Toxic Shame

I am no stranger to shame, to guilt, to regret. In recent years they don’t visit as frequently or stay as long; but come they do. 

Sometimes they are instigated by the relationship between a parent and their three year old- an age that neither of my kids experienced a sober, able-to-express-their-caring-and-love type mom.  They can arise when I make a mistake while feeling ungrounded or vulnerable. One or the another can make an appearance when the “coulda, woulda, shouldas” come up around a profession, a hobby or a skill. How much more successful, advanced, established, or whatever I could have been in my job if only…, if only.

As I mention the frequency and duration have abated but recently came up full force in a yoga class I was taking. In the desire to elevate a certain understanding and study, the teacher tore down the popular understanding of the topic. Not just once, but every time that part of the tradition was discussed; the current popular teachings were ridiculed, dismissed and deprecated.  I was one of those who had studied the popular understanding and taught them. I felt shamed. I had led workshops with the modern interpretation and included them in books. I felt shamed. I had created charts and graphs and linked the understanding of that yoga tradition to recovery concepts. Over and over and over. I felt shamed.

This teacher wasn’t being cruel but merely enthusiastic as she shared what she had studied; the authentic understanding, the more esoteric interpretations. I enjoy that. I can easily hold multiple understandings of a topic in my mind. But a deep river of shame in me sprang forth to the surface. It obliterated my ability to hold the two perspectives lightly. It hurt. I tried to hold my feelings in my “hula hoop” and just listen to what I could learn from the lectures and the classes, but my history blinded me. It still blinds me. I have had to step away from those classes until I can process my feelings, my historical “you don’t know anything”, “you got it wrong” and worst of all “what you know is incorrect and you PUBLISHED this wrong-headed thinking!”, and finally “now everyone knows.”

This teacher is wise, is kind, is generous and talented. I put myself in her hands as a teacher. I have learned so much and the practices she leads are healing. I just don’t know why the negative was needed, and I don’t know why I feel so bad. Until I feel better, I have to step away.

This is truly a case of “it isn’t you, it’s me”, AND a case of remember the gates of wise speech: it is both/and.

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