Category Archives: Compassionate Shame Tea Party

Monday Musings about Freedom, Inner Demons and Expressing Who We Are

2014____24_escapeland

I have been hanging out with my demons lately. I drew the above drawing a week ago. We had a long discussion with the Engineer about the purpose of the Escape Bubble [watching TV incessantly, internet shopping ad infinitum, drinking too much beer, playing patience hour after hour, frantic exercising, the list is long).

Why does it exist? What brings it on? Is it to be resisted, controlled or is it merely a signal of something?

Is it an escape from uncomfortable feelings?

2014__25_yourdemonsareaninsidejob

Yes! I did it!

A jump to a new level of freedom tends to flush out all of the Usual Suspects; Shame, Guilt, Perfectionism, Fear, Doubt, Self-loathing, Anxiety, Addictiveness.

I am currently completely free from any kind of day job, only working on projects that involve art, creativity and imagination, only taking on work I love and also having more time to paint than ever. More than I had in art school.

Yikes!

Freedom is scary, because it snaps all ties to the old identity. There are no justifications for existence left. There are no “musts, shoulds or have to’s” to create a safe, predictable misery. Something outside of me, to force me to act, to do something, to get going.

There is just me.

2014____119shitloadofshame

And my  shame.

Shame seems to accompany any quest to become visible, any heroic venture to create something from our core. It is an insidious feeling, because it is so darned visceral and uncomfortable. Can you feel the cringe inside? I sure can, just writing about shame, here.

Succeeding can trigger shame

For many many of us creative dreamers, failure is not the most shame-inducing phenomenon. Succeeding is. Reaching another layer of freedom, another level of being who we are in this world, expressing something heartfelt. This can trigger the urge to escape or to do something rational, leave the hand made small life and join the corporate machine.

2014_226_itissafetoencounterallofme

That is why the demons inside are so important. When they are cradled, listened to, ever so gently moved and accepted, they carry with them whispers from our core. Messages from what wants to be born. Old ties to be released so an empty space can be opened for the new to come in.

It is safe to express who you are

But that is what I like about creating. The question “Why do I have these demons?” becomes less important than “What can I create [with these demons, from the encounter with them, through facing these feelings I’m feeling, just as they are in this moment]?” Instead of sitting back, curling into myself frozen and scared, I have the option to explore, experiment, feel into. This is when everything starts moving.

2014____227_proudlyrockingtheboatofshame

The thing about them pesky demons is, when we stop running away from them and just sit down, surrender to what is – let go of who we think we should be, what we think we should be feeling – the content of our inner worlds opens up and makes sense.

That is the promise of creating. Nothing can go wrong. It is okay to explore, build, take apart, build again, make mistakes, learn, experience, feel, move, fail, flounder, get lost, listen to impulses, escape and find ourselves again.

2014___145weirdiswhatimostlove

So from my heart to yours; your eccentricities, flaws, shadows and your brilliance, excellence and light, together are what make you who you are. Weird. Is what I most love about you. <3

 

A Tale of Self-Pity and Compassion

I woke up at four a.m.

Fifth morning in a row.

My little daughter had a fever.

Again.

This meant no day care for her, no working for me and a dilemma of how to get firstborn to and from school.

My husband sent me the following picture from his trip to Cape Verde, where he is, alone.

Cape Verde, detail, by Engineer.
Cape Verde, detail, by Engineer.

My to do list is two pages, written with font 10.

Do I manage to convey the enormity of my pity party this morning, at all?

The icky, slimy bug of self-pity started hissing in my ear. Thought by thought, my energy faded away. Powerlessness started seeping into my muscles. My ability to receive any nourishment from interactions with my kids or with my friends and family started receding, until I could feel the slippery frosting of self-pity, coating me from head to toe.

Now, rationally I know self-pity is an attempt to defend myself against overwhelm, expectations and demands. On an emotional level, it’s another story.

The thing is, while self-pity may feel like relief, or like self-love – it’s anything but. It shifts the locus of power on the outside of ourselves, puts us in the back seat of our lives.

Of course, the row of set backs continued. My friends couldn’t help with getting firstborn to school, the taxi driver was rude, there was less money on my account than I remembered, my website crashed… It wasn’t until I had sent my website provider an e-mail to ask for help, and they responded they couldn’t and I just had to google the answer, that I remembered Veronica Torres’ tool: “How ridiculous does it have to get?”.

 

What else would have to happen, until I took responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings.

Ah, well. I asked myself what would take me closer to self-compassion and loving myself in the moment. After a shower, a glass of water and a loving discussion with my daughter, I came back to the computer and easily updated the theme of my website. Now she’s sleeping and I’m feeling happy for the frolicking Engineer again.

I drew this picture to remind myself that there is a better way than self-pity. What would take you one step closer to self-love and self-compassion today?

Self-pity is not your friend, by Marie D. Tiger 2014.
Self-pity is not your friend, by Marie D. Tiger 2014.

 

 

 

 

Pre-artshow-nerves

Framed work for art show, by Marie D. Tiger.
Framed watercolors, getting ready for the art show on Friday, by Marie D. Tiger.

Yesterday I read somewhere that when there is fog, the inside navigation system in people is disturbed and we start walking in circles. I’ve been walking in circles for a few days, wondering what the heck is going on. But today I caught on. I’ve been preparing for an art show opening on Friday, it’s the first art show I’ve had for two years. I just now spread all the framed water colors on the floor, to start making the catalogue and I realized, this is shame raising its head again.

My particular brand of inner programming makes my most successful moments, the most shameful ones. So while I’m tearing up, looking at six months of ideas and art work that didn’t yet exist a year ago, I at the same time feel the fog of shame rise up to my eyeballs.

Walking in circles, thought book 2013, by MDT.
Walking in circles, thought book 2013, by MDT.

 

So now, in this moment, let’s repeat some Brené Brown wisdom. How to learn shame resilience? The exercises below are copied from here and  are from Brene’s book.

1. Recognizing Shame and Its Triggers.

I, Marie, physically sense shame as a white fog around me that blots out all sound and light. If I would touch shame it would be like alien goo and stick to my fingers. The trigger right now are my wonderful, beautiful color babies and taking them out into the art show to be seen.

2. Practicing Critical Awareness.

☆What are the social-community expectations?☆

I am aware of an expectation to make “good art” and the unsaid suggestion that money is bad, a good artist shouldn’t think about profitability. As a business owner, I am required to plan for profit, because otherwise my family doesn’t eat.

☆Why do these expectations exist?☆

Because artists are confused by the real needs of living on this planet and the discrepancy between that and the high values of art and having an independent “voice”. My own experience is that the need to make a living has a grounding effect on art, it sets a structure for the creating that ensures productivity, connection to my audience and tangible results.

☆How do these expectations work?☆

They’re a Catch-22 and make art making at best very difficult, at worst, very destructive. I had to untangle myself from that whole system of beliefs in order to find my way back to my ability to create. I believe art making can be an experience of interconnection, interacting with a living, breathing, vital world and expressing the knowledge that arises inside as a response.

☆How is our society influenced by these expectations?☆

There is this black and white thinking that fine art is shut into galleries, far away from most ordinary people and every day life, while all other art is seen as worth less and not real in some way. I love Hugh Mc Leod’s thoughts about “making small art”. He says that making small art makes it possible to create lots of it. I would include that when you create lots of art, there is also this connection that is born to your tribe, to the kindred spirits.

☆Who benefits from those expectations?☆

The existing structures of fine art maybe?

☆How realistic are my expectations?☆

I expect from this art show to meet lots of people, talk about art, celebrate the highs and lows of creativity together and sell art to the people who are moved to buy.

☆Can I be all these things all the time?☆

I think these expectations are realistic, but I will probably have to lessen my expectations about cleaning our house, cooking organically, making fantastic breakfasts, checking all the things on my to do list and being a calm and sane wife during this week.

☆Am I describing who I want to be or what others want me to do?☆

I am describing who I want to be, and I feel more grounded, doing it.

3. Reaching out.

So here in this blog post today, I’m reaching out to you, dear kindreds out there. At which moments do you feel shame? Do you recognize feeling shame when you’ve succeeded with something, or is your experience different?

4. Speaking of shame.

I’ve vowed to speak of shame, because I believe it has such a deep and penetrating effect on creating and enjoying the fruits of what we create. So here you have an example of active work in progress. Having experienced this, I feel ready for lunch and for some rocking of the boat of shame. Next, some dancing.

Rocking the boat of shame, thought book 2013, by Marie D. Tiger
Rocking the boat of shame, thought book 2013, by Marie D. Tiger

Me Too!

 

Me too! Thought book 2013, by MDT.
Me too! Thought book 2013, by MDT.

 

Are you feeling fear of failure, at times? Me too. Are you looking at your vision, stunned at your own outrageousness, wondering how you’ll measure up? Me too! Do you forget to trust the moment and just breathe until you feel your core again? Me, too.

We’re never alone. There is always someone somewhere who can relate, understand, connect.

 

 

Day 7 of the Compassionate Shame Tea Party

 

Safe, seen, heard. Thought book 2013, by MDT.
Safe, seen, heard. Thought book 2013, by MDT.

This tea party has been a transforming experience for me. As usual, when I focus on something, everything leans in that direction. Friends, articles, comments, e-mails, there has been a lot of beautiful interaction with shame this week. When we started out, shame was something ephemereal, scary, foggy and vaguely threatening for me. There has always been something about my making art that I haven’t been able to shine a light on. Like a shiny, slippery surface that I haven’t been able to get through or see clearly. At surprising times in my life, I’ve suddenly been surrounded by fog, not able to see, with no clue why. As if that hasn’t been confusing enough, the shame has sprung on me both when I’ve succeeded and when I’ve failed.

After this weeks exploration, writing, dancing and painting, shame feels accessible, an emotion among others. I know where it lives, I know what its hair looks and feels like when I brush it. I know what it needs from me. I know it, I see it, I feel it. No more secrets. The phleghm of shame is just green goo. Slimy, yes. But not threatening.

What I’ve learned about shame:

I’ve identified many slightly different kinds. The shame that goes through generations, passed on by shame bearing parents to their children. The shame that is interpersonal, that arises when I try to connect to someone and that person turns into a stranger, distant, odd. The shame that comes from feeling there is something wrong with me, that I am damned, broken, hopeless, doomed. The shame that comes when I create something from my core, from my deepest joy. There is institutional shame that may arise from being different than the expected norm, for instance homeless, unemployed, overweight or something else.

One thing that’s for sure is that trying to be perfect does not protect me from feeling shame, but stifles creativity and aliveness.

What is most important is being aware of when I feel shame, how I feel shame, what my shame triggers are and how to be shame resilient.

 

So, in Beckoning Shame Out of Hiding, Here Are Some Things to Remember:

“Our internalized shame began as somebody else’s shame. And once we’ve internalized it, it is ours to deal with. It is ours to feel. It is ours to heal.” says Julie Daley.

When I choose to be aware of what is happening inside of me, I break free and my shame is transformed from a lurking fog behind my back, into tangible feelings, experiences, something that can be shared and seen. This feels uncomfortable and stinky, but when I persevere, something fresh starts to open up, that’s been hidden behind the shame. If I don’t dare be vulnerable, that gift remains hidden.

Choosing a safe space, remembering excellent self-care  and being compassionate with myself are vital companions to any time shame is on the table.

I can trust my impulses, even when they seem cruel, wild or infathomable. When I trust them enough to follow them in writing, painting or movement, they can unfold and lead me to the wisdom that is waiting inside.

My shame responds to experience, painting, sound, writing, moving, sharing, breathing, but analysis seems to stop everything in its tracks and produce pain. Experiencing the shame opens it up in a different way.

When I check in regularly with myself and hold a safe space for all of my thoughts, feelings, experiences, for what I see, hear and sense, in their entirety, no matter how uncomfortable, with compassion and acceptance, inner phenomena always has a meaning that I can understand.

Creativity and Shame

We are all invited by life to be vulnerable in order to be able to create, that is what activates creativity – our core, the essence of who we are. Part of that vulnerability is the willingness to feel your shame and allow it to move. Creating brings forth what is real. What is real can be explored, moved, expressed, shared and encountered compassionately.

Thank you for participating in this tea party with compassion, thank you for exploring this intense topic together with me so authentically and bravely. What have you learned about your shame?

 

Day 6 of the Compassionate Shame Tea Party

 

Vulnerability

I’m sitting her in the light of the setting sun. Everyone is sleeping, they day’s work is almost done. I’m listening to Ayreon. This week I have been more aware of feeling shame than ever before in all my life. This awareness has changed a lot. I notice I feel ashamed about many of the expectations I set upon myself. For instance, cleaning, a sore spot here at home, what with small children and all. Usually I collect tension and irritation, until I burst into blame like a bomb. Often it’s the Engineer who gets the brunt of my anger.

This week, instead, I’ve said: “I feel ashamed that I can’t keep our house clean. I feel ashamed that I’m so tired.”

It feels different. Vulnerable. It opens up a discussion. It opens up.

Shame Defences

What are your favorite defenses against shame? Do you hide? Do you get angry and lash out? Do you blame yourself or others? Or do you avoid the whole thing? Mine seem to vary, with hiding being one definite favorite.

Shame and Darkness: Secrets

Another thing I have spent the morning writing about in my personal writing is secrets. It seems to me, shame grows in secret, yet when the secret is written down or shared, the shame disappears. Try it if you’re curious, in a safe space.

Shame and Light

If you, like me, have been shamed in moments of deep enjoyment, joyous expression and creativity, it may be that you feel unbearable shame when you succeed with your truest dreams. It’s the most confusing phenomenon in the world. You finally achieve your dream or get noticed, or express something wonderfully and next there is a sledgehammer of shame, a valley of brain fog or piercing pain all around. I’m still exploring this, but it seems a different kind of shame. This one is a doorway to the core and if we can sit with it, share it with someone else, be vulnerable, the shame can open up to reveal our innermost beauty.

Safety Inside

I’m a firm believer in awareness, in our right to learn to know ourselves and gain access into all we are. I believe in the basic goodness of us all. I believe feelings and emotions, when followed, felt, moved, can bring us back to who we are. Again and again. Tomorrow is the last day of the Compassionate Shame Tea Party. This exploration has a petal of sacred in it – the comments, e-mails, meetings, connections, sharing and insights this has led to, has once again shown me that there is a whole world to explore inside of us and that adventure is so worthwhile.

It is safe to encounter all of me, thought book 2013, by MDT.
It is safe to encounter all of me, thought book 2013, by MDT.

Teacake

Cake for all the folks at the tea party :)
Cake for all the folks at the tea party 🙂

Today the blog has to take last place after Saturday writing retreat, playing in the park with the wonderfabulous kids, meeting a friend and now some chat youth work. Here’s some cake to tide you over. The blog will be posted in the wee hours. Until then! <3

Pizza and the Fog of Shame

Deep frozen pizza for dinner
and deep frozen shameful longings
in my dreams
as long as I keep my expressivness secret,
the shame doesn’t thaw
I can keep walking in the mists
of my own mysteries,
never coming alive fully
never risking feeling everything I am.

Day 5 of the Compassionate Shame Tea Party

Teekutsuilla häpeän kanssa

Sandy Talarmo and her shame are honored guests in our tea party, and she graciously agreed to share her authentic and vulnerable drawing & photo here in my blog. Thank you Sandy <3

Limits and Borders as a Doorway to Who We Are

Yesterday I took a break. Napping away my flu, shame and I took a day of self-care, away from everything. Today, I synchronistically stumbled upon this video from Amy Purdy. She lost her legs, just when she was about to fly out into the world and talks about, not just recovery, but about how her life was transformed through the struggle & creations that followed.

She talks about how she feels more free when she is who she is, walking openly on her bionic legs [as she calls them] than if she were pretending to be someone she is not. Amy suggests our borders are what we can use to push away from. She asks if it is possible to see our challenges and limits as blessings, that ignite our imaginations and help us go further than we ever thought we could. As I look at Amy and her pictures of all of her different legs, I feel this deep joy inside of me – what variety! What a creativity in the midst of the unpredictability of life.

 

The Source of Our Shame is the Core of Our Beauty

Amy inspires me. My challenges are different, but equally vital to how my life has turned out. Since I was a little girl, my emotions have been racing up and down. Highly sensitive to stimuli, like sounds, scratching clothes, smells, lights, colors and even more sensitive to the moods of others, their reactions to me – life has had an element of the unbearable. Added  to this I was born with an emotional intensity, where I can go from a feeling of bliss, through all the nuances in between, all the way to suicidal desperation, in a time span of ninety seconds, no matter how calm I seem on the outside.

Feeling life in all of its nuances can be exhausting and talking about feeling so crappy you just want to die freaks everyone out. I learned to push my feelings deep inside of myself and use the great social pacifier of a smile to put everyone at ease. Inside I felt completely and irrevocably broken. There was no amount of squeezing that could make me fit into the role models I saw around me, no matter how I numbed my feelings.

Living with this kind of an internal reality can be difficult to fathom. One way to describe it is this: Imagine you are severely sunburnt throughout your body, wearing a scratchy sweater. There is loud heavy metal music playing all around you, you can hear what others are saying, but you need to strain a bit. Behind every person you see, there is a billboard, with different kinds of emotional information showing (Anger! Irritation! Sadness! Joy! Suspicion! Enjoyment!) in blinking neon lights. There is the smell of too strong, musky perfume in the air.  You have a test ahead that you are unprepared for and your hopes and dreams are riding on it. In the midst of the intensity, you. must. perform. well.

[And I would really want to go hide right now, rather than be writing this blog.] The turning point for me came when I sat with my second therapist and incredulously asked her: “Do you mean that getting well from depression means that I need to feel all of my feelings? ALL of them?” Slowly I learned that wanting to die was a signal from inside that could mean different things. That signal could be listened to, befriended, seen, said aloud, encountered compassionately. From recovering all of my feelings and my search for a life that wouldn’t be just bearable, but worth living, has sprung art, coaching, entrepeneurship, poetry, friendships, a marriage to a soulmate, two beautiful children. A life that is handmade, tailored to embrace my sensitivity, my dancing emotional weather and my need for freedom, as well as built on the strength that lies in all of this vulnerability.

I am not broken. And neither are you.

 

If anybody says you can't trust yourself - RUN! Thought book 2013, by MDT.
If anybody says you can’t trust yourself – RUN! Thought book 2013, by MDT.

 

At this point of this tea party experience, I believe shame can be a pathway to self-compassion and to the very core of who we are. We can trust ourselves and we always begin exactly where we are.

How do your challenges and limitations ignite your imagination today? What is the color of your longing?

 

 

 

Day 4 of the Compassionate Shame Tea Party

Walking in circles, thought book 2013, by MDT.
Walking in circles, thought book 2013, by MDT.

 

Today I feel raw, my shame sits on its chair, complaining that the tea is too hot and has no honey.So today, let us concentrate on pouring honey on the soul. Here is Lea Sheigen Shinraku, talking about a time that she was judging herself and received unexpected kindness. Next, Sarah Lousie Byrne talks about how to release shame and love all about you. She suggests that we write about what we love that we love.

Today I love that I love art. I love that I love telling the truth, as it exists for me. I love that I love expressing what is in my imagination. What do you love about what you love? 🙂

More honey, the wonderful singer Jippu, singing about The city of angels, in Finnish:

 

 

And last, but never least:

 

Never never never never give up, thought book 2013, by MDT.
Never never never never give up, thought book 2013, by MDT.

 

How can you be self-compassionate with yourself today?