The 6th Way:
Today I would like to share with you the 6th and final way to discover that your unwanted emotions are created by thoughts. While this tactic can be used for any emotion, I find it be most useful for shame.
Many of us experience shame about ourselves and our life. We tend to think this shame is caused by our insufficient physical appearance, personality traits, emotional experience, marital status, job, car, or living situation. Since we believe these things are causing our shame, we generally try to change these things to make ourselves happy. But if we really want to stop feeling ashamed about ourselves or life, we first need to understand what is causing it.
Do young children feel ashamed about how they are?
Imagine a 2 year-old girl playing with her friends. Now imagine that this 2 year-old girl is significantly overweight. Do you think she would feel ashamed about her weight or embarrassed about her weight? Almost certainly not. She would be as happy as any skinny girl. So why wouldn’t she feel ashamed if she was significantly overweight? It is simply because a 2 year-old girl hasn’t yet been taught that being skinny is “good” and being overweight is “bad”. Over the course of our lives, we are constantly learning more and more concepts about what are “good” physical traits and what are “bad” ones. By the time we are adults, since we have so many ideas of “good” and “bad” physical traits, almost all of us have judged some aspects of our physical appearance to be “bad”.
If you never learned that some traits are “worse” than others, would you feel ashamed about your trait?
When we judge something about ourselves to be “bad”, we feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. We may then worry about this “bad” trait, try to hide it, or just give a lot of energy towards trying to change. It seems as though our physical appearance itself is creating our shame, but if we never learned that some physical characteristics are “good” and some are “bad”, would we still feel ashamed about these characteristics? If we never learned that being overweight is “bad”, would we still feel ashamed about being overweight? If being overweight created shame, then it would create shame for everyone that is overweight. But, clearly a 2 year-old girl is not going to feel ashamed no matter how overweight she is. Since young children are happy regardless of their physical appearance, it must be our thoughts about our appearance that creates our shame and not our appearance itself.
The same is true with our personality traits. It seems as though “bad” personality traits create our shame. If a 2 year old boy is shy, will he feel unlovable or ashamed about his personality? No, almost certainly not. Once again, the reason he wouldn’t feel ashamed about it is simply because he hasn’t yet been taught that being outgoing is “good” and being shy is “bad”. As we get older, learn many ideas about what traits are “good” and what traits are “bad”, then we being to compare ourselves to these ideas. This causes us to judge aspects of our personality to be “bad”, which causes us to feel ashamed about how we are.
Specific traits can’t create emotions
If a characteristic or circumstance itself created shame, then it would even create shame for a child. If a young child could be happy despite having the exact same characteristics or circumstances as us, then our characteristics or circumstances can’t be what’s creating our emotions.
Exercise: Now please take a moment to pick something about yourself or your life that you feel ashamed about. Then ask yourself the following questions.
The questions: Is it possible that I would be happy right now with these characteristics or circumstances if I was a young child? If I could be happy with these same circumstances, if I was a young child, then can I admit that my circumstances must not be the cause of my unwanted emotion?
If you would like to disbelieve the thought that is creating your shame… you can click the following link to try The 5 Steps to The Present Moment … or you can contact me.
Thanks for reading. Please share your experience or questions with me in the comments area or through email.