Guilt & Shame: Something to Think About


“The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is.” – George Bernard Shaw

Shame and guilt are are tough and touchy subjects to write about.  Unpopular subjects to talk and think about for many.  Guilt and shame make us feel bad, and we are by nature pleasure-seeking and pain-avoiding creatures.  So who wants to voluntarily feel bad or ashamed about the choices they’ve made and the things they’ve done?

But what if guilt and shame–feeling these feelings and acknowledging them, and even examining them, instead of trying to avoid feeling them and burying them–might be a good thing? Especially in the long run.  What if?

One of the problems with guilt and shame is that so often when we feel guilty and ashamed it’s really not because of ourselves–it’s because we have a push-button recording going off in our heads–an unexamined automatic recording or voice telling us that we’re no good, or that we’re a failure or that we’re worthless, et cetera.  Maybe what we did was indeed wrong or heinous or bad, and maybe we should get tough with ourselves about it.  But it should be we who get tough with ourselves, not some archaic remnant voice of our parents or father- or mother-figure mercilessly ripping us a new one. That archaic voice is part of the unexamined life and needs to be examined, deconstructed, brought to light.  That voice is not nearly as important or relevant as what you really think about what you did and why you think that way.  The real question is ought you feel guilty or ashamed of what you have or have not done?  In the presence of your heroes or those you aspire to be like or to become, or even in the presence of God, ought you feel ashamed or guilty?  Have you let what’s best in you down?  Are you better than what you’re showing?

To me, that’s the essence of Shaw’s quote and the best possible reading or interpretation of it.  That’s the essence of beneficial guilt and “healthy shame.”

What do you think?

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Dedication to Truth versus A Dedication to Anything Less


Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” – Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, pg. 49.

We know we’re getting healthier as a person when we can start admitting the truth about ourselves—and about our own falseness—aloud, and not only to ourselves but to others.

The quickest and surest—as well as toughest and most demanding—route to mental health is to dedicate ourselves fearlessly and fiercely to truth and to reality—to the way things really are, and to the way we actually are.

The goal at first isn’t to change ourselves, because such attempts at changing ourselves will be inherently flawed until we have made it a real priority to dedicate ourselves to truth– and to practice choosing and living this priority so often, so fearlessly, so ruthlessly, that it becomes second nature to us.

If a person truly wants to “wake up” in life and not die asleep and die an unlived inner life, then complete dedication to reality and to truth is the answer—it is both the path and the destination.  That is the essence of waking up—seeing the truth about ourselves and having the courage to finally admit it; no more bullshit, instead a fierce and unceasing dedication to truth and reality. Waking up means that we are seeing ourselves and reality and our lot here for what it is, and that we’re not escaping behind a façade of religious dogma, new age pablum, and other escapist avenues (i.e. drugs, even so-called “enlightenment” type drugs, which ultimately too are an escape and an avoidance of the rigors of real growth).

The most pivotal and life altering decision we as human beings can make in life is this most basic one—to voluntarily give up our illusions, buffers, deceptions, bullshit, softeners, and start taking a fierce and hard-nosed look at ourselves, our fears, and life itself—including death—and no hiding out from death behind the hope for reincarnation or an afterlife—because to do so is not to live the question, but to uncourageously avoid asking it.

As we begin admitting the truth about ourselves and our fears and about life to both ourselves and to others our life and our relationships will begin undergoing a powerful and radical transformation, for instead of our daily life and our daily interactions being based on comfort, escapism, avoidance, psychological numbing, hedonism, they will now begin to be based on truth and grounded in reality.

I read (scan) a fair amount of blogs, especially some where I know the person writing it has a form of mental illness. And in very few—make that almost none—do I find the level of fierce dedication to truth that I am describing here—posts where the author takes real responsibility using “I” statement to describe in lurid detail the bad things that they have done. There are plenty of posts on the bad things that have been done unto them—and some of these things are indeed hideous—but few to no posts describing their own errors and the wrongs they have perpetrated on others. Too often instead there are posts full of rationalizations and excuse-making with lots of supportive “I understand”s and such—which all makes sense because we live in a culture where “nonjudgmentalness” and “acceptance” and “tolerance” are king, and where our wrongs can be explained away and excused because of this or that past trauma, and where we all need some emotional support and validation—no matter how questionable to source—if we are to feel OK enough to make it through the day without collapsing or having a nervous breakdown.

There are very few real truth tellers and very few people fearlessly and fiercely dedicated to truth and reality. Most people are dedicated to something much less—and much less honorable and noble—comfort, convenience, location location location, ease, “happiness,” pleasure, hedonism, the path of least resistance, avoiding truth, and avoiding difficulty. And so if we sense that we “need” support and validation in order to make it through the day and not collapse psychologically then we have yet another reason to dummy ourselves and our capacity for truth and reality down in order to “fit in” and gain approval, acceptance, validation, support.

What use is it if a person gains the world—or gains a lot of emotional support and validation—yet loses his or her soul?

And all of the psychological explaining away that we as a species do is stultifying our character and retarding the development of our consciences. It is not the route to real mental health and true personal growth; instead it’s just a perpetuation and deepening of mental unhealth.

The twelve steps are a way of life based on truth and dedication to reality.  The twelve steps basically reduce to this:

1. Admit the truth. Admit the truth that you’re an addict; admit what you’re addicted to—alcohol, drugs, sex, lying & manipulating; admit that you’re helpless to overcome this on your own; admit that you’re your own worst enemy; admit that your own “best” thinking and efforts haven’t made a dent in this and in fact usually make it worse; admit that you need help.

To be able to cleanly admit all of this is an example of dedication to truth and dedication reality in action.

And such a moment is not enough. It has to be done again and again and again. It has to become a way of life. It has to be practiced constantly and unceasingly until it becomes habit, second nature, one’s new nature.

2. And then this truth has to be admitted or confessed to others in the form of our taking a searching and fearless moral inventory, admitting our wrongs—not just to ourselves, but to others—to those we actually wronged, lied to, stole from, used, et cetera—and then humbling ourselves and making real amends—doing some real repair work and making our contrition, showing real remorse and sorrow, and asking forgiveness.

All of which is incredibly difficult. Which explains why there is so little of it (truth, remorse, honesty) in general in the real world.

It’s easier to lie and bullshit ourselves and live in denial of our own mortality and transience when we’re surrounded by others basically doing the same—escaping life, escaping stress, escaping anxiety, reading shitty escapist books and magazines, having gossipy trivial conversations, et cetera.

The vast majority of human beings would prefer to be validated for their bullshit rather than be ostracized for being too truthful and too truth-loving.

And so the decline of Western civilization and the perpetuation and spread of mental illness and unhealth. . . .

Escape sells, reality doesn’t.

Top 10 Signs You May be a Feverish Selfish Little Clod


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“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” – George Bernard Shaw

I came across the following post on another blog while Googling for the above quote.  I liked the post so much that I am reblogging it here.  Here is the blog post in its entirity. 

Enjoy!
John

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Top 10 Signs You May be a Feverish Selfish Little Clod

http://brendanmcphillips.com/2007/10/27/top-10-signs-you-may-be-a-feverish-selfish-little-clod/

Posted on October 27th
 
As a follow-up to my last article about the True Joy in Life, here are the top 10 signs that you may be a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world is not devoting itself to making you happy:
  1. You mostly talk about yourself self. Somehow every conversation you’re in becomes focused on you and the events of your life. Now of course you can talk about yourself but you should also make a point to express a sincere interest in others.
  2. You litter. The self-centered arrogance of a clod who litters, even those who throw a small cigarette butt out their car window, is saying that the world is their trash can and that someone else will take care of it.
  3. You don’t consider the impact of your actions on others or, if you do, you don’t care. These people are so into their world that they have no idea of their rudeness. Examples include people who talk loud on their cellphone in public, who put bags on the seat next them on the train or bus, who drive too aggressively without following the rules of the road and who talk loud in their office cubicle.
  4. You see the world through “you-colored” glasses. You only relate to how any local, nation or world event effects you personally. If your town wants to raise money for more public space, you only focus only on what it will cost you rather than how it will benefit the community. You insist that the government help the “little guy” only so that the “little guy” isn’t so impoverished that he has to mug you when you go downtown.
  5. You have an entitlement mentality and expect to reap without sowing. Without getting too political, this is the general mentality of the how-can-the-government-fix-this crowd. If you are somehow inconvenienced, your first thought is how you can sue and win money. This story about a bride who is suing her florist epitomizes this and Elana Glatt (nee Elbogan), David Glatt and Tobi Glatt seem to be feverish selfish little clods.
  6. You don’t fulfill the responsibilities or commitments that you’ve made either consciously or unconsciously. You agreed to take a job to help a company or organization fulfill it’s purpose and it has either stated or implied time and duties and you slack off. You agreed to marry and have children with all the responsibilities implied in both and you don’t live up to them.
  7. You only see extremes in every idea, person or organization. For example you believe either that republicans are totalitarian dictators who will destroy the US with their arrogance or that democrats are wimpy losers who will destroy the US with their impotence.
  8. Your understanding and perspective of life are limited. You think that anything that causes discomfort is bad and therefore you’re entitled to complain, worry and bitch. With a broader perspective you would realize that what you thought was “bad” turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.
  9. You think that people who are different from you are the problem with the world. You have established a “bad guy”, either a race, religion, political persuasion, people in power or who are rich. This holds true from the black man who thinks that the white man is holding him down to the groups like Al Qaeda who think that the United States is the cause of all the world’s problems. Osama Bin Laden is the epitome of the feverish selfish little clod.
  10. You give only when you expect to get. Your immediate reaction when you are asked to give for some reason is how it will impact you. You look for either a direct benefit or an implied benefit such as an increased social status everyone knows that you gave and how much.

The antidote to this is to maturity, compassion, tolerance and wisdom. Children are allowed be be somewhat self-centered but we’re meant to grow up and realize that we need to be sensitive to our actions on others. Also we need to remember that all our desires are not meant to be fulfilled. Most of our desires are base and we’re here to rise and shine!

Cheers,
Brendan