How Shame and the Negative Ego Are Related
Recently I was pondering,
How Shame and the Negative Ego Are Related.
I know someone who appears to have a “large ego”. He is boastful and often takes opportunities to draw attention to himself, even in his “contribution” to people. I know from my work that boastfulness, an aspect of what I consider the negative ego, ultimately stems from fear, but sometimes after being around this person (and feeling particularly impatient), I would contemplate what aspect of fear might be at play. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
Recently, I immersed myself for three days in the healing energies of the Croatian healer Braco. My intention before entering the long weekend was to do whatever internal housecleaning I needed to do to better equip me in my of teaching of others and helping them heal. In one session in particular, an emotional storm traveled through me that opened my eyes to something.
Several experiences in my childhood caused me to become familiar with feelings of shame. And as is often the case, what we experience as children (pleasurable or painful) becomes our norm…our reality, and then we spend the rest of our lives recreating those feelings and/or situations to confirm to what we believe our reality to be. For many years, feeling shame was within my comfort zone as normal.
Those who have done their emotional healing work and attained a degree of consciousness can eventually heal scars and negative feelings from their past. I have done a fair amount of this type of work, and still, every now and then I will unconsciously create a situation where I will feel ashamed, or bad about myself, as I did on this day with Braco. The situation was subtle and the details are unimportant, but the shame and sense of disgrace I felt as a result were palpable.
When I have strong emotions arise, I usually inquire within to see what might be the trigger. So I asked, and just as the question came into my thoughts, I saw in my mind’s eye the exact actions I had taken that conjured the shame. You have to understand, the actions I am talking about were so subtle that I am certain no one noticed. That’s how insidious this sort of thing can be. But in that moment, the feeling of shame was every bit as real and deep and painful as when I was a child.
After feeling the feelings a few minutes, I was able to become the witness of the scene, and as I did, I saw the damage the shame had on my normal healthy state of mind.
I was still feeling the aftereffects of my internal storm when I had an epiphany. I made a correlation between shame and negative ego. It occurred to me that the ego I perceived in the person previously mentioned was a cover-up for his shame. I took a moment and reflected on where in his life I knew he felt shame, and then contemplated how painful it must be for him. Because I know some of his history, I even received insight into how his shame began. As one epiphany can create a domino effect, I then I perceived the pattern he employs to mask his shameful feelings and to cultivate a feeling of worthiness – causing external distractions by making himself the center of attention. The moment I saw this, a wave of compassion flowed through me for both him and myself, for although being boastful to cover shame may not be my specific pattern, my pattern does not serve me just as his does not serve him.
Something I share on occasion with my clients is, “It takes courage to practice compassion.” Sometimes courage must take the form of honest introspection.
The moral of the story, “Never judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” And yes, sometimes quotes are more easily understood with the mind than practiced with the heart.
“Shame”, painting by Thomas Dodd.
This blog, and all my writings, are explorations into the wondrous, deep, and ever-evolving process of living, loving and growing. My intention with Pebbles for Thought, is to empower and uplift, one post at a time.