There are two feelings I don’t want to feel, the feeling of missing out and the feeling of humiliation. I have come to understand that both of these feelings are two sides to the same coin which is shame. The explanation is a bit circular. Humiliation is a terrible mental and physical feeling. It is the feeling of being judged negatively by others and agreeing with them. It is the feeling of knowing I have no worth and do not deserve respect. Further, it is the feeling that I deserve to be disrespected because I have no worth. Because I fear feeling humiliation I am reluctant to try new things, take risks and otherwise “put myself out there.” So I make safe choices and stay within my comfort zone. But within this comfort zone I feel like I am missing out. So I stay within my comfort zone until it becomes stifling and intolerable. At that point I reach out for any sort of change. Because the change is new and different and not very well thought out I often fail and when I do I feel humiliated. When I am humiliated I seek safety which then repeats the cycle. This cycle is shame.
Generally, shame is the painful feeling that I am not worthy of respect. This is not merely a mental conclusion but also a physical, bodily sensation. There are two typical ways I deal with shame: hiding my shame from others and distracting myself from my own shame. I hide it from others by pretending or acting to be something other than myself. Implicit in this action is the belief that I am contemptible and if others knew the truth about me they would reject and abandon me. I distract myself from shame through addiction. I drink alcohol, I have taken drugs, I bite my fingernails, I masturbate to pornography, I gossip, and I try to make other people feel shame. All these distractions are a very short-term fix that produces an immediate form of pleasure. This is the nature of addiction. The desire for distraction comes from the primitive brain called the limbic system. The aim of the limbic system is survival via the avoidance of pain and the seeking of pleasure. This aim creates the addictive desire. Unfortunately, the modern brain called the prefrontal cortex, kicks in once the limbic system is satiated and goes to sleep. The prefrontal cortex then makes me feel shame for giving in to my addiction. The prefrontal cortex, whose aim is to plan for the future and preserve the society that protects me, knows that a society of addicts is no society and will fall apart. My prefrontal cortex tells me that by giving into addiction I am responsible for the impending downfall of civilization. I believe this and then I feel ashamed and unworthy of respect. This feeling is painful and will eventually wake up my limbic system who will then recreate the addictive desire to distract myself from them.
This describes the cycle. I do not want to feel humiliated so I seek safety. I then feel stifled and reach out of my comfort zone. When I do this I feel humiliated. This cycle of shame is painful. I hide it from others and I distract myself from it through various addictions. The solution is difficult but achievable. It starts with becoming aware of the process and that is the aim of this blogpost.
My recent move from Connecticut to North Carolina made clear to me that I live between two states, stagnation and fear. When I feel stagnant I move to change my situation but when my situation changes I experience fear and seek safety. The safety eventually becomes stagnant and the cycle repeats itself. For me, both stagnation and fear are intertwined with humiliation. When I am stagnant I feel humiliation because I feel like I should be moving forward. The humiliation of stagnation is a safe place for me even though it feels dead. When I move out of my comfort zone by striving for more than this I risk a more intensive humiliation because somewhere along the line I learned that failure is shameful. This risk brings about fear.
In 2009 I was laid off from a large law firm in Philadelphia. I worked their for eight years and hated it. I had wanted to quit because I was not growing professionally but was afraid to quit because I was afraid of having less money. This was the humiliation of stagnation. It felt safe to stay in a job that I hated because I feared taking a risk by leaving. At the same time my marriage was horrible – probably because I hated my job. I had financial problems despite my income. The stress was overwhelming. I became depressed and suicidal (not that I acted on that feeling). I craved the feeling of safety. Although being laid off was a relief at first it began to feel unsafe because I had more expenses than income.
So my wife and I rented our house in Philadelphia and moved in with my parents in Connecticut. In the beginning, although I felt a certain level of humiliation living with my parents my stress level definitely declined. It was safe. Comparatively speaking it was emotionally a much better place for me. Since that time we worked on our marriage, we both obtained new jobs and after a bunch of life changing therapy we were in a position to move out.
As the time for moving approached I felt the fear returning. Before the move, my mind would race at night about all the things I had to do and all the money I would have to spend. After the move I stressed about getting furniture for our new place and all the money I spent. I also felt a level of humiliation for not having our place set up for a week. I see now that moving beyond my comfort zone makes me fearful and so I seek safety. I see that safety is a relief and feels good at first. Eventually safety feels stagnant and confining and I yearn to move forward. But as the day approaches to actually move the fear kicks in and attempts to stop me.
But on the other side of fear is feeling alive. And so in order to feel alive I have to be willing to feel fear and not retreat back to safety. Historically, I have not been willing to do this. This time around I choose to go through the fear and see what happens. Hopefully aliveness is on the other side.
- Things To Do If You’re Feeling Stagnated.. (advicefromcristina23.wordpress.com)
- Stopping Stagnation (bridgettekiner.wordpress.com)
- To become a stagnant pond (escapismproject.wordpress.com)
- Stagnation (alanacpona.wordpress.com)
- F.e.a.r. (morethangold.me)
- overcoming your biggest fear (hopedeal.wordpress.com)
- Living With & Conquering Fears (bloglostandfound.wordpress.com)
- Fear to Safety (theponderingvolumes.wordpress.com)
- Do You Live In Fear? (myviewandopinion.wordpress.com)
- Filled with Fear (trappedwithinsociety.wordpress.com)