Last night I published an article called “A New Story About Shame: The Transition of Yin-Being into the Aim of Shifting”. Now I would like to relate an anecdote related to my own personal walk with arresting shame. I will try to explain how I used a new relationship to words like shame, shift, shitty, and chivalry to effect personal changes.

For many years, I struggled with feelings of unworthiness, lack of confidence, and harsh self-loathing. These feelings seemed not to be attached to anything in particular, but to float around and get triggered by small things: not liking my look in the mirror, saying an awkward thing at the wrong moment, remembering a past incident in which I acted rudely, etc.

When I first learned of the distinction between shame and guilt (as described in point 2 of this article), it was a revelation. I learned that I could distinguish between a painful feeling caused by something I had done wrong (e.g., procrastinating and missing a deadline) versus some morally neutral state of affairs about which it was pointless to have judgments (e.g., my receding hairline).

When I learned how to distinguish guilt and shame well, I could better sort through my feelings. I could allow myself “healthy guilt” that finds fault with my behavior in order to avoid similar behavior in the future. It’s good to feel guilty after I stepped in front of an elderly person waiting in line at the bank (I didn’t see them because I was absorbed in my own thoughts, but I must have jumped right in front of them!) That guilt helps me to remember my values of respect and courtesy and acknowledge that I violated them. Guilt can trigger feelings of shame from past traumas, but there is no real reason to feel shameful about such a situation. I can just learn from my mistake, apologize, and move on.

As I began to probe more and more of my negative feelings and self-judgments, I began to sort more and more of them into the guilt category and made a note that I could benefit from being more self-aware in order to avoid impulsive actions that I knew were going to cause me guilt. But what did I really have to feel shame about?

I struggled to pin anything down in particular. My conscious mind couldn’t rationally believe that I was inherently defective or unlovable, and yet I also could admit to feelings of being embarrassed by different ways in which I didn’t fit into the society’s expectations. Not making enough money. Not having the “perfect gym body” that is sought after by so many men. Having health issues. And so on. And so I began to disentangle embarrassment from shame.

I learned that I could work on feelings of embarrassment by boosting my courage, vulnerability, and shameless self-acceptance levels. Not all at once. Not perfectly. But enough to avoid many of the painful feelings that used to arise.

So, once I had disentangled shame from guilt and embarrassment, was there anything I really felt shame about? Not really, at least not on a conscious level. And yet I had for many years heaped heavy doses of self-judgment, blame, criticism, loathing, and guilt on myself. Surely all of these years of emotional self-abuse had left scars!

Indeed so. And even in the absence of having any reason to believe myself unlovable or defective, I possess the residue of such beliefs as limitations on the shape of my self-image and self-esteem. The residual effects of shame don’t go away quickly.

With this in mind, I find the spelling of “shame” in Lingua-U as ?? to be poignant. (I discussed these symbols in my aforementioned article.) It suggests to me the image mainly of a tree root, buried under deep soil and rocks, struggling for nutrition but finding none. Closely connected to the energy of the words Eser (Yin-Being) and Shape and Shapelessness, the energy of “shame” is basically one of suffocation and intolerable dejection.

And yet it also suggests the therapeutic solution within the image itself: water the root, nourish the life force at the deepest levels possible. When we do so, we create the ?⚍ “shift” that we seek. We may need to “ship” away whatever needs to be left behind. We may even “shiver” with energy when we feel the shift occur.

It’s true that we may still feel like “shit” (??) inside (for a while)… but hey, feeling shitty is an improvement over shame, it’s a more transient mood, more moist with potential, more susceptible to change! The shame may be buried so deeply that we can’t feel it anymore, but when we feel shitty, we have already shifted the energy. Then we can clean ourselves off and get on with business of “polishing” our life. So feeling shitty, I think, can be a good thing.

But if you’re on the mend from shame, you want to feel better than just shitty, right? You want to feel great. At the Archetype of The Polisher, the middle aspect of The Evolutionary, you really want to shine!

Lingua-U suggests another interesting word that can guide us in getting through difficulties with shifting out of shame: “chivalry” (????⚋), pronounced /ʃɪvəlri/. Just look at all that yummy yung energy in the metalinguistic spelling, helping to integrate and heal the shame! Medieval knights had strict codes of honor that kept them in high regard by the fellow knights and the population at large. One dictionary reports: “The code of chivalry emphasized bravery, military skill, generosity in victory, piety, and courtesy to women.”

So as I looked for ways to heal from (only dimly conscious perceptions of) shame, I found it beneficial to attempt to not only avoid behavior that caused me to feel guilt, but to do positive behavior that helped others. Kindness to strangers. Affection for animals. Piety and prayer to God. Showing good manners to others.

I know some people with highly individual or elite ethical sensibilities look down on anything that smacks of conventionality (Nietzsche said, “Morality itself is the danger of dangers”), but that is not the attitude to adopt if you want to break out of lingering feelings of shame. Acting with chivalry helps to built up positive energy in your relationship with society, and it’s society that gave you the shame to begin with. So let society take it from you. You do that by having a serious moral code (not a postmodern, tongue-in-cheek Bro Code) and living by it even when it’s not convenient. That, more than anything, is the ticket out of shame, in my experience.

Chivalry is a lifelong commitment to a code of honor that makes you feel good about yourself in a way that also makes society feel good about you. As we mature as evolutionaries, integrating even our most disowned feelings and shifting their energy, we discover that that is what The Polisher deeply needs in order to heal.

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