In times of fear, have you ever found yourself losing interest in your goals and chasing new ones? Some people think they have ADD or shiny ball syndrome, always chasing the next new thing, never sticking with one course of action but, instead, chasing every new dream that comes along? Do you not stick up for yourself, but divert your anger into something trivial or more socially acceptable instead? These are but a few of the ways you can avoid the hard stuff, the stuff you may believe, you just can’t handle.
Have you ever found that you cannot settle into one vision, one goal or one thing? Instead you keep losing interest, repeating patterns and running all over the place in a seemingly chaotic fashion?
Perhaps author, speaker and research professor Brené Brown (Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection etc.) can shed some light on your behavior. Brown introduces us to the idea of “serpentining” as a protection strategy we use to avoid vulnerability. Borrowing from the 70’s movie, “The Inlaws”, Brown describes a scene in which one of the characters tries to dodge flying bullets by moving in a serpentine fashion – zigging and zagging rather than moving in a straight line in order to avoid being an easy target.
As a protective strategy “serpentining” can be exhausting because, in the end, more energy is expended “serpentining” than facing the fear head on. It may be helpful to examine your own places of resistance and invulnerability and notice where you find yourself doing the serpentine shuffle. If you are truly dodging bullets, “serpentining” may have its place, but when facing up to challenges in our life, it is a protective strategy that requires closer examination
For a visual example and a bit of levity, you can view the ‘serpentining” clip from The InLaws here:
It’s a cold, rainy morning here in New England, but spring is showing itself. The grass is beginning to green up slowly, the Red Sox open today is in Baltimore and the Boston Marathon just a few weeks away, so bring it on! What’s going on where you are?
Returning to our discussion on shame, first let me say that no understanding of shame can take place without understanding the social drivers of shame. There are many in our social and economic system who profit from the shame epidemic and, in fact, actually fuel it. Shame helps to drive the drug industry (legal and illegal), the alcoholic beverage industry, the cosmetic surgery industry, makeup and diet industries, the self-help industry, shame keeps social workers and psychiatrists very busy. Shame undermines a society while making profits for a few who have learned how to exploit humanity’s self conscious edges and determine that there is one way to look, be and feel.
Shame arises from a failure to meet expectations. Many young children develop shame around their families and their socio-economic realities. Sometimes shame becomes a driving force, a motivator to change things, but what if you cannot change something?
Here in New England, elitist braniacs have taken to sending “fat” letters home to children who don’t meet specific physical guidelines getting the shaming underway early and by people who really should know better. Many dysfunctional parents raise their children to take care of them and expect these little humans in training to meet their emotional needs. This reverses the natural order of things and requires a young child to try and develop adult behavior they are not ready for or capable of. When children fail to meet these expectations shame and anxiety result. John Bradshaw writes of this in his books as the roots of many an alcoholics addiction.
Dealing with difficult feelings can extract a massive toll on people because shame isolates and it seems the only way out of these difficult feeling is to share them.
Can you identify feelings of shame in your own life? How will you resolve them, move past them and take back control of your life.