LIFE AS GIFT
How we view life is instrumental to how we may live life or if we will live life at all. If we view life as a gift, a precious time and space given to us in which to develop our self lovingly, a powerful resource is ours for faith, hope and intimacy. Our positive and loving life perspective, then, becomes a means for expressing the gift of our self to, with and for another. Giving our self for some time and space in prayer, reflection or thought to the ultimate Other, our Gift Giver, is one direct way to give gratitude or say "thank you" for our gift of self.
Shame on you.
Shame on me.
Shame is not synonymous with 'guilt,' but often made to be worse. One definition describes it as "a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming or impropriety." Another, "a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute." It sure does hurt! Is there anyone who hasn't felt shame? We feel so alone, apart, singled out with shame. With shame, it is "I" that is the focus of something wrong at that very moment, no one else. No, with shame we're not singled out for a reward or praise. Wish that we were. No, shame is for "something bad," at least in the eyes of the giving other. It is "I." Shame on me! I feel the shame. I did it or am told I did. What differentiates a healthy outcome of shame from one that is unhealthy is the exclusive focus on the person rather than the act.
Developmentally, if all goes well as we grow up, we learn to become the gift we are meant to be. Yes, at times we learn through the experience of shame. Each of us needs to know "right from wrong" or else our life would be without boundaries or without a healthy regard for others or life. As much as we may desire freedom and independence, the paradox is that there must be guidelines and limits for this desirable goal. Yes, there is a normal shame we experience. When shame is normal, when we do wrong or what isn't good to be done, we are still told we are good. This is what should happen normally. Doing wrong, the thing we do, the message reads, is the problem. We are still a unique and gifted self. It is "what" we did that is the problem. It's the problem or behavior that is focused on, not the worth or value of the person. Developmentally, one may say, we learn from our mistakes. Harder to learn, however, when we are made to be the mistake, when shame isn't a normal experience.
"You'll never amount to anything" is something that some hear repeatedly. The shame I see in therapy is not of the normal variety. If it were, I suspect I'd be out of a job. No, the shame I see is of the variety you may see in the artwork that precedes this text. It is a confinement of self to the nth degree. It is or feels like abject loneliness and isolation. Better put, it's imprisonment, feeling as if one is "bricked-in." This experience follows our being taught or told that we, in our heart and soul, are bad, no good, evil, ugly, not belonging, smelly, rotten to the core, etc. Pick the descriptor! Shame, for some, actually becomes a way of life. When we over and over experience shame, we begin to wear shame, show it in our body, think it in our mind, feel it in our moods, act in its ways. Through therapy, one works to break the chains of shame and break out and learn how to live as the gift of self we truly are meant to be. It's not easy, but well worth it when we succeed. Sadly, some never succeed. Happily, many now do. Shame doesn't have to be on you or me.
Change, as they say, is inevitable, unavoidable. Sometimes we seek it, want it or are amazed and awed when it happens. Other times, we lament it, fear it, try to avoid it, reel against it, or even hate it. It's strange yet beautiful, though, when we take change into our life, make it a companion, and follow its lead with faith, hope and love. We may work with it rather than fight against it. No, not easy to do, some may think impossible. But, stop for a moment and think about it. How may we ever get anywhere or become our self without change. Now that's impossible! Change, if followed, "adapted to" successfully, produces Transformation. We've crossed a bridge from one place to another. To realize this means to accept that change itself is a greater force than our self, a powerful ally for this transformation. With change we may go beyond, convert, change outwardly or inwardly, think differently, feel differently, act differently. What would we be without change. Zombies? Clones? Boring? It seems that, when we choose change as ally and companion vs. enemy, we move more solidly, securely and hopefully in life. One might say that change brings us more and more to the fulfillment of our life. Let us all learn to embrace change-as-companion, be it in good times or bad. If we walk with it, it will show us the way.
Statistically, April has been the month associated with the highest number of suicides. Why? If you're looking for THE ONE reason, forget it. No one knows for sure. One hypothesis is that April corresponds to spring, a time when all begins to bud, emerge from winter, warms up, starts anew. If we are feeling like we have little to look forward to, starting anew may remind us more of what we don't have than what we do have. Looking ahead may seem more gloom and doom than promising gift or meaningful or achievable goal. If we've experienced previous hurt or trauma in our life, even more may life appear to us to be without value.
All of us have tough times, some more than others. I wonder if April may have another meaning, one that we tend to ignore or take for granted. Maybe a very special meaning for April is seen only by those near or in despair, although tainted by negativity, with the point being lost. Perhaps this month of APRIL is meant to be a reminder to us all of the value of life and living. Perhaps April is a special time to awaken us to our self, an opportunity to spring clean, see what is within and about us, what needs to change, what may be strengthened or added in or for our life. Maybe April is the month to courageously and lovingly look to our self FOR LIFE and living. Maybe our reflecting on being imperfect as normal may help us become humbled enough to ask for help or help others. As many who have attempted suicide and gained in life after not completing the act have told me, if we remain hopeful and believe, if we will and make the effort, if we seek the help we need, good things come to us. After all, that old familiar expression can't be all wrong. April showers bring May flowers.
www,Dr bob Fournier.com
Bob Fournier Ph.D.