I think I heard this phrase while listening to the WTF podcast with guest Dr. Brene Brown. I guess I could listen to the podcast again; it was a good one. Dr. Brown is an esteemed “shame researcher,” and she has a relevant point: Overcoming shame is a Hero’s Journey.
Shame is a catalyst for addiction. Shame stifles you. Shame traps you in that moment, that age. Shame colors your self-perception. As Brown says, “Embarrassed means I did bad; shame means I am bad.”
What greater test to overcome? Or is it the whole Journey? Journeys are fractal, so it’s a moot point. The protection we (OK, some of us) use to shield our shame from others is likely the very thing that prevents us from Crossing the Threshold and starting any Journey and reaching our goal.
If we do get the courage to make that first step, a personification of our shame will show up as the Guardian at the Threshold. The Guardian has a particular job — she is there at the Threshold to test your commitment to your Journey. The universe takes the easy way and will start with an attack at your softest point–your big ole shame.
Here is the paradox (or four) about the Guardian:
Knowing she’s waiting for you is helpful and…. not so much.
Knowing it’s going to hurt to get past her has you prepared, but it also has you rigid with fright. Sometimes the awareness is completely immobilizing.
Having a mentor tell you that the Guardian is not real is nigh on worthless, until you truly believe it.
Knowing you created her, so only you can destroy her, feels like just another blame on yourself.
“It’s not true, but your lizard brain doesn’t know that, any more than it knows that a roller coaster at Six Flags isn’t going to kill you. None of this is rational.” – Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?
So then what do you do to overcome this shame? You read books like Godin’s and Brown’s to remind you that your thoughts are not unique. You find a mentor or an ally to share your shame with and maybe help each other. You use whatever spiritual or religious practice you want to purge/confess/absolve yourself of this shame. You acknowledge your fear, but you go forward anyway. You’ve learned that if you don’t get past her, she’ll just keep showing up. And we’re just tired of it, aren’t we?