An Antidote to Shame is Transparency

Most of us, if not all of us, have experienced shame at some point in our lives. The work of shame is so powerful that it shuts us down, depletes us of energy and makes us want to hide. It can rob us of vitality and voice. It can feel like shame is sending out signals that you are a person who has failed, that here is someone who wasn’t smart enough to figure out something, someone who misjudged a situation.

An antidote to shame is transparency, using your voice, sharing your story. From my own experience when I felt the power of shame, a few times over the course of my life’s journey, relief started with sharing my story with one or two trusted individuals who witnessed me in that moment. Their reactions – acknowledging, witnessing, validating, seeing the fullness of me beyond the particular situation for which I felt shame – was freeing. It restored trust in myself. Not immediately, but over time.

A partial definition of transparency is “the quality of allowing light to pass through” – and how uplifting to consider light passing through to our heart and soul, soul essence, the core of who we are. Transparency doesn’t have to mean proclaiming everything loudly to everyone – although those who do share profound stories that have been kept secret for a long time provide inspiration and hope for others who have experienced similar situations.

If you have experienced, or are experiencing, shame, know you are not your shame or your experience. Take the time you need to move through it. Find trusted spaces to share your story as transparently as possible and allow yourself to be witnessed into healing.

An Antidote to Inertia is Movement

I am currently near a wild fire zone, near Bedford Nova Scotia, where I live. All my attention, and that of those around me, is focused on news and updates about the fires, evacuations, comfort stations, acts of courage (thanks to the fire fighters and everyone working to contain the many fires in our province right now), generous acts of kindness, people in search of support.

It is all consuming and can feel paralyzing. Grateful to be outside the fire zones and feeling for those who have lost their homes and, for some, their pets.

Inertia is the tendency to do nothing or to remain the same. It is also, in physics, the tendency of something in motion to continue in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force. For some of us, this could mean moving along in a mechanical or automatic manner, not thinking about what we are doing.

An antidote to inertia is movement. Intentional, thoughtful movement. Because I was very close to an evacuation zone last night, that thoughtful, intentional movement was packing up, preparing to leave quickly, with my cats, if that was needed.

While this is a very specific, situational example, the same can apply to any situation or time in life. Any time you notice that movement, or lack of movement, is automatic, mechanical you have an opportunity to make a choice. Sometimes, inertia serves us. It helps us get through a situation, a time, an emotional experience, a freeze or flight moment. When you realize it doesn’t serve anymore, you can make conscious, intentional movement toward the future you want to bring alive in your life.

Today, I will combat inertia through writing. Proposals, book editing, blog posts. And remind myself of all the people, things and situations who fuel my passion, life, love and joy. Because that is all still here, even as danger lurks nearby.

An Antidote to Distress is Blessings

When we are feeling distress, we may feel unable to manage or cope with changes in our experiences, we may feel sad, afraid, anxious or lonely and may find it difficult to engage in normal life activities. For me, sometimes it feels like life moves in slow motion or like I am moving in slow motion through life. It can be hard to activate myself into motion.

Our thoughts fuel our feelings. Turning attention to what is going on in our minds enables us to change our thoughts and, thus, change our feelings. This is why an antidote to distress is blessings, thinking about the blessings we have in life, things we can be grateful for.

This is not about seeing life through rose coloured glasses. It is about deliberately turning our attention to focus on something that can make us feel better, lift us out of distress, so we can function in our day, week, life.

For me, it is children, grandchildren, my partner, his family, remembering my journey over the last 13 years in my home and all I have been able to accomplish here, the longer journey of my life with all its twists and turns, memories of my parents and grateful when they show up in my dreams, the work I do, the joy in writing, my quirky cats, friends and people I know and am connected to in a myriad of ways, good neighbours.

Really, there is no shortage of things to be grateful for. Where does your list begin?

An Antidote to Anger is Reflection

Anger can get a bad rap. It is not because it is inherently bad, but because many do not know how to express it, other than lashing out and causing harm to others. Some do it purposefully, intending to do harm. Some do it defensively, to not work with their own emotional experiences or fears, which is not necessarily a conscious response.

Anger can be intimidating when we are subjected to it. And our own anger can make us afraid that we might harm others, especially if we have not witnessed anger expressed in healthy ways – which was my case for a lot of my life. I learned that not acknowledging or expressing anger that is present can look like false harmony and that is not helpful or healthy either.

I also learned to stand my ground in the face of anger and that is not been easy to do. Being subjected to someone else’s wrath, justified or not (and usually not) has accompanying physical and emotional reactions. This is why reflection is an antidote to anger.

Reflection is important when you are the one who is angry. Feeling angry usually means a boundary has been violated. Understanding what is contributing to your anger means you can address it in more thoughtful and intentional ways. Or let it go. For me, when something happens that goes against my values, when someone does harm to someone else, when people take advantage of other people, hypocrisy – these are all things that contribute to me being angry. Understanding the source helps me consider my choices and my actions.

When it is someone who is angry at you, and if it matters to you, reflecting on why they are projecting their anger towards you can help you step out of your own responses and help you find a way to address the issue with the other person. In my experience, it usually involves a delay in response, past the heat of the moment. Sometimes, stepping away is the healthiest thing you can do in the moment.

Anger is an emotion. Acknowledging it can be one of the most powerful things you can do. Learning how to work with it can be even more powerful. Demonstrating healthy ways to work with anger can be a gift to those around you.

An Antidote to Panic is Grounding

Panic is a sudden, overwhelming feeling of fear or anxiety. It can come upon us suddenly, possibly caused by an amygdala hijack, which essentially overrides the thinking, logical functions of our brains, generating the freeze, flight, fight automatic response. There are any range of situations that can move us into panic, actual and imagined, and it isn’t “logical” or “rational” because it originates in the most primitive part of the brain, the part of the brain in charge of all of the automatic functions of the body we don’t think about, like breathing, digestion, blood circulation.

Grounding is an antidote to panic. Grounding can take any number of forms. Taking a deep breath. Counting to 10 (yes, it works). Tuning into the body, shutting out distractions. Putting feet on the floor or the ground and feeling the connection to something outside of yourself. Stepping outside, feeling the dirt, grass or trees with feet or hands.

I think sometimes we feel embarrassed when panic overtakes us. Like every emotional experience, acknowledging the panic, overwhelm and embarrassment is important. All of these reactions make us human and we are not alone in our emotional experiences. Likely, we have all been there. So, let us grant ourselves the grace we would offer to others, take another deep breath and decide on the next best step we are capable of taking.

An Antidote to Judgment is Curiosity

An absolute favourite. We likely first heard it from Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea in Circle Practice. Jerry and I use it with every group we work with and we are often quoted for the statement, curiosity and judgment cannot exist in the same space.

When you notice you are judging someone or something, you are feeling defensive or are dismissing someone else or their views, curiosity is an antidote. Become curious about your own reactions. Be curious about the other person, group or situation. Why are they acting the way they are, saying what they are saying? How have they come to see the situation the way they have?

Curiosity provides a way to connect and to open explorations. It can also bring new insights and new learning. It can help us expand our worldviews and worldview experiences.

An Antidote to Sadness is Tears

The power of tears is highly underrated. We have been taught to hide our tears (at least in my generation) and to apologize for them when they do show up. We’ve all heard it when someone tries to speak through their tears. Like expressing the emotions signified by tears is weakness. Or, as a life coach told me a long time ago now, “Kathy, you think your emotions make you weak.” She assured me there was strength in acknowledging my own emotional experiences and working with them. She was right.

Tears are an antidote to sadness, also sorrow, stress and many more of the emotions that sometimes feel like they will overwhelm. Tears release oxytocin and endorphins. These feel-good chemicals can help ease both physical and emotional pain. This can provide a sense of calm or wellbeing.

Allow your tears to flow. Even when with others. Stop apologizing if/when it happens. It is the most natural thing in the world and so healing.


An Antidote to Disappointment is Compassion

Disappointment can take many forms. It can be disappointment that something did or did not happen. Disappointment in someone. Disappointment in yourself.

When it comes to people and disappointment, it is often because expectations have not been met – whether this is self or other, whether they have been spoken or not. An antidote to disappointment is compassion.

Sometimes we are aware we carry expectations and sometimes we are not. Either way, a feeling of disappointment can reveal whatever expectation(s) we are carrying. Bringing compassion into the equation can help us move past disappointment.

People do not usually mean to disappoint. Viewing them, the situation or ourselves with compassion will bring peace, could allow us to approach the situation or the person in a different emotional state or state of mind, to have a conversation or just let it go. Not everything needs to be a thing.

The more we can bring compassion, the more love and relationship will flourish. I don’t mean romantic love necessarily, I mean love that fuels the bonds with people who matter to us or that fuels our bond with ourself. Releasing expectations and disappointment is freeing.

An Antidote to Overwhelm is Connection

Overwhelm can stop us in our tracks. It can feel like we are buried … or drowning, in murky waters. Even just reflecting on overwhelm in this moment of writing I feel the need for a deep inhale and slow release of breath. Calling me to presence.

An antidote, for me, to overwhelm is connection. Connection with my partner. With his kids and grandkids. With my kids and grandkids. They bring me to presence immediately.

I just had a conversation with my oldest son and his wife about how grateful we all are for an afternoon spent together, hanging out, going to the playground, being outside, doing yard work, grounding in nature. We feel fortunate that our extended family connections are nurturing circles of support – for all of us.

Connection with others who are experiencing a similar sense of overwhelm or related emotional state. Remembering we are not alone. Allowing ourselves a moment to be in our experience and then looking for how to renew our spirits, hope and faith, to keep ourselves inspired or just re-invigorated enough to find the simplest, most elegant step forward.

Connection reminds us we are not alone and it is possible get through this moment of overwhelm too.

An Antidote to Discouragement is Resilience

The word resilience can get a bit of a bad rap these days, as if having the capacity to withstand or recover quickly from difficulties should not be celebrated. Some would say too much resilience can make us overly tolerant of adversity. And, I’ve heard it said, “bouncing back” may not be healthy for us, so let’s “bounce forward” instead. Semantics? We can define this in many ways and I choose the ways that build strength for me.

When I considered what is an antidote to discouragement, resilience immediately came into my mind. Discouragement can weigh heavy and can cause us to lose sight of the beauty, grace and achievements in life – ours, others, the world.

I embrace the qualities of resilience, a reminder that I have gotten through every hard day of my life so far. I can bounce back or bounce forward – whatever it takes to move beyond the discouragement that can show up when I feel like I haven’t achieved enough, that things are not going “my way”, that progress on women’s rights, human rights, LGBTQ+ issues, marriage rights, book banning, social justice issues and more seems halted or even going backwards, it is resilience that gets me through. Reminds me to look for the good in humanity, the people who are standing up and the circles of support I directly and indirectly connect into. It reminds me to bring compassion to people who experience the world and the issues differently than I do.

Where do you find yourself embracing resilience in the face of discouragement?