Men and Worthiness
It felt like a dam had broken, behind which debris
had gradually collected slowing the flow to a
trickle. Such a relief, such a renewal to finally
blast through the seemingly impenetrable mass that
had lodged itself in my heart and loins for far too
What am I talking about? I am referring to what
I call the dam of shame. And no doubt
most men and boys can relate.
Its become clear to me over the years that
lack of self-respect, self-esteem, self-confidence,
self-worth, self-love lies at the root of any
darkness, any shadow, any violence done to self or
others at the hands of men, from the bedroom to the
boardroom, from addiction to depression to suicide
and homicide. I learned this on my own personal
battlefields as a boy and as a man and could see it
clearly in those I worked to help liberate from the
confines of their isolation, protection and
defensiveness in the face of societal and self
judgment about ones worthiness.
What Id not yet taken full measure of in
myself though was the depth at which the silt had
deposited behind this dam of shame. And that shame
is by quality and degree a different animal that
strikes at the very soul of a man and his sense of
. deeper than guilt, deeper than
humiliation and embarrassment.
With the help of social work professor and
author Brene Brown whose work with shame is
groundbreaking in this generation, Ive come
to understand that shame is a feeling that cuts you
off at the knees because it gives you absolutely no
where to go. Unlike guilt which is about something
you did being bad, shame internalizes the message
that YOU are bad and unworthy of love or belonging.
Unlike guilt, with shame there is no bad behavior
to stop or change. Its all about you. As
Brown says, Shame corrodes the sense we can
do or become better
..You need a platform of
self-worth to change.
Whats shaming for me may not be shaming
for you. In my case, earning less money at some
point or having less intimate connections than what
I expected of myself as a good provider and a good
lover gradually slowed the flow of generative and
sexual energy. It was that continuous crippling
self-judgment drawn straight from the blueprint for
a mans success referred to in my previous
post that began the construction of the dam of
The question is, how does one tear it down,
releasing the debris and allowing the larger flow
of life, lightness, creativity, love and connection
to course through ones life again?
Brene Brown speaks about the concept of
shame resilience. Two characteristics
that come up in definitions of resilience are
toughness, and elasticity.
In neuro-science resilience depends partly on
communication between the reasoning circuitry in
the brains cortex and the emotional circuitry
of the limbic system.
Deconstructing the shame dam takes some mental
toughness, only established by repeated rejections
of any idea that I as a man am anything less than
lovable and worthy just for who I am. Yes, my
actions matter, my deeds count but they do not
justify my existence. My existence needs no
justification. I am here and I belong or I would
not be here. Thats the conversation the
cortex needs to have with the limbic system to pull
apart and defuse the feeling of shame.
Sometimes the shame dam can only be pulled apart
one chunk at a time. Once the first chunk is
removed though, it can become easier to pull out
more chunks until it feels as though the whole
thing can finally come tumbling down.
One way to begin for me was to share with a
non-judgmental friend these unwanted messages and
dreaded feelings, in this case another man who is
well aware of the damage and incapacitation of
shame. Someone who cannot only listen but also
encourage and cheer me on.
I found it essential to face the beast and name
it out loud for starters. Literally say,
I have shame about_______________________.
Interestingly the moment I did that, just that
alone, the monster immediately downsized
This was after listening to the two one hour
recordings of Brene Brown disclosing about her own
shame, how to understand and deal with it. And
considerable soul searching on my part.
Then, I finally felt prepared to talk to the
person most affected by my shame other than me, my
life partner. We had a heart to heart that I know
had been a long time coming.
In my case, the results were pretty immediate.
Breaking open the dam meant that I could get a
bunch of that energy flowing again, into my
creativity and into our intimacy.
I felt like I had my mojo back! Cause for
Another ring of support was my ongoing
mens support group, more great guys that care
enough to share and share whats most
important in life.
In years past I recall joining circles of men,
sometimes men and women around a fire to perform a
banishment ritual. In that ritual
ceremony one writes down on a piece of paper
something that no longer serves them that needs to
be released in order to move forward in life. Then
each person says out loud or keeps silent what
needs to go and tosses the paper into the fire,
watching that shedding of the old go up in smoke.
The deliberate intention, heightened emotion and
group solidarity involved makes ritual a powerful
agent of release and transformation.
I am not going to say its easy, its
not. I do believe and can testify that the benefits
of deconstructing and releasing shame are enormous.
If you can commit to that kind of "tough," I know
you can achieve the ultimate elasticity and gain or
regain your most shame resilient self.
Highly recommended up close and personal talk by
Brene Brown: www.soundstrue.com/store/men-women-and-worthiness-2911.html
* * *
Crutcher has over three decades of experience as a
teacher, counselor, and community
organizer/builder. He is a personal and
professional development coach, facilitator, and
consultant to both large institutions and small
organizations in the public, private, and
non-profit sectors. He has done extensive work with
men and boys to become all they can be having
opened one of the first state grant funded
mens counseling centers in America. He
developed programs to assist men in learning
alternatives to violence, father and son workshops
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