In all honesty, I have a little shame that I overlooked this one.
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Cool Hand Luke (1967)
I mean seriously! What an iconic scene from an iconic film!
It’s funny, but I think that the Captain’s speech is the embodiment of how the emotion of shame can turn into the monster that it can become.
What is shame? Why is shame so dangerous to transformation and self-love? What can you do about shame?
What is the natural behavior patterns of the Shame Monster? What does the Shame Monster eat? How can we safely starve the Shame Monster and put it aside?
How can we kill the Shame Monster just to watch it die?
Okay, maybe violence isn’t the answer. Let’s reassess.
The first question we need to ask is simply – what is shame?
Merriam Webster defines shame as “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.”
And keep this in mind, shame and guilt are two sides of the same coin. Guilt is a reaction to something you’ve done. Shame is a reaction to who you are.
Brene Brown has written extensively about shame and vulnerability. She’s also delivered some hugely successful Ted talks on shame and vulnerability.
In one of those Ted Talks, Brown says: “shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgement.”
I have recently gotten present to just how much shame runs my life. Shame comes up in so many aspects of my life and in all my major projects. And I think I can spot the petri dish where this was born.
I’m not crazy about talking about this, but I think it can support a lot of people.
My parents were both alcoholics and addicts. This isn’t to say that they were bad people – quite to the contrary, they were great people.
To separate the addiction from the person, that’s a tool that took me a long time to find.
One of the hallmarks of this particular kind of dysfunctional family is – don’t talk, don’t trust, and don’t feel. And I deeply took this rule to heart without even knowing it.
I’ll never forget this date – February 5, 1994. This is one of those dates that’s tattooed onto the back of my skull.
I’d taken the ACT college entrance test for the first time that morning. I’d had some suspicions about my dad for a while – some erratic behavior. But we all dismissed it. We all denied it. We all tried to distract ourselves from the truth.
Late that night, my mom calls me into the den to tell me she found out that my dad had an addiction to crack cocaine.
The word gobsmacked comes to mind.
My mom instructed me in no uncertain terms to not let on that I knew about this. So, every time I saw my dad, it was a secret.
It eventually came out that I knew, but not at the time.
See the shame building there?
Shame shows up differently for both men and women. I’m broad brushing this, but this is how it occurs to me.
- Women – shame shows up as “I’m not enough.” It shows up as almost as a character defect (at least in my experience.)
- Men – shame shows up as weakness. Men can’t be with shame because we can’t be with being weak.
Shame can show up for me in both ways. But no matter how I look at it, shame drags me down like an anchor.
Even now at 40, I’m seeing that I’m choosing to let shame hold me back in several of my major projects. And I’d like to speak about two of them and how shame affects them.
I want to create a better relationship with money. My relationship with money has been complicated my entire adult life.
Money is always a binary thing with me. Either I have it or I don’t. And right now, I am comfortable financially for the first time in a long time.
But I know this can’t last forever. And I’ll be damned if I have another financial breakdown like I had back this past January. That was so bad, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to graduate from my coach training program because I couldn’t pay the final tuition charge. I didn’t sleep for an entire month!
I was forced into action because of the shame of not being able to graduate with my coaching family. I made it happen, but the shame took at least a year off my life.
And I am working on creating a long-lasting romantic relationship. This is ripe with shame, y’all.
I’ve been single for way longer than I care to admit. It’s got me scared and anxious and it’s putting my shame on loudspeaker.
Speaking of loudspeaker, I can’t believe I’m about to share this with a global audience. Oh man! Be gentle, y’all.
I have been single and celibate…let’s just say since Obama still had dark hair.
That statement is ripe with shame for me. It’s a secret I’ve kept for too long. And I’m done with it!
Should it really matter? Should the past matter? Should my financial past matter? Should the fact that I’ve been without a girlfriend for so long matter?
No, hell no, no, and absolutely not!
At the risk of sounding glib and crude, shame is a disgusting and evil bitch. It’s cruel, mean, and I can’t listen to it anymore.
Disconnecting from shame will empower your relationship with yourself. It’ll release you from the guilt and the pain of who you think you’re not. And it’ll charge your power in ways you have yet to imagine.
Kings, I can’t stress this enough: I’m in process with this myself. And I want my process to power your process.
Connect with me! Email me at [email protected] for a sample coaching session. Let’s power through this together and sink the Shame Monster in a large body of water.
Shame grows, festers, and multiplies when you keep it quiet. Let’s blast the hell out of shame and remember you don’t have to live with it.
Getting back to Cool Hand Luke, here’s the full speech from the Captain:
“What we’ve got here, is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So, you get what we had here last week – which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. And I don’t like it any more than you men.”
Shame wants silence. Shame needs silence. No more shame, okay kings?
Photo by Gemma Stiles