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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Relationship Postmortem | How to Decide When It's Time To Leave

dalmation-time-to-end-it-relationship-postmortem

#RelationshipPostmortem

While most of this section is going to deal with what to do after the breakup - how to process the grief, how to use that period of deep pain for your own development, transformation, and personal evolution, and how to set yourself up for success in the next relationship so you don’t repeat the same mistakes, we’ve all wondered at some point … 

When is it time to leave?

This may be the most difficult question for us to answer for ourselves and there are so many variables - if there are children involved it makes it even more complicated even if the end result is the same.

But one thing we want to be sure of is that we do not stay in the relationship for the wrong reasons.

What are some of the “wrong” reasons?

Let’s start with a few mindsets or orientations to the process before we answer that question. For me personally, these aren’t just mindsets or beliefs, they are convictions; I am willing to assert them as self-evident truths.

First: every human is worthy of a loving and of a fulfilling romantic relationship and/or partnership.  What does fulfilling mean? For me, it means that you're lit up in every way: sexually, lovingly, intellectually, and spiritually. That they are an incredible lover and your best friend. Most important of all:  that you can express yourself - just be you - without being judged or shut down. That you are appreciated, encouraged, loved, and feel a deep connection to this person. That you can communicate through anything.

At the very least, your values need to be aligned enough - and your preferred forms of those values - how they would show up in your relationship need to have enough overlap that the little things don’t matter.

But whatever “fulfilling” means to you, every human is worthy of a loving and of a fulfilling romantic relationship and/or partnership. 

If you are reading this and you are single, you can use the Values and Forms exercise we laid out earlier in the book as a way of determining a greater degree of likelihood for success in your relationship. Values are a far greater determinant of compatibility than any typing system [zodiac, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, etc] as your level or stage of ego development will have a far greater influence - for instance at a certain stage you may experience differences as problematic, at yet another stage you may begin to see them as more of a benefit - complementary rather than conflicting - and so on. 

If you are reading this and you are in a relationship, you can use the same exercise to gain an understanding and deeper insight into why you are in conflict and … ultimately … whether you are a functional fit or not.

Second:  while it takes two to tango, it only takes one to transform [the relationship].

This is another fundamental truth. If you alter your internal relationship to the person and behave differently - and come at the whole situation fresh and open to possibility, they will respond to that. It may take longer than you desire - but I firmly believe [and this part may not be true but it is still the powerful way to relate to it]  any relationship can be transformed if one person is lovingly but unwaveringly committed to transforming it. You can infuse new life into it at any point. 

The question is not can it be transformed or not, the question is how.  

Not all relationships should be, but I believe all relationships can be transformed.

Lastly - and this makes a good segue to the “wrong” reasons to stay in a relationship:  

Longevity is not an effective gauge for success. You can be in a relationship that feels dead 20 years and people will congratulate you just based on the amount of time you have been together. Here’s the problem with that:  most humans aren't in a relationship. They're just in a habit.

Having said that, there are a few “wrong” reasons to stay in a relationship:

1. You are afraid to be single or alone. 


If you are afraid to be alone you are very likely in some form of co-dependent relationship and are having to sacrifice your happiness and - at times - your mental or emotional well-being. 

In this case, if you are in a relationship you consider “dysfunctional”, leaving may be the bravest and most powerful and empowering thing you can do - despite (or maybe even because) of how scary it is at first.

2. You don’t think you are good enough to have a more fulfilling relationship.

In my research, I was surprised at how often this came up - that some people didn’t think they were worthy of a more fulfilling relationship - or a higher quality partner.

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Monogamy and Polyamory [or Ethical Non-Monogamy] | Is One More Evolved Than the Other?

non-monogamy

[This article requires a general understanding of developmental stages in egoic, emotional, or moral developmental models, distinguished by researchers such as Graves, Kohlberg, Gilligan, etc.]

There is often talk in developmental, transformational, and alternative communities about how polyamorous and/or “open” relationships are more “evolved”. More evolved than…say the conventional forms of monogamy and marriage.

This is an easy trap to fall into, as poly- relationship forms are certainly post-conventional. There was a time when I agreed with this thinking. I used to think polyamory [distinct from what I often see which is “poly-sexual”] was the more "evolved" as is it beyond traditional structures [trans-rational and post-conventional] and by its very nature requires, and often demands advanced communication skills, a solid sense of self, a lack of attachment and more spontaneous and flexible structures than monogamy.

Plainly put—it is more challenging. But that is if it is played clean, which is all well and good on paper...but how often are poly- relationships played clean and played well? Well, not often. In my experience, they are sometimes a morass of jealousy, fear, anger, heartbreak, etc.

Additionally, the truth is, monogamy requires other sets of skill development which while different, are equally as challenging. AND monogamy requires all the aforementioned sets of skills and development if it is to be done well and stay alive and thrive. That is to say, high self-esteem and a solid sense of self, advanced communication skills, and agreements between the parties that allow for play and spontaneity as well as growth and evolution within the relationship itself. So...my thinking has since shifted.

In my experience, we cannot assess depth and evolution, using any developmental stage conception, based on form and be accurate very often. Just using the simple three-stage model I often employ of pre-rational or pre-conventional, rational or conventional, and trans-rational or post-conventional, we can see very quickly that the idea of form does not map across to any stage or level. Here is the crux of my current thinking.

We can all experience monogamy from a pre-rational, rational, or trans-rational place. And we can all experience poly- from a pre-rational, rational, or trans-rational place. In other words, form does not map across to stage of evolution with any real predictability of accuracy. Simultaneously, we can all be drawn towards one form or another…or another, as the result of our stage of development, but again, it is no guarantee which form we will be drawn to.

The key is in what the individual motivations are for seeking any particular form.

To briefly and quickly flesh this out with some big picture generalizations: we could be drawn to monogamy out of fear and attachment—a need to “stake my claim”, or out of a need to have the illusion of safety and security a monogamous commitment provides [pre-rational], or out of a desire for a practical partnership and solid family structures for children We want to have [rational], or out of a desire to explore my depths with one person as a spiritual practice for the remainder for my life [trans-rational].

On the other end of the form spectrum, We may choose poly- out of a desire to get laid as much as possible with as many people as possible [pre-rational], or out of an acceptance that We feel more aspects of myself when reflected in intimacy with more people and that better suits me [rational,] or as an expression of being Spirit at play--as an outgrowth of my experience as a spiritual being and out of a desire to explore freedom, spontaneity, and love of all sentient beings in a consensual and limitless way [trans-rational].

So we can not claim anything with respect to form of the relating being more or less evolved. Of course I wish it were simpler, but assessing evolution depends on each individual, how they are experiencing the relating and what their motivations are for being drawn to one form or another to actually assess evolution. Having tried all forms, including marriage, I like all forms for different reasons. But that is just me.

The question to ask is not which form is more evolved, but rather--are you choosing the form consciously? Are you clear about your experience of the relating and the motivations for your desires or draw to the form? Are you evolving consciously in the form of your choosing? These questions we can answer. Unfortunately, the question of which form is “more evolved” than another is a slippery slope that can easily fall into a trap of superiority and ego-centric musing.

And no one wants that…consciously.

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Facility With Self

meditating-suit-facility-self-woman Facility With Self and The Ultimate Skill

Facility With Self

The title of this piece is one of my favorite ways to sum up what I think is the ultimate capacity and the most valuable skill set in life is. It is also access to being emotionally free, flexible, and generally more happy, regardless of your circumstances.

This is also where I remind you that communication skills - and in this case, you are communicating with yourself - are physical skills. They are awkward at first. They take practice to become proficient in. They take repetition to master.

Gaining Facility With Self is the most challenging and most rewarding guiding principle - as well as a set of capacities - to take on. In addition, I assert that there is nothing in life external to one’s self that cannot be managed, overcome, conquered by having greater Facility with Self.

Many of you have asked me what this thing is. What are its component parts? This is complicated and the answer has been long coming, but this piece is written for the purpose of providing as complete an answer I can muster at my current level of insight and writing ability. 

I trust you will read it generously, knowing that some aspects of the distinctions are beyond these two elements currently - and must be demonstrated and/or experienced as they involve navigating our interiors.

Let me say that none of what I write here is the “truth”; I am not even interested in debating its accuracy—while I think I could. What I am asking you to do is try it on for the purpose of your own personal evolution. Not what is true but what is useful for that outcome and for the outcome of your own happiness via developing ultimate choice with your own emotional and mental experience.

Necessary Operating Assumptions

Most people are not even aware of their operating assumptions. You could also call these beliefs, filters, and presuppositions. One of the necessary first steps to Facility With Self is to acknowledge and take responsibility for the fact that we all have operating assumptions, beliefs, and filters. Most people operate as of the are their “truth”s. Most of them are sweeping generalizations created from moments when they assessed something in their experience and extrapolated from it—often inaccurately. Judgment—a necessary skill for survival—gone awry. Most people have assumptions that do not serve them. For example people are out for themselves; I can not control my emotions; men are a certain way and women are a certain way and that’s that; a leopard can not change its spots, etc.

Anyway, I consider the necessary assumptions | beliefs | filters for Facility with Self to be (at least) the following:

  • Taking responsibility or owning my part is the fastest way to build a healthy sense of self
  • I have assumptions—they are under my control
  • Some (most?) of my filters are out of my awareness; it is possible to bring them into my awareness by paying attention to my subjective experience and my language patterns
  • I am 100% responsible for my emotional experience—it is under control if I develop the necessary capacities said another way:
  • My subjective experience (emotional life) of the world is completely generated by me and is the result of my interpretations, beliefs, perceptions, preconceived notions, distortions, etc.
  • There is always a way - and always an ethical way 
  • Flexibility and variation of approach toward a specified outcome—focus on results and my effectiveness towards such—will provide optimal probabilities of achieving that outcome; a fixed approach leads to less than optimal results
  • I have no inner enemies; I have parts—who are sometimes in conflict, but who have positive purposes. These parts can be honored, understood fully, and integrated to resolve the internal conflict contributing to my congruity with my espoused values.

These items can also be summed up as “attitudes”.

Necessary Skills (imitating the Buddha)

Once the necessary attitudes are in place as operating presuppositions, there are some skills that come into play. The first is some agility in the ability to occupy multiple perceptual positions or to experience the world in “triple description”. Some people have asserted that the ability to move through all three perceptual positions - at will - to be a good operating definition of mental health. 

Additionally, the evidence, as well as the practice of Personal Evolution, is the ability to take on an ever-increasing number of perspectives. but without these foundational three, you will not have any facility at all.

What are these perceptual positions? At least the first three:

  • Self: being in your own body. Seeing out of your own eyes. Knowing what you want.
  • Other: walking in someone else’s shoes. Seeing the world through their eyes with their filters—feeling into them; empathy
  • Observer: the position of director of a play or an interested third party who is observing.

It is important to remember that these are holarchically arranged. They are also known as First, Second, and Third, respectively. Holarchy?  For example, paragraphs contain sentences, but not the reverse. Sentences contain words, but not the reverse. Words contain letters, but not the reverse. In the same way, Second - a second position shift - requires first, but not the other way around. Third A third perceptual shift requires the ability to occupy both first, then second, and then take the perspective of third. It could be said that this is simply a shift in attention. The ability to project your awareness or your consciousness to a space and then perceive the world from a different angle is the beginning of the acquisition of this skill. For instance, what does your head look like from the back? Pretend the floor you are sitting on is plexiglass—what do you look like from beneath? Etc. Why is this a critical skill? […]

"Going Meta"

Going meta to your experience and acquiring what is commonly referred to as “meta-cognition” is the ability to have not only awareness but choice over your own thought processes. This is what Buddha’s vipassana meditation technique teaches. It is a skill and this skill holds the promise of allowing you to liberate yourself from the emotional roller-coasters - the vicissitudes - of life.

Once you can see the process is of your own making, and then master it, you will be truly free.

An event happens and then ⟹ you interpret it in a certain way, which leads to ⟹ your emotional reaction, and in that reaction, ⟹ you then make it mean something (your generalize) - often creating a limiting belief -  which then ⟹ leads to an emotional atmosphere.

Most people think this is a one-step process:  Something happens and then ⟹ they feel bad.

And most humans then blame the other person or external circumstances for the feeling. And in the process of blaming - lose all of their power.

This is why the most fundamental orientation to all of your experience is one of 100% responsibility - it is your access to choice and power.

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