Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dancing With Discomfort: The Viscious Circle of Guilt & Shame

A simplistic look at the insanity that I have put myself through in the pursuit of getting "there" 


COMFORT: Things are manageable to the extent they can be. Life seems to be going moving along and the little twists and turns of the journey seem navigable. Everything is pretty much on autopilot and life is good.

DISCOMFORT: Some kind of emotional response is experienced as a result of some kind of stimulus or repeated stimulus. I find myself disappointed, frustrated, upset, angry, confused or simply unhappy with someone, something, or some event.

POINT OF PAIN: Ultimately it’s the duration or the intensity of the feeling inside that breaks me and I can’t take it anymore. Typically I’ve tried to make it ok and employed some kind of denial strategy that eventually doesn’t work or I’m totally exhausted after fully immersing myself in the discomfort in some kind of narcissistic fascination with the pain and suffering that is called “my life.” I think its here that the belief that “there must be something wrong with me” gets created.

SEEK SOLUTION: I’m now ready to do something about it. It’s where I tell myself “never again,” “Enough is enough, and the false belief of the conditional IF THEN becomes so attractive. I make a new promise to myself, find a book, teacher, and adopt some kind of discipline with the expectation of curing, fixing or solving the very thing that was at the root of the last experience. It is here they say when the student is ready the teacher appears and “the solution” always show up. Whether its me or the teacher that puts “the solution” on a pedestal it invariably ends up there and it is here that that a “false promise” of getting “there” is created.

COMFORT: Like a dutiful and disciplined student I’ve followed the instructions, taken the steps, and did what I was supposed to do. I feel better! I’ve had a “breakthrough,” I have a new “awareness,” I finally “get it,” and I feel good. Sometimes it’s taken longer than expected but eventually I get “there.” Life continues along and everything seems navigable and sometimes really enjoyable.

DISCOMFORT: Suddenly it appears that I’m right back where I started. I experience an intense emotional response to some kind of stimulus again and find myself disappointed, frustrated, upset, angry, confused or simply unhappy with someone, something, or some event.

GUILT/SHAME: It feels like I’ve been here before and now shame and guilt starts to infiltrate my consciousness in profound ways. “What’s wrong with me?” “Why is this happening again?” “I’ve already dealt with that.” “WTF! I’ve done the work already.” “Why can’t I get it right?” Seriously… “WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!?!” It seems as if everyone else gets it, everyone else is happy, everyone else has seemed to figure it out but me! How does everyone else do it? What was I missing? It is at this point that the vicious cycle has its greatest teeth and where with fierce determination I run back to the therapist’s chair, back to my coaches and guru’s, take the next seminar, find another sweat lodge, find a new retreat, take the next class, read and re-read books, re-listened to inspiring audio’s and diligently follow the next steps outlined by each teacher and each program only to find myself back in the same place asking the same questions over and over again!

That 's what goes on internally.

On the outside it all looks good and sounds good because over time I have become a master of all of this information that I have collected. I can solve any human issue referring adeptly to chapter and verse of the teachings of the masters, I am acutely aware of my issues and its source, I have exercises, meditations and practices that have worked. I also find myself espousing the virtues of such exercises and practices and became another source of the “solution” for others. Nevertheless something continued to be missing.

After years of running into the wall, banging my head over and over again looking for “there” what I have had to do to break out of the cycle is simply let go of that idea that “there” actually exists. For me that was easier said than done. What I had to do is create my own operating manual that worked for me. 

From the heart



  1. Wow! Thank you for articulating what has been going on in my head for years!

  2. I think many can relate to this article. On my journey of growth, I realized just how frustrating it can be when I make myself believe that "I should know better." I now learn to embrace my "mistakes," whatever that is, and enjoy the process of growth as a player rather than a spectator. The most important thing to me now is simply the awareness I have towards my actions. I may not be able to always get it right, but at least the knowing of where I am gives me a better change of getting to where I'm going.