Archives for September 2015

Shame, Humiliation, Guilt and Embarrassment

If I am going to love my whole self just the way I am, I am going to have to appreciate the path I took to get here, because I wouldn’t be who I am without having taken that path.


In her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Brene Brown, a shame and empathy researcher, talks about shame, humiliation, guilt and embarrassment. In a nutshell, shame means I am bad, guilt means I’ve done something bad, humiliation means something bad has happened to me and I didn’t deserve it, and embarrassment means something bad happened to me that often happens to other people. Do you see the common thread running through all of this; the word “bad”? This word is an evaluative word. We have spent our lives assigning evaluation to situations: good, bad or some variation in between. Marshall Rosenberg talks about observing rather than evaluation. For example, if I discover that I’ve been walking around the mall with my skirt stuck in the back of my panty hose, that is an observation. If I tell myself that people have been laughing at me about this, that’s a story; and if my belief is that it’s a bad thing to be laughed at without that being your intention that’s an evaluation.

So what is common about the concepts that Brene Brown has been observing and researching is that they are constructs. In other words, there wouldn’t be shame, humiliation, guilt and embarrassment if we hadn’t decided that certain situations are bad. What’s more important about these concepts is they keep us from being whole. In other words, who would want to believe they are bad? I can’t be happy if I believe I’m bad. I will do everything I can to protect myself from that. That will include not taking responsibility for actions I may have done that have hurt others or myself.

Because we believe we are bad we have broken ourselves. We spend our lives trying to avoid that part of ourselves. How can we be happy? Marshall Rosenberg reminds us we did the best we could with the tools we had in the situation. It has absolutely nothing to do with who we are. We can look back and gain understanding of why we made the choices we did, which anyone else in that same situation would have chosen to do, and we can give ourselves empathy. We can own that part of ourselves again. We can become whole. We can also give that empathy to others.


The Woman at the Well

John 4:1-59


So Jesus left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well to rest. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus requested from her. “I am in need of a drink, I am very thirsty and am wondering if you would be willing to give me a drink?” The Samaritan woman said to him, “I don’t understand. I am a Samaritan woman and you are a Jewish man, how can you ask me for a drink?”


Jesus said to the woman “I have no enemy image of you, you are valuable and important and I want to contribute to you and this is a request; you may agree and give me a drink or say no and not give me a drink.” Jesus was truly connected and wanted to contribute to this woman, he wanted to offer her clarity and understanding about connection to the Divine. Jesus said to the woman, “I am here to contribute to you, to offer you compassion and empathy, let me give you living water.”


The woman said to Jesus, “I still don’t understand. How can you get any water if you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep? Tell me more about this living water. Are you greater than Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself as did his sons and livestock?”


Jesus said to the woman, “It sounds like you would like some understanding regarding Living Water. Anyone who connects to the Creator as I do, everyone who turns within and realizes what they need, is connected to the Divine; that is a water that never runs out. Would you be willing to tell me what you heard me say?”


The woman said, “Sir I want that water so I will not get thirsty and I don’t want to have to come back to this well again.”


Jesus said, “Thank you for telling me what you heard me say. Let me rephrase for better understanding. I have a need to contribute to you, to be empathic with you, to see you and value you. I believe no one is insignificant. When you understand that and connect to the need to be valued and know that the Divine values you, you are connected. You are at the well that never runs dry.”


Jesus requested, “Would you mind going and getting your husband?” The woman replied, “I have no husband.” Jesus replied, “You have spoken with integrity and authenticity for you have no husband but have had five husbands.”


The woman said, “Sir, you are definitely someone who has experienced the Divine and connects with his feelings and needs.” Then she added, “Sir, you must know that as a Samaritan and a woman I cannot worship in Jerusalem because the Jews are afraid to let us worship there and they let their fear stop them from opening up their worship to all.”


Then Jesus replied, “Let me help you understand our history and how we worship. Please know you don’t have to worship the Divine on this mountain or in Jerusalem. I am a Jew and I am bringing you this spiritual understanding. I want you to understand that worshipping the Creator is done in spirit; this is the truth, and to worship the Divine is done in spirit. Remember, our Divine Creator is spirit and we are invited to worship in that Spirit and in that Truth. That is connection.”


The woman said, “I have heard about Christ consciousness, or the Cosmic Christ, and when I find this awareness of this Cosmic Christ I will be truly enlightened.”


Jesus said to the woman, “I am showing you that consciousness, I am offering you this understanding. When you connect to your needs and feelings you connect to the Divine, this is Christ-likeness; this is the everlasting well of Living Water.”


Just then the disciples, who had been out looking for food, came back and were shocked to see Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman. But his disciple’s were inauthentic and did not ask why Jesus was talking with this woman.


Then leaving behind her water jar the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “I care for you so much and I want to contribute to you; I have a request for you all. Please come with me and see a man who has given me enlightenment, who has shown be how to have Everlasting Water. I believe this man is giving away Christ Consciousness.” They were so interested they went with the woman to see Jesus.


Meanwhile his disciples were speaking with Jesus. They were concerned for him and asked him to eat something.


Jesus then said to them, “I would like to contribute to you. I want to give you understanding about spiritual food, a food where you never get hungry again.”


The disciples wondered, “Who could have given Jesus food to eat?”


Then Jesus said to them, “The food I have for you is Divine Food, it is a food that comes from connection with the Creator of Life. It is a food that comes from connecting with the needs and feelings that you have and finding strategies that meet those needs. It is a food that comes from being connected, authentic and compassionate. The challenge I have for you is to show others how they might connect, how they might find strategies that meet their needs, how you might contribute to others and share the Divine within us all.”


So, the Samaritans came to him; the whole town! The woman told them, “He showed me the Christ Consciousness, he valued me, he saw me, he showed me compassion and empathy.” The Samaritans asked Jesus to stay with them, and he stayed for two days. While he was with them he showed them Everlasting Water. He connected to the Divine, he communicated to them with love and compassion, he showed them the Cosmic Christ and they gained understanding. They wanted what he showed them!


The Samaritans said to the woman, “You spoke to us about this Everlasting Water and now that we have met him, we have clarity and understanding. We know that he has brought us salvation; he has given us the way of connecting, the way of understanding our needs and feelings. He has shown us the Divine and we believe.”






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The Gift #doctorsstethoscope

The show The View hit a nerve hard with nurses this week with their discussion of Miss Colorado’s presentation at the Miss America Pageant. #nursesunite, #doctorsstethoscope are trending very highly on social media. I think the comment that stimulated most nurses was “Why is she wearing a Dr.’s stethoscope?”

My first year out of nursing school was many years ago, but I still have two memories seared in my mind. The first involved one of the doctors on our floor. It was expected at that time that when I saw a doctor come on the floor I would stop what I was doing and gather up all of their patient’s charts. I would then follow them as they made rounds, handing them the appropriate chart as we got to each room. This particular doctor would periodically at the end of rounds, take a chart or two and slide it down the hallway, like a bowling ball. Frequently papers would spill out on the way, and we were expected to pick up the charts and put them back together. He thought this was hilarious.

My second memory from that first year was regarding my uniforms. At that time nursing uniforms were mostly a sorry collection of polyester pant suits. I decided I wanted to wear something more professional looking. I was able to sew and used a Vogue pattern to make a lovely white dress. I thought it looked very professional. When I wore it to work, I heard from a majority of the doctors how sexy I looked in it. I stopped wearing it.

I was sharing these memories with a colleague of mine and she told me her mother, who was also a nurse, remembers the time when nurses would have to get off of the hospital elevator if a doctor got on; it didn’t matter if it was your floor, you got off.

I’m sure if you ask any nurse you know they will share their equivalent of these stories. I think this is important to understand with what’s going on right now about the comments made on The View. The history of nursing is steeped in sexism and domination, the doctor-nurse game. In this game nurses were expected to be subordinate to doctors. Many people think this game has ended with the advent of increased education and responsibility for nurses, but many don’t. David Holyoake describes our present situation very well as an “identity crisis stemming from an inferiority complex and the illusion that equality” is easily within our grasp.

In his book, The Surprising Purpose of Anger: Beyond Anger Management: Finding the Gift, Dr. Marshall Rosenberg describes anger as a gift. Anger is an emotion that rather than being suppressed, challenges us to figure out the unmet needs that are driving it. In this situation I think it is very clear that nurses are angry and want to be respected and valued. I love hearing this voice. I love the fact that so many people are responding with stories of how much they value and respect nurses. And I love that I am becoming more aware of how much I need to value and respect myself as part of this profession.

That is the gift we got from The View. I’m also hopeful that we in the nursing profession will continue to work through our identity crisis. We can be, and are, so much more than “mini doctors”. What most of us enjoy about this profession is our ability to heal people. I would love to see the profession of nursing incorporate compassionate communication as taught by Dr. Rosenberg. I would love to see the magic that would happen when we develop more deeply into the healers we want to be.

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Money, money, money

One of my favorite stories that Marshall Rosenberg tells involves an exercise he did to help identify why he was doing things in his life. He wanted to have a happier life so decided to identify those things he did that he didn’t enjoy, and try to figure out why he was doing them. He listed on a piece of paper all of the things he didn’t enjoy doing, all of the things he thought he had to do. Once he did that, he forced himself to write, “I choose to do….”. He really struggled with this step.

We have been taught to relinquish responsibility for doing things in our lives. We have been taught there are things we just “have to” do, we don’t have any choice in the matter. This isn’t true. Marshall describes how the Nazi’s in Germany developed a language that absolved them of any responsibility for what they were doing. They had to follow orders, they had to do the things they did; it was out of their hands. But Marshall reminds us that we have a choice in everything we do, everyday. We are responsible for making those choices.

Marshall identified that he hated writing clinical reports in his job. He didn’t see that it helped any of his clients, and it was just a waste of time to him. He struggled with realizing that he was choosing to do this. He argued with himself that he had to write them; it was part of his job. I think many of us can relate to this. He knew he had to figure out why he was writing those reports, why he was spending so much time doing something that didn’t bring him any joy. He finally realized he was writing those reports because he wanted the income they brought him, the money. When he realized that, he also realized he would rather dig through the garbage to support himself than write another of those reports, and he never wrote another one again!

Money is not a need. That is worth repeating, money is not a need. We have been taught it is. Our entire consumer society is based on money. We have designed a way of life that revolves around money. We take those actions we do to contribute to others, and turn that into money. Then we use money to make choices in our lives. It is a very large strategy in our toolbox.

This came home to me in a strong way with a recent situation in our house. We rent a house out in the country in the northwest. Our climate is notoriously damp most of the year, particularly in the winter. This past winter we started to struggle with mold in our laundry room. It began in a corner of the room, and we would wipe down the area every few days trying to keep on top of it. After a few weeks, we suddenly realized that the mold was on the walls behind all of the closed cabinet doors on that wall and was on the ceiling. We had just never looked behind those doors or up at the ceiling. When we realized how bad it really was we called and reported it to the property management company. They eventually came out and realized they were going to have to have someone come in and repaint the whole room.

We got a bill from them this week for that painting job. That stimulated all kinds of thoughts and feelings in me. What had I done wrong? How could this be? This wasn’t fair! Then my husband mentioned it wasn’t about the money. We could easily afford the bill. That stopped me in my tracks. When I realized it wasn’t the money, I actually had some space to try to figure out what was going on. I was able to work through what I needed, and once I’d done that I even had space to start to imagine what the person needed who sent us the bill. This process just made it so clear to me how much money was entangled in all of my thoughts, at an unconscious level.

What if we could make decisions without any thought about money? There has been some experimentation with this idea. During the 1970’s a small Canadian town decided to see what would happen if the poorest citizens were given a monthly stipend, regardless of what income they might already have and with no strings attached. The Mincome project showed that giving people enough money to meet basic living needs was not a disincentive to work. This type of project has also been tried in India. The stability that basic income gave people improved their health and welfare, and provided equity, growth and emancipation.

And now a Dutch city is going to give the basic income concept a try. What would you do differently if money were no matter? Can you look at the choices you make on a daily basis, and take money out of the equation? How would you live life differently? Money isn’t evil, it’s just a thing, and I want to be more conscious of how it affects my life.


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Pain and Gratitude


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