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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
I was in a conversation on the weekend with two women who I have a lot of respect for. We talked about the challenges of these times and how easy it can be to fall into despair.
We all have our days, hours or even minutes. It prompted me to wonder, what is an antidote to despair? Hope. And, by hope, I mean looking for the things that fuel us, that shift our emotions so we can acknowledge what we feel but not be stuck there. It serves no one to stay permanently in despair if we can find a way to a different emotional experience. It does not diminish our experiences of despair, but it offers us choices.
I experience despair when I stay focused too long on the things I can do little or nothing about – the state of public discourse, divisive politics, social media violence.
What gives me hope is seeing nature unfurl its spring growth and colours, the children in my lives, individual sparks of curiosity, clarity and illumination of ideas. Music. Seeing people succeed. Seeing people overcome challenges. Displays of kindness.
My father had 2 goals in the latter years of his life. Live to be 90 and live out his days on his own in his house. There was never any question that he would go anywhere else. Unfortunately, those 2 goals turned out to be mutually exclusive. His health and mobility deteriorated to the point where even he could see he would no longer be able to live in his house. He died January 16, 2020, with all his faculties still intact. He was in hospital and knew he was dying. At one point on that day he said, “I’m on my way out.” Today would have been his 90th birthday.
There is so much I could say about him, and have said about him in previous blog posts. Dad must have marvelled that he lived as long as he did, given the health issues he had for most of his life. He had a strong will to live and he was stubbornly determined. I love how he adjusted his expectations of what he could do to keep pace with the slow down of his body. He was resourceful and created many workarounds to be able to continue to do the things he wanted to do and loved to do.
It’s been 3 years and it feels like yesterday. I think about him and my mother almost every day and they both come to me regularly in my dreams. I am grateful for the deepening of our relationship over the last decade or two of dad’s life. I am grateful he got to know and become friends with my partner, Jerry. I am grateful he did not have to live through the chaos of the last three years. I think it would have devastated him.
I know how proud he was of me and I think about my own struggles in life and building a business, how challenging the last few years have been. I always I hope that I can live up to my father’s sense of pride in me, his hopes and expectations for me and my life. He continues to guide me and inspire me, both through what I have learned through his “mistakes” or struggles in life and what I have learned through his accomplishments. As my family constellations continue to expand in unexpected ways, I am grateful he and mom took me in as a baby and for his words, “It was love at first sight.”
He loved his grandchildren and always enjoyed spending time with them – even as he wished it was more time.
In the end there is only love, although in many ways, the story never ends.
New Year’s Day 2023. My 61st birthday. A quiet morning reflecting on a tumultuous and now bygone year. Also, a year of abundant joy, good company growth with the creation and development of new offerings, and the beauty of deepening family relationships as we continue to create a village of support for our grandchildren.
Tumultuousness in The World and the Emotions This Evokes
Tumultuous largely because of world events that disturb and anger me that I am helpless to influence. I have a hard time grappling with how one deranged man can be responsible for so much destruction of life, infrastructure and peace. I imagine Ukrainian families waking up a year ago… life was normal. Their courage, bravery, persistence and passion for their homeland is an inspiration even as it brings out sorrow for hardships they should not have had to endure.
The state of political divisiveness in the world is another thing that disturbs me. I am exhausted by the lies, by people believing and acting on the lies, by the loss of moral compass for too many in political leadership and by the name calling. Name calling! Like children on the playground, except worse. Is it even possible that these public figures could return to a state of diplomacy and decency?
The repression of women’s rights – not just in faraway countries like Iran and Afghanistan but close by in the US as well – is another thing that enrages me. It makes me understand how fragile our rights are while fuming about how this happens. I see the courage of women who are standing up and taking incredible risks, putting their lives on the line, and I fear for them.
It’s Been Hard to Write About Life
I haven’t written much on this blog, mostly because there is so much I don’t know how to make sense of and in reviewing them now there is a lot of emotional angst expressed. (And also because we have been very focused on creating content for Worldview Intelligence and our clients.) There is a comic Jerry and I use in our work as an illustration of cognitive dissonance: my desire to be informed is at odds with my desire to remain sane. It completely describes how I feel about world news these days. I scan it because I want to know and scanning is usually as much as I can take. And I realize how privileged that makes me.
Focusing On What is in Your Circle of Influence is Not Trivial
The antidote, as always, is to focus where you have influence and on what brings you joy, contentment and peace. It can seem trivial when there is so much heaviness in the world. But if I can’t actually change what is happening in Ukraine, in politics or in so many of the systems that seem to be crashing – like health care – my sitting home, worrying about it, becoming depressed by it or sinking into despair is not going to change anything about those things, but it does impact me, my health, how I live and how I engage with those I interact with regularly. So, it’s not trivial. It is life giving, life affirming and essential.
Welcome the Children and Fresh Eyes
We welcomed a new grandchild into our family in February, making three grandbabies for me, in addition to Jerry’s four. I am blessed to have an active participation in their lives. I love having visits with any and all of them, with and without their parents. They call me into presence, joy and remembering how to see the world through new eyes. The relationships with my adult children are different in the best of ways as they have become parents. All of the grandparents have relationship and presence with the grandchildren, providing support for their parents but also providing the little ones with unique relationships with the adults in their lives. All of our lives are richer for it.
The Beauty of a Deepening Relationship and Learned Wisdom
Jerry and I often express appreciation and gratitude for how our relationship has evolved and deepened over the years, how we have each grown in being with each other. It is an unconventional relationship in some ways because we live in two different countries and we are also business partners. But it works for us. That is partly due to confidence and faith in our relationship. We have similar goals, which include each of us living close to our kids and our grandkids. We travel well together.
It is also due to the fact we have figured out how to let the stuff go that doesn’t matter. When we do have arguments, we have become wiser in disengaging with them before they get out of hand and we don’t pick up arguments that might have been unfinished because we recognize how little value there is in fueling them. We also know when to stop talking about politics or the differences between our two countries.
We focus on what works, what we appreciate about each other and the greater number of things that go well in our lives, relationship and our work.
While I wish for world peace, my contribution has to be through my peace, and that is not a trivial thing.