Shame

QA132 QUESTION: I feel a great imbalance. On the one hand, I feel worthless. On the other hand, I sometimes have an inflated ego. Then, because of this worthlessness, I’m constantly getting hurt and rejected, which subtly I feel I must provoke in order to prove I’m worthless. Then I withdraw, because I’m hurt. I hold on to the hurt for protection so I shouldn’t get hurt again. So I withdraw to isolation, and there I am. I can’t let go of the hurt; I can’t go further. I don’t know. I’m just going around in a merry-go-round.

ANSWER: Yes. Anyone who explores himself must sooner or later encounter this predicament. In some cases it is particularly strong – the remaining in the basic double image, the holding on to it, almost the insistence that there is nothing else.

Broadly speaking, in your case, it is either, “I am the top of the world and I control everyone, and everyone adores me, and I am the best; and if that isn’t true then I am the worst and I am worthless and no one loves me and there is nothing else.” It is this double image which you literally refuse to give up, and this is quite a frequent occurrence.

Now, why does such a refusal take place? Offhand one might say the person cannot give it up. He does not find the way out. But as long as it is approached with these words, there is no salvation – there is no way out. You have to come to the point where you find that you do not want to give it up – not out of malice, not out of deliberate badness, but because you fear exactly the same thing I have said before.

You fear the reality of your being, of expressing your feelings, of being real. You avoid the simplicity of being real.

You do not even avoid it because you think you are so bad. That is a very superficial interpretation. Nor do you even really avoid it because of fear of being hurt. All these are still subterfuges, still built-up pretexts. You fear it because you erroneously feel it is embarrassing to be real. It is as simple as that.

You may recall a lecture I gave some time ago on shame as a yardstick [Lecture #31 Shame]. If you reread this lecture and think about what are you embarrassed about, ashamed about, then you have an immediate clue why you persistently hold on to the double image of the two extremes – the double image in which you are either nothing or you have to be everything.

If you are not everything, you sulk, as it were, and make it nothing deliberately. This is for no other reason but these shames, which are a yardstick. If you now go back to this lecture and in your private work, in your self-observations, look at these things you are ashamed of, you have an immediate connecting link with why you cannot let go – or do not want to let go – of the double image. It is truly, my dearest friends, as simple as that.

QUESTION: I feel ashamed of exposing being nothing, that I’m nothing.

ANSWER: Yes, but underneath or apart from that you will also find other shames, shames of human needs, and even shame of your best – the shame of the higher self, which I discussed a long time ago [Lecture #66 Shame of the Higher Self]. Even that, the shame of your warm, genuine, spontaneous feelings which you are afraid to demonstrate, you keep to yourself in this stiff shell because of these shames.

It is as though you constantly live in a straight jacket. So many of my friends – some more, some less – where nature and life could make you go out and reach and express that beautiful life force that you are, you inhibit and prohibit it.

QUESTION: You have just talked to this person, and you have found that this person is communicative and has wisdom in whatever he or she is saying. To put it plainly, you find it very interesting, when that same person is saying that he or she doesn’t believe in himself or herself.

ANSWER: You see, perhaps here the question is that you have not yet found the truth that human beings are not perfect. This may sound like a much reiterated cliché, but it is a truth within yourself. It is possible that someone can have great wisdom and knowledge and understanding in certain respects and has his limitations in others.

To be able to accept this is in itself a sign of maturity. To think because someone has wisdom, on one hand, he must have no more problems is immature in itself – or it is unrealistic, perhaps we can better put it this way.

Also you see that if someone can frankly come out with such a statement, it indicates certainly a great deal more development, wisdom and truthfulness – or spirituality or whatever you want to call it – than someone who is not even aware of it or who vaguely senses it and camouflages it, who would play a game, who would playact and pretend.

This admission certainly indicates more wisdom than someone who does not even know he has areas where he does not believe in himself.

QUESTION: Can I go back for a minute to something you said earlier about the resistance to becoming aware of something, because we fear that if we do we might be compelled to do it. I feel as though in myself there is a big stumbling block that has to do with pride – that to the degree I might become aware that there is another way and yet I don’t take it, that this is so humiliating to my pride.

ANSWER: Well, you see, first of all, you have to allow yourself to be wrong. In a way, this is the same I have said just a minute ago to our friend here, only there it applies to allowing another person to be wrong. You have to allow yourself to be wrong and still realize your own values. It is the human shortsightedness to believe one only has values if one is right all along in every respect, if one is perfect and right and makes no mistakes and has no limitations all the way.

You can only overcome your limitations if you first accept yourself with them, and acceptance does not mean that you lose your sense of value about yourself. This is for you the most important thing. With that will come the realization that, if you find yourself unable to want to do what you discover to make sense, then you have certain information missing. There are missing links.

If you can approach yourself in that very simple, natural way – “if I feel very disinclined to do a certain thing, maybe it is better for the moment, because even to do the right thing may be wrong if it is not done with a full conviction. And perhaps in order to have the full conviction and the full desire I need to know more.” If you can approach yourself in that relaxed way, you will not fear to make a finding and be obligated by that finding to act contrary to your wish.

No act and no course can be any good if one does it against one’s will, if one does it merely because one ought to. That is what creates friction, not a wrong act in itself so much – unless it is really something harming others, obviously.

This is tremendously important for all of you to understand. You have the right to be wrong, and an act committed out of being forced or forcing yourself against your inclination can only breed problems. There is no right act and wrong act. There is only a right and a wrong attitude to yourself, to begin with.

As long as you are not at peace with yourself about any course of action, you have to go on searching. By recognizing that a certain course is perhaps not ideal – as long as you do not feel you want to take another course – certainly it is much better to remain on the so-called wrong course and go on searching than prohibit your search because you erroneously feel it is better to act in unconsciousness than in consciousness.

 

QA139 QUESTION: Could you please say a few words to clarify the difference between shame and guilt?

ANSWER: Yes. Guilt must have something to do with a wrong and a harm one has inflicted upon another person. Shame must have primarily something to do with a weakness in one’s self, a humiliating factor in one’s self. Whether this be real or imagined, it does not matter at the moment. One feels ashamed for being weak, for being humiliated or for being inadequate or for something embarrassing, while one feels guilty more for having wronged another person. That is primarily the difference.

 

QA172 QUESTION: I’ve come to the conclusion after meditating that my sense of shame, which you spoke about, must be connected in some way to my childhood sexual experiences. Somehow this is destroying and undermining the concept I have of myself which is the strong alter personality, which I thought was healthy, mostly. Can you help me there?

ANSWER: Yes. You see, as in most such instances, there is always a combination. In itself, this outer strength you mention is a healthy factor. There’s no doubt about it. But it is also used in a compensatory way. It is on this level that you were not conscious of. You were not conscious of the fact that you have used this innate strength and aggressiveness – healthy aggressiveness – in order to cover up and deny a sense of shame and weakness.

Now, in the discovery you must beware of the temptation to throw the whole thing out and think the entire strength is no good and is neurotic or is misplaced or is artificial. That is not at all true. You have to approach it in a sense that it in itself is good, it is fine, and only see to what extent in some ways you have mischanneled it, so to speak, and used it for the secret aim of covering up that which you feel ashamed and weak about.

In other words, you feel ashamed because of weakness. The weakness and the shame can be equated. And it is that that you hide under an in-itself natural strength. And it is only when you begin to separate this and say, “Yes, there is this healthy strength which I will now use for the purpose of facing my weakness, my shame about it, the secret sense of helplessness,” which, of course, children always have in some way – this helplessness.

Especially when they grow and the helplessness has not been fully understood and assimilated, then it becomes a shameful secret and it is, as such, that it becomes harmful – only as such. It is not when it is fully faced. Nothing that is fully faced is ever really harmful, because in that moment it already dissipates to some extent.

If you can accept the weakness and the shame, you use your strength intelligently and meaningfully. And you will bring the strength to bear on the weakness, and the weakness will fade.

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