Recently I ran the ‘Women Power and Body Wisdom’ retreat down in Bowral. Every retreat has a slightly different feel and I, like the participants learn new things about myself as well as the work that I am doing. In groups, a collective consciousness is generated, and my job is to create a context for it to happen in – appropriate to the purpose of the work and the participants involved. Like the SHE Business Sapphire meetings which I facilitate each month, we had some wonderful, talented, intelligent and generous women in the retreat group. What humbled me was the degree of sharing that came forth and the impact that the sharing had on others. Each woman was deeply moved by the sharing of each other woman. Each individual was contributing to the learning of the group.
Many people who had been holding onto emotionally-burdensome issues, regrets, or un-had conversations – feeling that they were the only person in the world who had experienced a particular issue – realised that it was not uncommon, even if not everyone had experienced it either. On the one hand there was the normalisation of the experience and the removal of individual shame – AND there was also the hope and the possibility that you could create your life quite differently. Last weekend, I learned a lot about the power of groups to heal.
On the topic of shame, Brene Brown wrote a book called ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’. She did an analysis of what was showing up in people’s language on the concept of shame. Shame is deeper than guilt. You are guilty about something that you did or didn’t do. Shame is more a feeling of deeply wanting to dis-identify with who you are and yet feeling like you have no choice about who you are, in fact that you have been designated unworthy. This may have been created either in your own mind or by some significant other who had the influence over you at that time and whom you believed. Brown says “Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence and judgement” (p.40).
The solution to it is to stand up to the ‘never good enough’ beliefs that get embedded so deeply and so subtly in our unconscious mind, and learn to develop the courage, compassion and connection to develop deeper awareness, reach out and share our stories and authentically connect with others. This very intimate process requires safety and skill. Our process as delivered on the retreat allowed this kind of shared narrative in a way that was deeply healing. Many of you have may have experienced that same level of healing and the lifting of shame, through groups which provide safety and nurture for you. Next time when you do have the chance to share, but are stopped by secrecy, silence and self- judgement, consider this. Your sharing not only heals you but has the power to heal others. Isn’t that being extraordinary?
If you would like support to stand up and be heard, then contact me to start a conversation about how I can help you or your organisation.