, school & family systems. It is now considered normal & acceptable in almost all cultures. Toxic shame permeates throughout our modern culture & rarely gets challenged because we have internalized it.
“Internalized patriarchy is the basis of competition & comparison. Internalized patriarchy is why toxic masculinity (whether in men OR women) feels the need to slight or cut down others to feel powerful. Healthy masculine energy asks how can I use my power to help? Truly sovereign people feel no need to compare themselves with others. They are on their own paths, paving their own way forward through their own internal moral compass.” Kali Kat
Those not able to own their fear of being unworthy or unlovable which is underneath judgements, unkind actions, & attacks are covering their toxicity with authority, righteousness, arrogance & strategic shaming of others. This extends to the shame of sharing a purpose. When we are running on self-importance, anyone who shows up in their power is seen as a threat. The toxic shame asserts that “I am the only one who can do this. I am the only one who can run this retreat/project/country.” Attempting to hold toxic shamers, & those in collusion with them, accountable for their inappropriate behaviors & actions is virtually impossible. Toxic shame is part of their identity, their state of being which influences the whole of who they are. This is incredibly painful because the toxic shamers feel flawed deep within. Masked by self-importance, not only do they hide their shame from others, they also hide it from themselves. To acknowledge & feel this toxic shame feels like death to the false self they created to protect themselves. Toxic shamers feel terrorized by anyone who attempts to hold them, or those in collusion with them, accountable. In a culture of toxic shame they will garner overwhelming support to keep the delusion alive. Anything to keep the unconscious false self image intact. Anything to avoid the death of the false self.
"Toxic shame is true agony. It is a pain felt from the inside, in the core of our being. It is excruciatingly painful." John Bradshaw
Rejection is akin to death for most toxic shamers. It reconnects them to their buried wounds. They will criticize & blame in an attempt to offload their difficult feelings, which they try to avoid at all costs. Responding with defensiveness causes the shame to be passed on. Understanding the alarming pervasiveness of Toxic Shame is the first step.
What can be done to heal the shame that binds us?
Reclaiming & vibrating the emotional body through self activation. Empowered communication of observations without interpretation. Self Love, Self sexual initiation & activation meditations. These & many other powerful tools & techniques are explored in the workshops & private sessions offered by Baba Dez Nichols & Sonalle LaMariposa, & also shared at the ISTA weeklong retreats offered in over 40 countries around the world. It is through the lived experience of heart & soul embodiment that we can start to break through the veil of toxic shame. After we educate ourselves, the key is through Embodied Love.
“Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present & abiding under-current of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to be something we are not & most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence & immobilize the essential, tidal & conversational foundations of our identity.” ~ Poet David Whyte (2015)
Vulnerability is derived from the Latin word “vulnerare” which means, “to be wounded”; a common expression of how most societies tend to perceive vulnerability; as something negative, a weakness to be avoided. In the UK, we are conditioned not to show vulnerability but to keep the British ‘stiff upper lip’ by not showing our emotions.
“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community. “ ~ M. Scott Peck (2010)
Society tends to shun feeling & vulnerability. It promotes escapism through consumerism to distract us from feeling our truth. By avoiding our truth we let go of our autonomy. We eat, drink, shop, surf the Internet & take whatever chemicals are available to avoid feeling what lies below the surface. For us to truly connect with our vulnerability, we need to let go of the distractions & busy-ness. We need to create a container to give ourselves the time & space to feel.
“To feel is to be vulnerable.” ~ Brene Brown (2012)
We are born into this world open & vulnerable to our environment & caregivers. This vulnerability is essential to allow us to learn both consciously & unconsciously so as to increase our chances of survival. From the age of one, we learn to modify our response to “negative cues” such as anger, disgust & fear (Hertenstein & Campos, 2001; Moses et al., 2001). Research shows that our brains are hard-wired to learn from anger & fear even more than joy when communicated by our caregivers. Although the communication of these emotions can increase our survival chances, they are frequently based on our caregivers’ own deep held fear, guilt & shame.
As we grow older, our caregivers are often unable to meet our needs, be those emotional, physical, psychological or spiritual. Instead of having our emotions validated, we are told not to feel, “Don’t cry!” “Be quiet!” or “Don’t be a baby!” We are left feeling disappointment, anger, sadness, anxiety, shame & guilt without having the necessary tools to process them. In the absence of having the essential support & tools to notice, feel, breathe & move through these emotions, we build barriers to protect ourselves from feeling. Although conscious to begin, these barriers soon drop into the unconscious, impacting on our day-to-day lives & limiting the vast spectrum of emotions available to us. Life can become mundane, without depth & without the richness that life deserves. The subtle nuances of emotions are lost forever unless the necessary guidance is sought & the vital tools gained.
“When we feel safe enough to expose our shadows, that’s when we become free.” ~ Gabby Bernstein (2020)
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable & expose our shadows, we open to feeling. As we let go of ego defences such as numbness & disassociation, we allow ourselves to feel the emotions that may challenge us so moving the repressed emotions to the conscious. Bringing awareness to our shadows, we gift ourselves the opportunity to heal the pain. As we feel & identify the emotions, we can breathe deeply, vibrate & let the emotions go.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ~ Brene Brown (2012)
~Let us move from the shadow into the light ~Let us drop away the unnecessary layers ~Let us discover our hidden strengths ~So let us Open to Vulnerability