Shame and Humility – Humility – Part II

Welcome to my blog. Yesterday and today we welcome guest blogger Stan Stewart, who is talking about humility, the next topic in my book Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing. 

continued from yesterday’s introduction

Besides fear, for me the most immobilizing feeling is shame. At least it feels that way.

When I feel shame, my most common expression of it is to hang my head and do nothing. Well, “doing nothing” is relative. What I do is judge myself or distract myself internally — usually with numbness.

I’m sure that shame could have kept me from embarassment or worse when I was younger. Suffice it to say that as an adult, shame does me no good.

When I re-discovered humility in spiritual readings recently, I had an epiphany that being humble looked similar to shame in some ways — at least on the surface. Both are about how “OK” I think I am. The step to humility is about realizing that I don’t need to think of myself as great in order to be okay.

The major difference is that shame and blame are so often tied together. If I think I’m being blamed (or judged, questioned, etc.), I may respond by feeling shame. This means that there is an external connection that I’m making to the catalyst for the shame. Ironically, while thinking that I’m being blamed, I then blame that same source for shaming me. So shame is other directed.
Humility, on the other hand, has an internal source — and I’m thinking that “internal” can include self and divine influences. I am humble when I determine that I do not have to puff myself up in a situation or I am inspired (i.e., spirit has a hand in it) to address a situation with whatever I can bring to it, but without assuming that I am what the situation needs.

Said another way, when I come with attentive patience, I am humble.

My realization allowed me to see shame and humility as opposite sides of the same coin. When shame threatens to numb me out, I can invite humility as a spiritual practice to keep the questions internal, remove blame and accept responsibility. Time will tell how well I will be able to embrace this humble place.

May your shame be engulfed in humility in a way that comforts your inner child and welcomes the fullness of your adult to engage in the world.


Guest blogger, Stan Stewart, is a musician, teacher, and technologist. As a certified InterPlay leader and lover of improvised music, Stan teaches and seeks integration of the whole self — experiencing body/mind/spirit as a whole rather than split parts of self — in the present moment.

He says, “What is happening for all of me right now is what I have to work with. I do my best to seek the kind of awareness that will allow me to experience and use all that’s available to me in this moment; and that can inspire me creatively and in my service to the world.”

Carolyn and Stan met on Twitter and now take their connection to the blogosphere with this guest post.


What To Do In The Face of Despair

Face of Despair

Can anyone hear my wail? Can I hear myself?

The utter hopelessness about everything in one’s life. To be without hope that an expected result will occur. Not even seeing a glimmer… To be despondent. It is an awful feeling, that of despair, one which blocks the sunlight of Spirit.

How does one get there to begin with? Perhaps, there are underlying feelings of worthlessness, shame. One cannot see any point in living; death seems preferable to continuing. That’s the type of despair I’m talking about.

What do you do in the face of despair? How can you deal with it? Recognizing it is the first step. Then, as difficult as it is, allow yourself to feel that emotion, to be with it. Drinking over it numbs the pain and delays the inevitable – that of looking at what is behind it. Is it a low self-worth? Have you been shamed in your life and, thus, feel lots of shame?

Counseling to assist with feelings of despair can be very useful, if one has a counselor familiar with these emotions and how to deal with them. Talking to a trusted friend, relative, or clergyman could be quite beneficial, as long as they are not the type to give advice and try to “fix” you. A person in despair doesn’t need fixing. They need a way to heal from the issues that brought up the despair in the first place. That is why trying to identify what has led to the despair is important.

Perhaps there is underlying depression or other brain chemistry issues that need to be treated medically, with medication. Again, a reputable and savvy therapist can refer to a physician for evaluation.

Many times, one deals with these feelings by drinking, numbing them. This only delays inner work that must be done. In sobriety, one will find the courage to look at these feelings. Shopping and over-eating are also distractions and an avoidance of looking at the despair, and although a welcomed relief, these are simply other avoidance tactics. Distract yourself and then come back to look at the feeling.

If one does a self-inventory or appraisal, one may discover what is beneath the despair. Looking inside for the clues can be very fruitful. Once underlying issues are identified, one can turn to Spirit and ask for help with these beliefs about one’s self, one’s conditions, and/or talk to a therapist, trusted friend or clergyman.

Finding one thing in your life for which you can be grateful is another step you can take. This is extremely difficult, but when done, allows you to focus on something positive. Then, it becomes easier to find others things for which to be grateful. This attitude helps dispel the despair.

But the key lies in willingness to look at the feeling and the feelings and beliefs behind the despair.  To honestly look at oneself and be with what one finds… that is the beginning of what to do in the face of despair.


How to Manage Feeling Worthless

Corner of Worthlessness

I try and try to climb to the light of my being, yet, I cannot scale the wall of my worthlessness. So I collapse, again, in the shadows…

a heap of broken debris in the corner.

Feeling worthless. One of low self-esteem, loss of self-respect. The feeling that no one appreciates your efforts, that you do not matter to anyone, or to very few. Nothing you do is good enough, so why bother? Just writing about it brings an energy-draining feeling.

From there, feeling worthless often leads to self-pity, which can generate shame for having those feelings. Many numb these feelings with the use of drugs, alcohol, shopping, eating… In the most drastic cases, these feelings lead to suicidal thoughts and, sometimes, actions.

Where does it originate? Some say it stems from the early, formative years, if one repeatedly hears they are defective, not good enough. Yet, one can develop feelings of worthlessness if in a bad relationship, for example, where one endures continual put-downs, degradations. The words heard become adopted as our own and we continue to degrade ourselves; we don’t need others.

How would one manage feeling worthless? It is said that doing esteem-able acts is a way to increase one’s self-esteem, and thus, decrease or resolve those feelings. One might also discover their calling, whereby their actions are geared toward fulfilling an identified purpose. Often, one’s purpose is useful to others, which raises one’s self-esteem and self-respect.

Counseling of some sort to resolve those underlying feelings can be very useful and yield a positive self-esteem and self-confidence, thus, minimizing feelings of worthlessness.

Doing an honest inventory of yourself and your skills can lead to the realization that what was told to you was not true, that you do have many assets and many positive attributes.

Feeling worthless is so damaging to our spirit. It leads us to dangerous places in our mind and heart. The degrading things we were told or that we tell ourselves is not who we are. We are all delightful beings, each with specific skills and strengths. Learn those about yourself. Above all, be gentle with yourself as you heal.


Understanding Fear

Webs of Fear

“I have spent a lifetime spinning webs of terror and shame between the spires that stand as sentinels to my heart.”

Fear. That emotion, that sense which warns us of danger, keeps us alert and in a fight or flight mode, when necessary. But fear can also be detrimental, can hold us back when moving ahead is in our best interest. In these situations, courage can be difficult to call forth, but it can be summoned to walk past the fear one is experiencing.

Fear can be paralyzing, keeping us from moving forward, from reaching our dreams, or even taking the first steps to reach our dream. Fear appears as concern that we will not be liked, that we are not good enough, that what we are doing is wrong. These fears often stem from low feeling of self-worth and feelings of being “less than.” As we strengthen our feelings of esteem and worthiness, these fears lessen.

False Evidence Appearing Real. Often, it is the anticipation of an upcoming event which takes us to fear. We imagine every negative thing that could occur, until soon, we have taken ourselves to great fear, sometimes to feelings of of impending doom. In these situations, we would do well to stop ourselves from imagining how an event will turn out and instead, open ourselves to the possibilities that can occur. This requires an attitude of openness, of willingness to see things in a new light, without anticipation. It requires that one be open to any outcome.  One would do well to look within, rather than without, at that up-coming event, to locate any sources of unrest, of fear.

Understanding fear when it arises is useful, so one can choose how to handle it… Is it false evidence appearing real, or a truly dangerous situation? If we identify it is related to a low self-esteem, we can work on our beliefs and feelings about ourselves. If it arises out of the desire to follow a dream, one can summon courage and take the action anyway. Once we do this a few times, fear begins to recede. It becomes easier to call upon courage and to walk through the fear that arises.

To all of you new to my blog, allow me to acquaint you. We are blogging through my book, Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing, topic by topic as they appear in the book. We are starting over today; we are at the beginning of the book. Join me as we travel the path from fear to hope to peace.  Is that what you look for in your life? Peace?


Divine Intervention Through Photography and Journaling


How did Divine intervention through photography and journaling lead to my book?

It was soon after my epiphany in November, 2004, which occurred quite unexpectedly. One morning while journaling, I wrote, “I have spent a lifetime spinning webs of terror and shame between the spires that stand as sentinels to my heart.”

This sentence was quite powerful because I had recently entitled my favorite image of a gate – one with several spider webs – Webs of Fear. I realized that the sentence I had written defined the image, giving it voice beyond the visual element.

This prompted me to review all of my journals and to extract anything that might be used to describe a previously titled gate image. With few exceptions, the prose that appears in Opening the Gates of the Heart comes from my journals, written as pleas to treat myself and others more kindly, with more tolerance, respect and love.

Furthermore, most of the prose was written before both the image was titled and before the insight occurred which led to the merging of the photographs and prose. In other words, most of the prose was not written to fit with an image. It just happened that the prose fit and described each gate.

After my epiphany, the birth of the idea to compile the images and prose to produce a book came about. Opening the Gates of the Heart has woven together an internal exploration and healing from past trauma through my journaling with visual inspiration in the form of photographs.

I neither designed nor engineered any part of this book; rather, it happened because of my willingness to be open to my inner search, because of my passion for photography and the gates and because I acted upon what cam across my path. I attribute this to none other than Divine intervention.

How else could these journal entries match the photographs? I cannot explain it, can you?