Shame: The Painfully Elusive Key

You know those moments when you feel terrible, but you’re not really sure what’s happening, and why? You’re disconnected from your body. You feel anxious when people look at you. You walk into a room with your gaze down, shoulders bowed. You keep to the corner because you are certain if you were seen, others would know you were different. They’d know there’s something wrong with you. You ruminate after every interaction, try to please everyone, aim for perfection, and feel like an imposter. Unseen and misunderstood. Lonely and disconnected. Anxious and sad.

This is a manifestation of shame.


Shame is an elusive sneaky little thing. Is it an emotion? Is it a mechanism protecting from emotion and vulnerability?

One of the things about shame is that it muddles the truth. It’s hard to pin down. Who wants to look shame in the face?

Dancing with shame.

There are many ways to define shame. This article describes some of what I’ve learned. This is not an exhaustive interpretation, but covers the basics. These ideas inform the way I see and work with it, while allowing shifts and evolution over time the more I dance with it. Let me know how it helps you.

Dancing With Shame

A rush of heat from gut to throat, like you’re going to throw up. Chest contracted, shoulders caved in, heart racing. As quick as the heat rises, it’s gone and replaced by cold. Trembling. Tightening.

The worst part? You can’t let anyone else see you quake. You’ve got to hold it all in. As bad as this is, it would be so much worse if anyone saw.

It might even be unrecoverable. You know you’ll be rejected and abandoned.

So all that energy — horror rising deep from within that cavernous part of you… it stays with you.

It turns into a cold distant freeze that never gets fully thawed, because that would be unbearably painful. Or it becomes anger outwardly expressing that hot energy, blaming and spewing on any target in sight who would cower — whoever would not turn around and hold up a mirror.

It’s the worst thing ever for you to see it.

Be Right Where You Are

A reminder for when you’re feeling a lot and struggling…

You will not be in this state forever. There will be a shift.  

You don’t need to plan six steps into the future, with contingency plans for each possibility. You don’t need to know. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. I know, that feels terrible to hear. You want to know so badly. But it’s really truly okay.

It is safe to let go of that gripping grasping wanting-needing to control the future so you know it’ll all be okay. It is okay. Right here.

Be where you are. Notice how it feels. You’re trying so hard to be somewhere else. Wanting, striving, seeking.  

What is here?

Is it… prickly thorny burny give-me-space-or-I’ll-explodey? That’s okay.
– –

What is here?

Is it… trying to escape your skin. Avoid. Hide?

– –  

Give yourself some time with your journal. Be right where you are. Ask, what is here? It’s okay to not be okay. The state will shift when it’s time. What is here?  

You don’t need to understand it. You don’t need to make sense of it. It’s a feeling that will pass.  

You might find, as I do, once you write it – the full truth – you can see… it’s not so bad right here.

Journaling FAQ: Typing vs Handwriting

Typing or handwriting… which is better? I often recommend journaling by hand. Here are 4 reasons:

Speed. You may type much faster on a keyboard than you can write by hand. While this seems like a good thing, an element of journaling is the meditative practice of connecting to your inner truth.  Slowing down can be quite beneficial.  Your mind and body can catch up with each other.  

Nuances.  Your handwriting is more personal than typed words. Your written words can convey your emotions and personality.  Similar to speech versus text, there are nuances in written words which are harder to see in typed letters.  Check out your writing.  Compare how it looks when you’re feeling angry vs happy.  Confident vs uncertain.  Are their shifts in the way the writing appears?  Notice what can be expressed between the lines.

ProcessWriting on paper is less linear. Sure, there are various apps and setups like pen tablets which allow for more creative expression.  But think of a word processor.  You can’t write between the lines and margins as easily.  This is one of my favorite things about writing by hand.  The creative process isn’t linear.  It cycles and spirals.  Ebbs and flows.  New ideas branch off from old ones.  Having the freedom to write by hand and brainstorm ideas nonlinearly is powerful for getting unstuck when typing in a word document just isn’t working.

FocusYou interact with your words differently on paper vs screen.  There is a difference between the connection of typing letters on a keyboard and watching them come up on a screen, and writing words by hand directly on paper.  It’s almost like you’re removed from directly interacting with the words on screen versus paper.  You watch the screen, not the letters being created by your pen.

A computer can have many distractions.  A journaling notebook, on the other hand, is its own container.  Have you ever been deep in writing, when a notification pops up on your screen and takes you away from the insight you were about to have?

Is one “better” than another?  Depends on what you’re after.

Writing by hand certainly has its positives: slowing down, expressing more than just the words, writing nonlinearly, and interacting more directly.  I highly encourage you to incorporate writing by hand into your journaling practice.

Experiment! Don’t just take my word for it; I also suggest experimenting with the difference yourself.  You might write to the same prompt by hand and typing.  What changes?  Once you know this, you can choose the method most suited to your mood or need. For example, at times when your words are bubbling up and you need to spill them quickly, you can go for your faster route.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the similarities and differences you notice if you try this experiment!

Journaling 101 Examples

Prompt Example
Confidant Example
Letter Example
Dream Example
Stream Of Consciousness Example
Gratitude Example
Idea/Inspiration Example
Goal Tracking Example

Women’s Wellness 11.1.19 – 11.3.19

My heart is full from the privilege of spending a weekend retreat in the redwoods with an amazing group of women. This experience fills and fuels me.

I’m grateful for everyone who attended and brought wonderful warm energy to practice Gratitude Writing on 11.1.19. It was a grounding way to kick off a wonderful Women’s Wellness weekend with self-care, connection, nature, kindness, and new experiences.

On Saturday afternoon, participants at Write The Story Of Your Life thought outside the box about their life visions. I was grateful to witness and hear about where attendees were on their various journeys. It was inspiring to see what was important to each person and to share in new insights and awareness.

Inklings Annual Gathering (Inklings Book Contest Update)

Celebrate creativity, writing, community, and young writers with me on August 4, 2019 from 1 – 4:30 pm at the Santa Clara University Recital Hall.

Along with a celebration for the newly published young authors (the winners of the Inklings Book Contest) in the 2019 Inklings Book, the afternoon will be full of inspiration and hands-on writing workshops.

RSVP here.