Sunday, April 26, 2015

Uprooting shame.

I’ve been a little disconnected lately. I’ve not been present, and have felt mildly detached from my waking life. In French they call it being “dans la lune” which literally translated means “being in the moon,” but signifies something between daydreaming and just not paying attention.

This morning while lazing around I decided to turn on an episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. I often check out the program, since I watch episodes when they feature people I wish to listen to like Pema Chödrön or Deepak Chopra. Her show also often interviews megachurch-type pastors -American after all - I don’t watch those episodes. I have no time for doctrine.

Today's guest was Dr. Christine Northrup. She’s a doctor who focuses on women’s health, and more recently on menopause and aging. In her conversations with Oprah, she mentioned how destructive shame is in the body. She said studies have found that a certain enzyme is produced in the body, and leads to physical discomfort and can actually be measured in the body. She and Oprah went back and forth about the place shame holds in the body, and how it can be released through things like yoga or a deep tissue massage (like how some may cry or be triggered when being massaged).

This also lead into our own stories, and our daily messaging to ourselves. She pointed to two studies. First a a group of middle-aged men who were asked about their “glory days” as student athletes. Half of the group was asked to carry a picture of their happiest moment from those glory days, and to live as if that was still their lives. This lead to them being more active, to engaging in more social activity and to making healthier choices. The second group was asked to just reminisce and hold that story in a more nostalgic space. Well, the group that “lived” their glory days became healthier in every measurable way.

Her second example split a group of house-cleaning staff at a hotel. One group was told that their jobs actually meet the requirement for minimum amount of daily activity, and that they’re actually “working out” during the day. The other group was not told this. The group that felt they had an above-average activity level ended up losing weight and improving their health status even though their daily work was identical to the other group.

This all had me feeling all sorts of ways. Whenever there are studies that point to the way in which mood and attitude have a direct correlation to our mental wellness and the health of our bodies, I’m left feeling guilty. Is my depression the reason I am overweight? Of course it is. I am exhausted and I give-up on participating in life often. It makes this type of A + B = C thinking painful, because my depression is not entirely self-made and self-sustained. But sometimes this type of "positive thinking" philosophy is extremely patronizing to someone with disordered thinking.

What if there are ways through cognitive behavioural therapy (or therapies that are yet to be discovered) that the self, and the self-hating-self can be helped? 

I struggle with grasping my role in my own health, and how to move forward since not only does the task seem insurmountable at times, but depending on my broken self doesn't seem like the best bet.

I think what really struck me was the recognition of how much shame I feel. How I wear that shame on and in my body and how much is hurts me. How it digs in me. How just naming it, I can feel it screwing into the deepest part of my belly.

But how do I get rid of shame? How do I uproot it successfully? It isn't just a weed. It isn't an anomaly. It's been planted, seeded long ago, and I've quietly fed and watered it over a decade. 

Unpacking everything that I carry with me is exhausting as it is. It seems that the layers are many and the work is always.  

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