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  • Diana Fletcher

Sharing the Pain, Sharing the Shame

I am always amazed at this: Many people think that they are the only ones who think a certain way or that they are the only ones who have feelings that may be considered unkind. There is a lot of shame in this kind of thinking. Feelings of shame can be left over from parental disapproval or other authority figures, or because a person fears future disapproval. It's a lonely, scary feeling. I think that it is important to recognize that we are all more similar, than dissimilar.

I have been listening to Dr. Clarisssa Pinkola Estes quite a bit this summer. I have finished The Dangerous Old Woman, and today finished listening to Mother Night. I was intrigued by something Dr. Estes said. I hope I get this right, but here was what I took out of it: The people that we don't understand, who seem to have totally different views and we don't get them and they don't get us---it's because we are from different tribes. Tribes that have their own customs and rituals, and beliefs.

Now, this is actually true in many parts of the world which has led to horrible things. But the interesting way to look at it, and what has stuck with me, that the people we are around every day--the people who make us angry or who annoy us, are also from different tribes. They may look the same as us, but within their "tribe" they grew up differently than us. They had different role models, different traditions, different ways of speaking to each other and the outside world.

If we could remember that, I think it would help us not to feel stressed out or angry or annoyed so often. We could just say to ourselves, oh, they are from a different tribe.

And then, and then, we could look for what is similar. And what is similar is that we are all human. I recently wrote a little fairy tale that I used in a speech to an audience of women. The fairy tale painted a story of a wonderful woman who had it all and did it all. She was absolutely perfect and everyone in the kingdom envied her and tried to emulate her. And then one day, they found out the truth. She was not real.

I find in my work with women, that they don't realize that everyone freaks out on occasion. Everyone has insecure moments and moments of fear. Everyone doubts themselves, and this is an interesting one: Every person that I have had a candid and honest conversation with, has admitted that one of their fears is that they will be "found out." It will be revealed that they are not the expert, the intellectual, the organized woman, the health nut, the go-to person for everything. Everyone.

If we could internalize this and really embrace this knowledge that we are all in this together, how might our inside world and the outside world change? What would happen?

If we thought about the feelings of shame and embarrassment that we all feel sometimes, would we be gentler with each other? More understanding? Would this acknowledgement of a universal pain bring our thoughts closer?

I wonder....

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