SHAME AND REDEMPTION
Updated: Dec 24, 2021
© Stefan J. Malecek, Ph.D.Sunday December 12, 2012: 1814 Pe'ahi, Maui Hawai'i
I am a brilliant trauma-recovery therapist. I am a very gifted Master Addictions Counselor (though no longer certified as such).
I have experienced all manner of addictions; and, in just a few weeks, I will be thirty-nine years clean from my second round of addiction to cocaine. I consider myself to be an expert.
I am using the previous two paragraphs to frame my rather vast experience with the excruciating pain of deep and intense shame, dating from my earliest memories onward. I have become an expert on shame, its etiology and attendant artifacts and behaviors. I have lived at its debilitating behest most of my life.
Today’s installment is an introduction to the topic. My intention is to reveal the process by which we have collectively developed the current toxic society, and then I will also speak to personal empowerment and sovereignty. Of course, I will also discuss some specific practices I have used, though many of them will be best undertaken in conjunction with a professional therapist. (This last is important because no one can see their own blind spots, and therefore totally provide for one’s own deepest psychic safety).
One of the most difficult-to-learn lessons—one in which I am still a daily student—is to love myself, treat myself to all of the love and joy and honor and praise I have ever wanted or felt I deserved from others; all that wonderful validation and recognition I have always craved that was so very long denied to me (with a few exceptions) because I grew up the object of my parent’s unmet needs and their vainglorious attempts at satisfaction.
It has been the journey of most of this lifetime to achieve what Archimedes would have called “a place to stand,” in preparation for my decision “to move the world.” For most of my time in this incarnation, I have striven to feel valuable, honored and worthy by achieving transient goals that looked appealing or appeared that they would satisfy my richest inner needs. I count all of the usual suspects: sex; money; power; excitement; education; praise—and none of them even partially approximated what I craved most of all: a sense of well-being, worthiness and love.
For the very longest time, I did not believe I was worthy of love, believing I had to “earn” it somehow. That is what kept me running wildly like a hamster cranked up on amphetamines on a wheel. Massive effort. Very little return—because I was seeking the sense of valuement and caring from achievements; because I did not feel worthy of the attainment or that I had the ability to attract the magnetism of love, I sought it consistently outside myself.
It has taken me a very long time, and a great deal of healing, to have come to the internal space where in I feel worthy of loving me; of giving to myself the gentleness, kindness and attention I have always envisioned that living in love with another would entail.
It is still multiple times a day self-reminder because I have lived for so long disenfranchised from myself. Now I am capable of giving myself compliments for jobs well done; forgive myself for the all-too-human errors we all make; share moments of compassion and empathy with the ever-increasing pains that are part of the lineage of aging; allow myself to feel the value of my dreams and goals—especially since they no longer have to be the extremely grandiose ones that drove me most of my life, attempting to compensate for all of the decades when I was lost and confused, wandering hungrily.
Through all of the years of both my personal (23 years as a professional drug addict) and academic research (12 years of college), I have pretty consistently been involved in different forms of psychotherapy and personal growth work. Through it all, my goal has always been to shed shame, become emotionally healthy and capable of genuine intimacy and love.
The primary process that has worked for me to redeem (Latin, “to buy back”) myself has been the releasing of toxic energy with which I had internalized, identified and then projected, seeking some kind of soul satisfaction in punishing those who had harmed me and just generally “getting ahead in the world,” based on the standards by which the contemporary world measures such things.
I have used all manner of processes to foster this growth: Primal Therapy, Rolfing, Gestalt, Shadow Work, various kinds of group work, GUTS, Inner Child work, hypnotherapy, et cetera. (I also used various other forms of discipline such as vegetarianism, veganism, fasting, raw food eating, believing for a very long time that I could achieve the purity of heart that I sought by manipulating my diet).
Ultimately, I had to acknowledge the primacy of emotion as a driving force for the changes I wanted to make. I realized that only by shedding the accumulated toxic emotional waste I carried would I ever be free of the unwanted extra weight I carried; of the embarrassing behaviors and twists of mind that haunted me; the terrible self-denunciations and other forms of self-harm I practiced; the titanic craving to be loved that has walked with me all of my days.