A person in my life has been triggering an automatic response from me, and it’s been happening repetitively. It’s a pattern. Same pattern, different people.
My only clue is that when I’m triggered, I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and I’m going to throw up. I’m used to this feeling and feeling this way about things, situations, people, etc. I’ve obviously been storing this up for a long time, ignoring it and hoping it will just go away. Since this person who is currently annoying me is a client, the old me would just fire her. That’s a easy out. A way to make the bad feeling go away, without having to deal with it.
My only clue is that when I’m triggered, I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and I’m going to throw up.
The clue I’ve been given is small, but I have the spiritual tools and knowledge now on how to dig deeper and do a little investigating. My response is a classic naval chakra symptom. This means there’s a blockage or imbalance. The naval chakra, located a couple inches above your belly button, governs self esteem. It’s all about power and control, feeling confident in who you are, being able to set healthy boundaries, feeling like you are in control of your life, and managing stressful situations calmly and assertively.
If your yellow naval chakra is unbalanced or blocked, you may feel shame. It’s a symptom. I’m ashamed to say, I don’t know even what the word “shame” means. It’s not in my vocabulary and no one has ever talked about it. Quite frankly, it’s a really negative word and it’s no wonder I don’t want to go there!
Google’s definition of shame is: “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” and synonyms include “humiliation, mortification, chagrin, ignominy, loss of face, shamefacedness, embarrassment, indignity, abashment, discomfort, discomfiture, discomposure.”
The meaning is cryptic. For example, I know what being “embarrassed” means, but I wouldn’t say it’s synonymous with “shame”. Or is it. It turns out, it’s intertwined. Feeling embarrassed can turn into shame if we don’t know how to release those negative emotions.
The Gigantic Faux Pas of Freely Substituting “I feel” with “I am”
English speakers say “I am…” and embody whatever they add to this sentence. Other languages more finely distinguish between verbs. A French person would laugh at me if I say, “ Je suis fini” when I complete an assignment. To them it means “I am finished” and they should start digging a grave. The correct form is, “I have finished.” (Here’s a great article on this topic called ‘Je Suis Fini’: Don’t Make This Mistake in French. by ThoughtCo published on May 23, 2019)
There is a huge difference between saying “I feel ashamed” and “I am ashamed.” If we continue to tell ourselves we are shamed, then this becomes a strong foundation of our lives that is difficult to repeal.
Shame Develops At Very Early Ages
It turns out shame develops at very early ages and between our delicate impressionable years of birth to age 7 or 8. At these early ages, we certainly wouldn’t know what the word shame means either and therefore we are experiencing something we don’t have any way of dealing with or communicating with others about. Even worse, the adults we are associating with are likely causing the feelings of shame because they don’t know any better. So, there would be no outlet for a little one to work through shame, and so it gets pushed to our subconscious to protect us from further hurt.
I would go further to assert that most of today’s adults were injured as children and are operating with shame embedded on a day-to-day level, without even knowing it. I’ve actually been to counselling on many occasions to deal with this or that, and the word “shame” is never brought up. It’s like it has been erased. Furthermore, I don’t sign up for counselling sessions to discuss my childhood, I want tools and tactics to deal with the situation at hand. Fortunately, people like Brené Brown are leading the way to reintroduce and educate us on more negative topics like shame, guilt and vulnerability.
Identifying and Healing Shame
The first thing to note is that shame within ourselves doesn’t need to be healed. It needs to be acknowledged, listened to and loved.
When you say to your shame, “I don’t accept you, I don’t want you in my life, I’m going to get rid of you once and for all,” you are missing the entire point of the exercise.
The truth is bad things happened to you to cause you to feel like you are bad. Even if you are like me, and you learn to do everything in your power to never “be bad” again, this is just a way to avoid dealing with extreme hurt, misunderstanding and childhood trauma.
Sit in the emotion.
When you are triggered into an emotionally charged response, you have been given a huge opportunity. Send out a quick “I am grateful for this opportunity to clear out some garbage, and I am very thankful to the person or event that just happened.”
Then sit quietly WITH your emotion for 20 minutes, holding it’s hand and just letting it come out. Be forewarned, there will be tears. This part of you has never been allowed to come out before. It has been knocking on your door all these years and you’ve never opened it.
The key is to BREATHE in and out of your nose steadily the entire time. In and out, in and out. This is a part of you and it’s time to listen quietly and be accepting. You can repeat something like, “I am with you right now, I accept you right now, you are loved.”
In my case, it’s like I’m actually tuning into the root of my naval chakra.
Instead of trying to access your childhood memories right away, go back to the very LAST time you felt this way. Think about the situation that caused this feeling and play it back like a movie. Who was involved? What were the circumstances? In my case, the last time I was triggered was an exact replica of the current trigger. Same person, same situation.
Now — the moment is here. Ask yourself to return to the moment you FIRST felt this way.
Now as a person who’s been locked out of my childhood memories, imagine my surprise when I see a moment in time when I’m a toddler play out before my eyes. I’m in trouble. I’ve done something wrong to upset my mother. I get harshly scolded. And — voila — this is enough to traumatize baby Allison. As a sensitive young light being who actually just wants to please my mom, this event is enough for part of me to separate from the memory. I’m viewing it in third person and just watching. The hurt and pain this baby is feeling is overwhelming. She doesn’t understand what’s happening. She feels unjustly harmed. All she needs is to be loved and for her mom to pick her up and hug her and tell her everything’s all right. And that doesn’t happen.
And there’s shame at its source. It’s naked. It’s raw.
I step into the memory and pick up baby Allison and hold her tight. I give her love. I take this tiny toddler and put her into a baby carrier so that I can surround her with love and so she can know she is always loved.
All at once, I know what the answer to my entire life is. This shameful experience has caused me to feel unloved. To feel unlovable. To be unloved.
This spirals into “I’m bad and therefore I don’t deserve to be loved.”
Of course, the antidote is to reverse this limiting belief: I am loved, you are loved, I am loved, you are loved.
I can change things. I am empowered, I am mature and I am now the master of my emotions.
We Need To Change The Way We Parent
All at once, I realize what a gift I’ve been given. I’ve just been given a window into what it’s like being a baby, toddler and young child. When we use, for example, spankings as a punishment for bad behaviour, the little one may not be able to differentiate behaving badly from being bad.
We are the adults and by utilizing spankings, harshly applying punishments, yelling and screaming… we are damaging our little ones on levels we ourselves don’t even know about that will affect them for the rest of their lives. This cycles through the generations. Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents apply a certain type of parenting and we adopt this as our own without thinking about it.
The importance of being available as a source of unconditional love to our babies and children is The Most Important Thing We Will Ever Do. Generously lavish love, hugs, kisses and touch on our children so that they can form a foundation based on love instead of shame. We have completely underestimated the sensitivity of our babies.
The Karma Swing Always Returns
It’s even more painful to watch karma in motion. That things we do to our toddlers will come back to haunt us when our kids grow up. They play out the songs of negative emotions, are stuck in invisible patterns, and make choices to bring what they want into our lives only to get what they are are trying to escape. And we get to participate in and reap the consequences.
We reap what we sow. It’s time to start sowing better, as individuals, as parents, and as a society.
I’d like to give a shout out to Teal Swan on YouTube — her video on How To Heal The Emotional Body walked me through the exercise I just outlined above.