A couple of months ago, I was in the Doctor’s office interviewing a new primary care practitioner. Yes, I said interviewing. I have never believed in the mentality of just doing whatever some doctor once-upon-a-time told me to do, and not all care practitioners are created equal. I like a practitioner who treats me like an intelligent human being. I realized I spend more time in my body, and accordingly know it better than they do.
So, we’re chatting, “Did you have your flu shot?”
“No”, I said. She scowls at me from the corner of her eyes.
“No” again, the look.
“Uh, huh”, she sighs and looks at me with this “I cannot believe you just said that to me” motherly look of disappointment. It looked a lot like shaming to me.
“May I ask why not”? she asked with a rather stern, are you kidding me right now, kind of tone.
It’s a reasonable question. Honestly, this practitioner is originally from a country where these basic vaccinations have not always been available and vaccinations as a whole have lowered their child mortality rate. I can understand she has a greater value for vaccinations than I do. She and I have only met once before, very briefly, and I liked her. But we don’t “know each other”, so I’m not inclined to let this one issue become an issue. It’s noteworthy, but certainly not a deal-breaker.
I went on to explain to her my belief in building a healthy immune system, my age, overall well-being. And while she still believed what she believed, she was completely willing to see my side of the equation. The conversation really got me thinking.
“I want to be completely transparent with you. I’m very involved in the decision making in my health care, I feel that it’s my job as the body owner to know and understand what going on, how it impacts my body and overall health, and make decisions about it. With that said, the “shame on you” look will never work with me. I have worked very hard to not be available to that in my life, and I’m sticking to it. If you want me to go along with you, you’ll need a better approach”. She looked a bit taken back by my comment. It probably won’t be the last time this happens.
As women, I think guilt and shame have always been used to control us. For decades we’ve been told we’re less than deserving, our purpose is to encourage and support others, and put ourselves last. Then came the 80-90’s where suddenly we had to be powerful women and do it all, and if you didn’t do it all, you seemed to be viewed as “less than”.
I know so many people who talk about Catholic guilt. Years ago, when I first started considering my religious upbringing, I too thought my tendencies towards being driven by guilt to be the fault of “the church”. Well, time goes on and new perspectives are gained. Over the years I’ve met people from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds who will swear (but not in front of their Mothers) they own the concept of “control through guilt”.
I won’t lie, the biggest surprise to me has been to hear men talk about being guilted or made to feel ashamed growing up. As women, I always thought we were susceptible, but men were somehow immune to it. This is not the case. A male friend of mine and I were having the conversation about guilt and shame and he spoke very candidly about being raised by parents who told him the strongest message about always taking care of women, doing everything for them, being the sole provider, and the man of the house. The point he really struggled with his self-image years later when after his son was born, his wife went back to work, and he became a Mr. Mom. He was so embarrassed but loved his son and his wife simply made considerably more money than he did. It was the logical choice. To hear him say he couldn’t look his father in the face for months because he was so ashamed of not being them n was heartbreaking.
Guilt, and its kissing cousin shame, affect all of us. It’s natural if someone makes you feel bad about something for your ego to wants to feel better. So you do what they want so you can feel better about yourself. Again, it’s natural. The problem is, we end up in situations where we are being controlled by these feelings to the point that we are no longer living our lives in ways that are meaningful and fulfilling to us. We get sad, or angry, and things start to implode. We start to recognize we’re being manipulated, and we don’t like it.
It’s screwed up, for sure…and effective.
So effective we complain about feeling guilty or ashamed, and we want the world to stop guilting and shaming us. That alone is a result of guilt and shame. To believe someone else must stop treating us in a particular way because we lack the power to stop it ourselves is guilt and shame. This is the real sickness of it. We honestly start to believe others should change, our religions should stop using guilt and shame, our parents, spouses, boss, culture expectations, etc. should stop making us feel ashamed.
Here’s the deal. We need to stop.
Guilt and shame become powerless tools when we stop responding to them favorably. When others realize we’re not available to the subtle or sometimes outward ques of guilt and shame, this is when the guilting and shaming will stop. We have to start the process of breaking it down with our ability to see our own light, to recognize where our emotions are being used against us, to hear the words, tones, looks, turning away, whatever signals are being sent, and to continue to speak our truth. We have to continue to be driven by what we love, to become our greatest selves, even when someone else might be uncomfortable or not accept it.
When we stop responding, it will lose its power. When guilting and shaming are no longer effective, they will stop being used as tools. Yes, people should be nicer. You’re correct, people shouldn’t use guilt and shame as tools to control, but we’re adults and we know the world we live in. When we expect others to change so we can feel better about ourselves, it is the key sign that we’re still stuck in the old model. Guilt and shame are still working!
We have the power to shift ourselves and to respond differently, and if we need to, to walk away.
Behind that guilt and shame is fear! These things are used as tools because someone perceived themselves as being powerless to get what they wanted or needed without them. If people don’t believe themselves to be empowered, they’ll resort to manipulation. Check yourself, you do it too!
We need to start identifying the truth of the matter. Guilt and shame come from a perception of lack, fear, or loss. Then, and only then, can we begin to raise up, and raise ourselves up in compassion. It’s not a win/lose situation. That mindset is the fear of lack. This is about each of us having the space to be who we were born to be without depleting another.
You can’t control someone else’s ability to see themselves as powerful, that is totally on them. You can love and encourage, but ultimately, you can’t ask them to be something that they are not ready to be. You can, however, not allow guilt and shame to control you. Too often, this will be enough to begin the change in others. When we change, everyone changes – whether they like it, or do it on purpose, or not.
Some people will leave you when they realize they can no longer manipulate you. Good. See ya! It probably isn’t a healthy relationship to be in for either of you. Some people will panic and want things to go back to the way they were…stay strong. The fear is temporary. Many times, the ego won’t change until it realizes staying the same is more painful and dangerous than changing.
At the end of the day, I just want you to focus on how to change yourself. How to recognize where someone is using their power as power over you, instead of to empower both of you. Step into your true sense of your own power, your own worth and value, and stay there. You are a gift in this world. We want your light, vibration, talents, and gifts.
We want YOU.
Freeing yourself from the chains of guilt and shame isn’t necessarily easy. It’s a practice. You’ll see it one time and then miss it next time. Again, practice.
Throwdown those chains, people! It changes when we change.
Blessings Galore, Anne