"Shame on you!"

Why must you wear the shame?  


What do I hope to accomplish with the shame on you?  


Why must anyone wear the shame?


Where did the shame come from in the first place?


Who is wearing it now?


“Shame is a soul eating emotion” –Carl Jung


When I declare “shame on you”, I am trying to escape “shame on me”.  Shame is a proverbial hot potato of intolerable soul eating emotion so unbearable that it is unwittingly passed on to anyone within immediate range.


In my reassignment of this dreadful burden, I cannot send it away.  Nor can I change the “undesirable” quality in you, mirroring undesirability in myself, and rousing a smoldering internal anguish.  This banishment will only deny your rescuing comfort and bury this dangerous grievance more inaccessibly within myself.  The projected punishment of “shame on you” represents a more critical occupation of “shame on me” crying out to you for desperate relief. 


But what if instead of sending you away with my burden of shame on you, I confided to you the shame on me.


“Shame cannot survive being spoken.  It cannot survive empathy” –Brene Brown

Hell is other people.

“Hell is other people” –Jean-Paul Sartre


We assume that Sartre means that everyone else is awful. We should set our expectations low and keep our distance.  But for Sartre, hell is established by none other than our very self, captive to and captivated by the objectifying impulse of others.  Hell is other people insomuch as we inhabit judgment.  


And Sartre warns, there is “no exit”.  We are subject to judgment.


We will try to escape.  And yet, in our determination to rid ourselves of the problematic other, we only find ourselves an accomplice to the very hell we contest.  


“I can’t live with or without you” –U2


Will this hell be our end?  Or might this fiery domain of judgement bare forth new potentials. Mercy? Forgiveness?  Understanding?  … those prospects which conceive meaning and worth in the very places of suffering, and which finally bring us into contact with a most dreadful but nonetheless beloved “other” …our inmost self.  


 Hell is other people … but it is also salvation … and you are worth the journey.  


“If you’re going through hell, keep going” -Winston Churchill

Love conflict

The comedian Dylan Moran suggests that war represents the inability of conflict. War means to eliminate the enemy, while conflict aims at working towards a solution. 


Dr. John Gottman, in his conceptualization of the 4 Apocalypse Horsemen, demonstrates how war tactics (ie. defensiveness, criticism, contempt, and stonewalling) will effectively eliminate (with 93% probability) marital opponents.   


The alternative?  


Dr. Gottman suggests disarming your relationship with 4 antidotes which instead nurture healthy conflict:

·      take responsibility rather than act defensively

·      complain (“I” statements) rather than criticise (“you” statements)

·      build on appreciation rather than contempt

·      use distance to self-soothe rather than to stonewall


It’s not too late to learn to fight right with your espoused adversary.


“If we don’t end war, war will end us” –H.G. Wells

You complete me

“You complete me”

–Jerry Maguire

We have this desire …to be complete.  And what a wonder it might be to find this in another.   We romance our partners with the promise of wholeness.   


Why then does there linger an emptiness?  My partner lacks the resource to fill my need.  What now?  


Now …love.  You gave yourself to fill their lack.   

Now give your partner your emptiness, your insufficiency, your imperfection, …your lack.  


Though it is refused, your gift is not denied.  You are also held in their troublesome want.  They did not complete you.  They lacked the resource to fill your need …and their own.  You have not found wholeness, but another through which you might have courage to confront your own lack.  


In time, may you celebrate, “We are incomplete”.


“Love is giving something you don’t have to someone who doesn’t want it”

–Jacques Lacan


Hold your breath.


Wait some more.  

Give it another moment.  

Do you feel the tension... in your lungs?  Now in your chest?  In your shoulders?  Eventually in your arms, in your legs, in your head, and in your whole body.  The pressure is building.   



What happened?


You gave in.  You’re breathing.  All at once…. gasping!  You’re overcome by this physiological reflex… because you’re alive.  Your breath is a vital sign.  


And so are your tears.  You might hold them back.  You might refuse them for a moment, a season… persistently.   


Your tears returned… inconveniently… uncontrollably….by surprise… in a burst of feeling... unwelcomed.


This is not a sign of breakdown.  This is a vital sign.


“All I do know is as we age, the weight of our unsorted baggage becomes heavier. With each passing year, the price of our refusal to do that sorting rises higher and higher.  Long ago, the defenses I built to withstand the stress of my childhood, to save what I had of myself, outlived their usefulness, and I’ve become an abuser of their once lifesaving powers.

I relied on them wrongly to isolate myself, seal my alienation, cut me off from life, control others, and contain my emotions to a damaging degree. Now the bill collector is knocking, and his payment will be in tears.” 

–Bruce Springsteen


How to fail.

“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die” –Loretta Lynn


We want… 

the success without the failure, 

the joy without the sadness, 

the security without the risk,

the patience without the frustration,

the intimacy without the antagonism,

the pleasure without the disappointment.


And there appears no shortage of expert advice to encourage us along a path to obtain all of these.  But eventually, in this frenetic pursuit of success, we forget how to live


with failure, 

with sadness, 

with risk, 

with frustration, 

with antagonism,

with disappointment.  


We hope success will mean averting all of these, but our skillful escape distances us from the very matters of life which contract hope.  A “successful” life costs more than we realize.  The cost is indeed more than any earnest vitality can afford.

Sooner or later we hope there is more to life than “success”.  Sooner or later, we return to the problematic and yet crucial growth edge of life with a newfound affinity for failure, sadness, risk, frustration, antagonism, and disappointment.  We intuit a confidence that these will achieve for us a reward that far outweighs their trouble.  In consenting to our personal trouble, our hope renews.  We’re ready to be complete …even when it means learning how to fail.  


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal:  it is the courage to continue that counts”.  

-Winston Churchill