October 3, 2012 by blogmasterjdeam
If you don’t have much time, you may want to go to the last five minutes or so of this video. In it Michael Richards expresses his shame for the racial epitaphs he used in 2006 during a stand up comedy routine. He has never forgiven himself and never gone back to work as a stand up comic.
We can all judge Mr. Richards if we choose. Unfortunately, the problem for Mr. Richards, as with many of us who carry shame, is that shame is a horrible disease that contaminates not only our own bodies, but the bodies of everyone with whom we come into contact. The really awful thing about shame is the way it works inside us: when we shame others, it takes away our innocence and allows us to more easily apply that standard of shame to ourselves. Or worse, it allows us to feel superior to another being. There is danger in both actions.
When we do something considered “shameful,” how do we get past that shame? Shame is one of those awful emotions that permeates our entire being — all the way to our core. It is insidious and all encompassing. While many of us have done things for which we are ashamed, I believe there is a length of time — as in a prison sentence — where we punish ourselves. The punishment, or rehabilitation as I like to think prison is supposed to be, gives us an opportunity to look at our action and vow to never again commit the act that made us feel shame in the first place. At the end of that term, our sentence is over, our slate is clean, we are forgiven — we forgive ourselves.
I believe every single thing in our lives has happened exactly the way it is supposed to, so that we can get to who we are meant to be. The remnants of shame are part of our tapestry, they are not WHO we are. Experiencing shame makes us human. It makes us whole.
The world is filled with great sadness and suffering. There are rules and laws to handle people who, for whatever reason, commit crimes against humanity. I’m asking us not to add to the suffering for our own sake, by shaming someone. They are not ours to do so, and, believe me when I say, shaming another opens the door for self-shame. For whatever reason, we seem to judge ourselves the most harshly, even if we can’t bring that shame to the surface.
Consider the addict. The one constant about addiction is a sense of shame. Addicts are often too ashamed to get help. No wonder treatment rarely works — it is based on a system of ‘shame’. A system of recovery needs to remove the shame and teach people that addiction is an illness, not a morality issue, and what is needed most is to learn to love and forgive ourselves, at least enough to want to get well.
Here BKS Iyengar demonstrates pranayama: