Evolutionary Blog

Distinctions to accelerate your personal and professional evolution

Guilt, Shame, and Self-Acceptance | How Shame Requires Your Consent

Shame-still-better Jason D McClain on shame

Shame, Guilt, and Shaming

I caused quite a stir a few years ago when shaming and the campaign against shaming was all the rage. And the stir I caused was by simply posting “shame requires your consent” followed by “self-acceptance is the antidote to shame”.

These two concepts are very closely related and let me explain how and why they are both so important - and how much freedom they can provide you if implemented and - through practice - embodied. But first, let’s distinguish a few things. Primarily, what is the difference between guilt and shame - because they are different and the distinction is important and most of us have them collapsed.

Guilt and Shame

“Shame gives guilt a bad name.”  -Mark Michael Lewis

Guilt and Shame. 

For years my good friend Mark Michael Lewis and I debated several concepts. These were spirited yet friendly conversations over the years - sometimes conversations on a single topic would span years. And one of these conversations had centered around guilt and shame and we only came to a resolution on it when we shared the sensations associated with each of them. How did shame feel in the body? How did guilt feel in the body? When we discussed the sensations, we discovered that we actually agreed. It was simply that we had not defined our terms.

For the purposes of our discussion here, guilt is defined as "a realization - an “a-ha” moment if you will - that you violated your own value system - and the feeling you that must make it right". It’s then followed by a bit of an adrenaline rush; you feel more alert and you feel compelled to fix it somehow - through acknowledging the wrong, through making amends somehow, or doing something to restore yourself in your own guidelines. In sum, guilt is the feeling you did a bad thing: a behavior you do not condone for yourself. We have all done something we are not proud of; a wrong we know we must right. Something that keeps bothering us in the back of our minds. Sometimes even years later. It may be something small - something that when we go to the person and attempt to clean it up they may not even remember it happening.

Shame is taking the additional step of thinking you are therefore a bad person. Bad or wrong at your core. It is when we take “I did a bad thing” and then tack on “so I’m a bad person”. Not only is that confusing of logical levels - confusing behavior, or what we do with identity, or who we are - but the heavy, oppressive feelings that can even lead to debilitating feelings where one may not even want to get out of bed - actually slows our progress. We have to move through the shame before we can step into the light and take the actions necessary to right that wrong. It’s an unnecessary step that provides no value.

And, sadly, there are times when people use this sort of self-flagellation for attention and comfort or even love  - and to avoid the shaming that may come from the other who they feel they have wronged. 


And as long as we are on the topic of shaming - let me drop this idea on you that may have a hard landing:  

 

Shame requires your consent

Think about this for a minute.

For someone to shame you effectively - which is them attempting to impose their value system onto you by emotional brute force - meaning for it to actually work, there has to be some part of you that buys into whatever they are judging you for. If you were 100% aligned with your own behavior - if you had 100% self-acceptance of all aspects of your being - it would fall flat. You may even laugh at their attempts to shame you, or at the very least shrug it off.

And it is at this moment that you realize that self-acceptance is the antidote to shame.

Self-acceptance does not mean you are okay with being a horrible person and running rampant over other people. What “self-acceptance” means is two things:

1. Being willing to gaze unflinchingly and without judgment at every aspect of yourself - both positive and negative aspects. To look in the mirror. Or if someone pointed out something you classify a character defect - something you perhaps are currently working with on your own development path that you would simply accept the truth of what they are pointing out. To refuse to be in denial about aspects of yourself.

and

2.“The refusal to be in an adversarial relationship with yourself”, as Dr. Nathaniel Branden put it.

There is tremendous freedom in admitting aspects of yourself and your desires to others as well - tremendous freedom.

It is also where the work begins. Once you acknowledge aspects of yourself that are out of alignment without your own espoused values or principles, then work must begin to bring that part of yourself into alignment or dissolve it altogether. And once you have reclaimed disowned parts of yourself and reintegrated them into the whole, and you lack internal conflict and a fractured self, then you not only can begin to move with greater velocity toward your hopes, desires, dreams, goals, and have the life you secretly long for, but your lack of internal dissent will lead to a glow about you - a true presence and you can be truly present with people.

And this is where we talk about how being shame-free leads to being able to have true presence - which people are naturally drawn to - vs simple charisma, which can be faked.

Some people have questioned “without shame, what would inhibit our behaviors which may harm others? What about having a conscience?” 

Well, that’s what guilt is for.

To be living in shame or using shame as a way to beat up on yourself or on others is to not only miss the point of taking action to right wrongs, but it is to deny the one thing we can all agree on:  universal innocence, and our inherent Divinity. Our oneness with Spirit. Our very connection to the beauty of all that is. Moment to moment.

The Kingdom of heaven is within. Stop obscuring it with the heavy clouds of shame.

--

This is an excerpt from Jason's forthcoming book on Evolutionary Relationships from the #RelationshipContinuum section.

To be Guided by Jason - whether you are currently in a relationship and want to transform it, or you are single and want to “do the next one right” - check out the Evolutionary Relationships offering.

Or just schedule a complimentary initial conversation here to get the process started.



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Evolutionary Relating | Introduction to the Book

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This is from the introduction to the forthcoming book. You can find additional excerpts here.

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It’s the one thing that unites and connects us all.

We are not united by national origin, gender, politics, ethnicity, and the like. Not universally. The one thing that universally unites us is this:

Love

It's the one thing every human has in common.

Any poem about love in any language still transmits the same experience regardless of the language we translate it into. Sufi mystic Rumi and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda were separated by several centuries yet both their poetry still translates to this:

Love

Love. Love and a clear reverence for the women they loved without losing any of their masculine centers. It's almost become a lost art.

But it does not matter where your lover came from or whether you have the same birth language - or even speak the same language. Or what color they are. We can fall in love with anyone from any place - from any religion or cultural background - at any time.

We’ve all experienced some version of it. 

Perhaps it was the rush of the chemical attraction--they touched your hand and the electricity was unforgettable. Or maybe it wasn’t the chemistry, maybe it was the feeling of finally being home. Or a kind of comfort and safety you felt almost immediately. Or maybe it was a feeling of familiarity--as if you've known someone for years even though you just met them.

Then at some point when those feelings (many of which we discover are Illusions and projections) are dispelled, and the person begins to behave in ways that disappoint, confound or even anger us, we may begin to question the connection that we have with them and at times, perhaps, even our own judgment. 

Inevitably, we come face-to-face with how many assumptions we've made. How we have built our entire relationship and levels of trust, as well as our fantasies about the future, on these assumptions. And in our pain and confusion, we often make grave errors that only make matters worse and tragically make our future in that relationship - or the next - even worse still.

Sucks, right?

But you know what? 

Virtually all of that is avoidable.

Most of us do not know how to set ourselves up for success in the beginning - we start dating based on chemistry and attraction or availability - not on aligned values. We do not know how to have the conversations to set a baseline for what we will agree on - what our agreed foundation is - heck, some people wait so long to have these conversations that they are not even sure if they are monogamous or both dating other people months into dating (!)


These are conversations that need to be had sooner rather than later. And some people know that, but they don’t know how to have those conversations.

Or worse, they are simply too scared to have them.

Then when conflict arises,  we lack the tools to navigate the situation in a way that feels good, let alone connective and satisfying to both of you.  

Or when the relationship stalls we don't know how to keep it alive, sexy, and have it continue to inspire and uplift - to bring out the best in us.

Then when it ends we have no constructive way to deal with the grief, the self-doubt, the anger, and no capacity to deal with feelings of betrayal or loss or confusion. 

At that point, some of us immerse ourselves so deeply into the process and feelings of loss that we may even think that we are destined to repeat the cycles - and perhaps some of you have - that do not work and lack fundamental workability.

This book strives to solve most of the avoidable challenges and problems that arise in all three stages of relationships and provides structures and tools to assist you in working through the unpredictable - and in some cases unforeseeable - problems that arise. 

In the beginning: how to avoid unwarranted bliss and the inevitable crash - disappointment and even, how to avoid mediocrity in the middle or simply being in a habit rather than in a relationship, how to deal with anger fear jealousy all those things that can arise and create conflict in that middle stage. And of course, the confusion, anger, and grief that can arise when it ends if it ends and how to set yourself up for Success without vilifying the other person and how to reclaim your power if you've lost yourself in the relationship. 

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Agreements For Healthy Relating | Agreement 3: If We Are Upset, We Make a Request

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Agreement 3: If we are upset and we would like a new rule or new agreement, we make a request. 

This could be as simple as, “my request is you open doors for me on a date” or “my request is that you call if you are going to me 5 or more minutes late”, or “my request is that on our dates you turn your phone off - or silence it” so you are fully present.

Or it could be something with more gravity and/or more impact:  “if you are dating other people, my request is that you let me know that”, or “my request is that we be monogamous”.

This is how to have clean communication, to get what you want, and to get back into connection as cleanly and as quickly as possible.

All too often I have seen proponents of so-called “conscious” communication manipulating (or attempting to manipulate) the other person through simply expressing displeasure and then being upset that they did not pick up on it.

All too often women in so-called “conscious” or “transformational” communities talk about how the man should get better at hearing “feminine” communication.

There is certainly some truth to that - men need to pay attention to minimal cues more and can develop more subtle awareness both linguistically and -  but it also codifies implicit communication 0- and can lead to passive-aggressive tendencies that leads to the ickiest (that is a technical term) kind of control where one person is controlling the other person through their lack of emotional facility - often intentionally.

And once you allow this to work, and this dynamic seeps into your relating, it can be one heckuva downward spiral that gains momentum.

And then you have devolution, not evolution.

Let’s explore what you may be upset by.

It could be a trigger (something unresolved from your past that is stacked on top of other similar events and therefore disproportionate).  It could be a boundary that was crossed (you may or may not have been aware of it being a boundary but your upset can bring that into the foreground). It could be a broken agreement with the person you are in a relationship with.

First, reflect on whether or not you are holding them accountable to an agreement they have not made. 

Next, explore whether or not it is triggering something from your past: the disproportionate nature of it will point to that. Relate to this as an opportunity to heal that. It’s a gift they just handed you, really, without knowing it. 

If they broke an agreement you had made with them, there are several steps:

First, ask, “it is my understanding we had __________ agreement. Is that your understanding?”

It is my experience - and my observation - that most people simply forgot. So all it takes it to bring the agreement back into awareness.

Obviously, if it is a larger transgression, like that breaking an agreement around dating or sex, that would be nearly impossible to forget, like “we agreed to be monogamous” then the next step is to offer incredible grace.

For example: is there anything I have done to create the conditions for you to [most likely] not tell the truth about what was happening.

Some of you may be protesting right now, but remember two critical things:

  1. Communication skills are physical skills. So take every opportunity to get as much practice as you can
  2. We take responsibility for our part in things - despite the fact that it will give them grace. And we do it for healthy selfish reasons: to build self-esteem and to increase our capacity for spaciousness and depth.

“Grace” in this context is defined as “unmerited mercy”. But again, that is just fine, because we do it for us - for our own personal evolution - not for them.

--

This is an excerpt from Jason's forthcoming book on Evolutionary Relationships from the #RelationshipGenesis section.

To be Guided by Jason - whether you are currently in a relationship and want to transform it, or you are single and want to “do the next one right” - check out the Evolutionary Relationships offering.

Or just schedule a complimentary initial conversation here to get the process started.

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Evolutionary Relationships | Questions From a Commentor on #RelationshipGenesis

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Evolutionary Relationships | Questions From a Commentor on #RelationshipGenesis

Do all relationships have a beginning, middle, & end?

Is it egocentric to hope or aim for a life-long evolutionary dyad? How do you move forward when you sense the end is a painful cliff?

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Q:  “Do all relationships have a beginning, middle, & end?”

Yes, they do. Though how much time, energy, and focus is spent on each of those stages - the duration of each stage - varies widely.

Sometimes the beginning may take a very very long time. Sometimes they happen very quickly. Sometimes there is a seemingly paradoxical combination of both.

For instance, with my last relationship, I had known her for 12 years and had always had a bit of a crush on her. In fact, I still remember the red dress she was wearing when I met her in 2008.

 But circumstances were such that it would have been inappropriate for me to express that at the time. 12 years passed, and then we just happened to be in the same city at the same time and she reached out to me asking if I was in fact in that city - I think I have Facebook's proximity function in Messenger to thank for that.

 Anyway, the circumstances were such now that it was no longer inappropriate for me to express it, so I did. And we decided to meet up for a date and to catch up, had an incredible kiss at the end of that date, and then ended up living together for several months almost immediately after that.

And yes, all relationships end. 

Sometimes it ends after just a few months in a volatile fashion. 

Sometimes it ends amicably and it is navigated and negotiated and the two parties can remain friends but just realized that it was not a fit in the context of romance or intimacy for them to be together.

Sometimes the end does not occur until one of you dies after many many many years - decades - of being together. 

But be that as it may, all relationships eventually have an end

Q: Is it egocentric to hope or aim for a life-long evolutionary dyad? 

I think we should have as a starting point the belief or even the conviction that you can have everything that you desire in your relationship.

 Sometimes that's not possible if you're in a relationship already and you realize that something is very important to you, and the other person is either incapable or uninterested in engaging in that way of relating with you. 

However, I think it would be fantastic. 

If you are single, then I think it's appropriate to have that as part of your criteria if it's something that is very important to you and would be fulfilled in that way.

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Agreements For Healthy Relating | We Do Not Hold Eachother accountable to Agreements We Have Not Made

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Agreement 2:  We do not hold each other accountable to agreements we have not (explicitly) made

Holding people accountable to agreements they have not made - by punishing them for not being aware of your preferences - is just one aspect of unclean relating. It is also fundamentally unjust.

How do they punish? By withdrawal and withholding.

Intimacy, connection, love, all those things. The things you are there to experience with them.

Sometimes they dress it up as "making sure you understand the impact". Oh, I understand. I understand what they are doing and I see the control game they are attempting to play.

And the degree of attachment and emotional enmeshment one has and external validation one seeks is the degree to which one will be controlled by these gimmicks.

Play a higher game. If your partner will not join you in that cleaner, higher game - will not co-create it with you - choose a new board to play on.

We do not hold each other accountable to agreements we have not made

What does this mean?  How does this occur? What are the indicators?

We’ve all done this. We’ve all had this done to us. Some more recently than others.

The word “should” is one huge indicator, and all-too-often we punish the ignorant - and for what? For not reading our minds? Fro simply being themselves? Sarcasm aside: how do we punish them? 

Most often by withholding intimacy and connection - while blaming them for that very choice we just made. It’s not pretty.

While there is something to be said for having an overlap in world-views and values as a natural fit, I have known people who grew up in the same small town, went to the same church, and still had different ideas, standards, opinions, and rules about how a relationship, a partnership, or marriage should operate in the day-to-day. While you may begin to intuit your partner's needs and desires, this only comes from a process of educating one another about our preferences.

No “they should have known” or “shoulds” in general. Not in Evolutionary Relating.

As an Evolutionary, we understand the difference between an agreement - or rule that we have both agreed to - an expectation, which is usually an unstated desire, and a standard, and/or a boundary.

To fully understand - and therefore be able to agree to - the 2nd agreement, let’s distinguish the difference among those four.

First, if you are upset by something they did or did not do, ask yourself, “do we have an explicit agreement about this”?  If the answer is no, then you can skip to Agreement 3 and decide if you want to make a request around this particular thing or not. If so, and if they agree - it then essentially binds both of you to a new agreement.

Bear in mind that the more rules you have in your relationships the less freedom of expression both parties will have and the more attention you have to have on those rules and agreements. And the truth is - if you are looking to bind someone to an agreement to limit their behavior in some way because you are uncomfortable with how they are - when no real harm is being done by their behavior - but you want to control them or you fear something happening - then you are trading self-expression and spontaneity (read: fun) for stability and safety. And there is a place you are not free emotionally if you want to control or constrict them in some way.

There is nothing wrong with that - just be aware that is what you are doing - and look deeper for the work you can do to allow yourself more freedom there, which will, in turn, give others the freedom to be.

But even if it hasn’t been communicated we still can’t hold that person accountable. If it has been communicated and the person agrees then it’s a new agreement And they can be held accountable.

But in terms of holding someone accountable to an agreement they have not made - it occurs all the time. So if you do not have an explicit agreement around something and you find yourself cutting them off or punishing them in some way - be it punitive or by simply withholding connection - you can reconnect again and take care of your own needs by simply making a request - and they then do not have to guess what your needs are, you are taken care of, and you can get back to connection and love - which hopefully is the primary purpose of your relating.

Hopefully.

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