More than twenty years ago I sat in a therapist’s office and she asked me to make a list of “Family Rules” which I went home and dutifully wrote. I returned with my list with lots of blue ink across a yellow legal pad. My cursive lettering detailed unspoken codes of conduct such as “Don’t cry in public” and “Do not do things that might embarrass the family.”
There is space in the world for such guidelines.
I don’t agree with any prohibition on crying – perhaps because I am one who cries at movie previews, coffee commercials and baptisms of babies I don’t even know. It isn’t the rules themselves that causes the problems all these years later, it is in the denial of what happened because of these unspoken codes.
What I believe in is taking back our personal power through creative process and growth. It isn’t about blaming others or fault finding or pointing fingers – it is about acknowledging our own strength and truth.
Today, I look back at things that happened and I say, “I am not rewriting history, I am recognizing we are all human and everyone was doing the best they could at the time.”
With that said, it doesn’t subtract or nullify the pain that was experienced or the grief that occasionally rears its head, especially during trying times like we are in right now.
Denial, for example, is something we are seeing across social media, in zoom calls I am on, in conversations with friends and family. Somehow we think if we don’t watch the news, COVID-19 will go away. We think if we share “Positivity Only!” on Instagram, sometimes we hope and pray reality will happen only to other people.
Quote & Prompt for Creativity and Conversation
I found shame abhorrent for a long time. I read John Bradshaw’s work of the early 1990’s and I was “all shamed out.” I wouldn’t read any of Brene Brown’s works.
Less than a year ago I was declaring my distaste for anyone who “worshipped shame” until I realized she isn’t about the worship of shame, her work is about working through shame. Not denying it, not burying it, not climbing on top of it to look at the view below… instead, her work stands for working through shame and all shame destroys along the way.
Making that list of rules all those years ago allowed me to begin to disassemble them to see and label what was worth saving and what was fool’s gold or just not right for me.
Prompt for Creativity, Contemplation and Conversation
I aimed to consistently be open with my children, ready to talk about issues others turned from or stifled. In my view, it was easier to talk about things rather than hide them yet one of my daughters will disagree with this notion. She will insist we didn’t address important details.
Sometimes certain topics: death, grief, job loss, financial trauma and sexuality are just the beginnings of topics we may have varying levels of discomfort discussing around the dinner table. My family gathered during the holidays and played a conversation game about goals and visions for the new year and one of our family members would not address any of the questions.
My guess is there was quite a bit of shame attached.
The rest of us gave permission for the questions to not be answered. My hope is the unspoken questions will continue to percolate. Journaling or free writing in a notebook or into your phone is often a good way to process through untalkaboutables. I prefer the least expensive notebooks possible. It is a splurge when I buy a “Decomposition Book” – a composition book made from recycled materials whose paper feels fantastic underneath my hand.
If I had said something like this as a child – “whose paper feels fantastic underneath my hand” I would have been shamed for it – someone undoubtedly would have scoffed and said “Julie, you’re so weird. Who notices what paper feels like?” just like when I said I wanted a curling iron I was shamed for being so vain.
I don’t let either of those things bother me anymore: to this day I have numerous tools to curl, straighten, double curl and curl my hair in different sizes. Who labeled wanting to look nice a bad thing?
Here’s what I know: our time is now to move beyond whatever is holding us back. Chances are if you are living there are some shame experiences to review and set aside and in some cases, finally bring out into the open so light may hit them.
I’m laughing because I love choosing the just right curling iron for whatever hairstyling task I am up for at the time and thank goodness I didn’t let sibling shame stop me. There are other times when I have allowed other people throwing shame in my direction stop me from using my gifts and talents for the greater good of all.
Finally, there may be a poem or a blog post or an instagram caption or a journal page you haven’t written yet. Linda McCarriston sees poetry as the art of language. Let’s throw some possibilities around today.
Prompt for Creativity and Conversation
Our time is now. Your time is now. Take back the power shame has taken from you. Release the guilt or anger attached to what happened once-upon-a-time so that you may now live a life of peace and joy instead.
If you happen to write something, nothing would make me happier than seeing what you come up with as a result of this blog post.
Also, if you are feeling lonely and isolated as you work through reclaiming your power over shame, I host a daily Intentional Connective Conversation – you may think of it as a sort of Virtual Coffee Date – where we meet to give one another support, listen to each other’s stories, and just “be” together. You may find information about that in our
Julie JordanScott is the Creative Life Midwife. She inspires people to live their life as an artform and then take action towards their best results. Her specialty is writing – her easiest way to express what she does is this: She Coaches. You Write. Your Readers Win! During the 2020 Pandemic she is also leading daily Virtual Coffee Dates, Facilitating Intentional Conversation so people will feel less isolated during this time of social and physical distancing.