There I was, curled up under piles of covers with pillows over my head.
I just lay there, wide awake in the middle of the night, feeling….sick, sick, sick.
It wasn’t the flu. It wasn’t coronavirus or the citywide contaminated water outbreak from last week even now making its bacterial way through my digestive tract.
I knew this because I felt fine, physically speaking. All systems go.
But the part of me that is “me” – the part that normally stays well when the rest of me falls ill – felt gutted. Mutated, somehow. On its way to being MIA.
Earlier that day I had taken part in a group coaching call. The call was part of a new life coaching program I recently enrolled in. I’m not used to being a part of these types of calls and I made some mistakes.
Other attendees noticed and pointed my errors out over the group chat. I didn’t respond that gracefully.
When the Q&A time came and it was my turn to ask a question, the group leader basically shot down my dream and told me I needed to find something else to do.
By the time the call ended, the four walls of my tiny casa felt far too spacious to protect me from the creeping white hot lightning rod of ache spreading up from my gut, along my spine, into my heart and head.
I had been shame slammed.
What Is Shame Slamming?
This is what shame slamming means to me.
It starts when you choose to become vulnerable or when you open yourself up in some big way, like to ask for help or share honestly about something you are really struggling with that is already making you feel shame.
But then, when you finally work up the guts to admit it, tell someone else about it, or ask for help dealing with it, the person you tell doesn’t get it and shames you about it.
There is nothing wrong with choosing to open up and ask for help or feedback or to share, by the way. But it is important to pick who you do it with carefully to reduce the risk of shame slamming.
Also, just so you know – this isn’t an “official” term or anything. It is just what I call this experience because that is what it feels like to me – being literally body-slammed over and over again with shame.
The first time I remember being shame slammed is when I failed the math quiz (again) in fifth grade. Our teacher made me stand up in front of the class and announced to everyone that they would all have to retake the quiz because Shannon had failed again.
I was shame slammed again as a teen. We were on vacation in South Padre. I had full-blown anorexia and just wanted to hide in our hotel room. My parents got so frustrated they yelled at me and told me I was selfish and horrible and why wasn’t I more like my brother (I wanted to know the answer to that question too).
There were lots of other times as well.
Then of course there was last week’s conference call, the public errors, the awful public question gone awry, the fetal ball barely visible under a pile of pillows and covers.
So you get the general idea.
Maybe you are even starting to call to mind some times when shame slamming has happened to you.
How Do You Deal With Shame Slamming?
So the next question then becomes, what do you do about it?
A single experience of shame is, well, shaming enough. Multiple shames piled all up on top of you all at once – that is even worse. So how do you convince yourself to come out from under the covers and get on with it?
Since this literally just happened to me and it is all still very fresh in my mind, I will share what I have done thus far that seems to be working.
And then I’d love to hear any ideas about things that work well for you!
1. I named it.
The first thing I did was to identify what I what I was feeling. Shame. I did this by saying to myself “shame shame shame shame shame” while feeling it. I think Brene Brown suggests this but don’t quote me on that. I know I picked it up somewhere and she is the most likely source.
2. I breathed into it.
Then I did my special deep breathing. I do Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing, which helps jostle my mind out of its (shame-centric) ruminations and get a bit calmer. (If you want to learn, Dr. Weil will teach you on this free video).
3. I surrounded myself with spirit support.
Next, I did a centering meditation I learned from Sonia Choquette where I call in the arc-angels, spirit guides and wise mentors and teachers. I visualized these loving beings surrounding me and this kept my mind calm for just a little longer.
4. I took some calming stuff.
Then I took Rescue Remedy and used a wonderful CBD/lavender roll-on I found at the local Sprouts to give my body some immediate relief. Rescue Remedy is easy to find online – the kind I have now is in a gummy form but there are several kinds, including tinctures and lozenges. There is also a version for pets that helps our dachshund when he gets stressed. 🙂
5. I did yoga.
I like Yoga With Adriene – she has hundreds of free yoga videos on YouTube and I love them as much for her “find what feels good” self-love approach as for the restorative poses themselves. (You can see all her videos on her YouTube channel here.)
6. I gave my muscles some attention.
I used a massage tool called the Hypervolt that my chiropractor recommended which very reliably helps my knotted neck and back muscles unclench. This is particularly important since my body can often get stuck in the fight-or-flight pattern and I will develop severe back pain. Then my back will go out.
7. I did EFT.
I also did EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). This is a free tapping method that can help you let go of big scary stuck emotions – the same kind of emotions that make you want to curl up into a barely breathing fetal position and join the “no wine left behind” club. (Here is short free video so you can quickly learn how to do EFT tapping on yourself.)
8. I journaled.
All that other stuff got me ready for the most helpful thing I did, which was to journal in the form of an email to the group leader on our coaching call.
To do this, I used Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements, or at least two of them. I used “Don’t make assumptions” and “Don’t take anything personally.”
I started my journaling process by identifying the assumptions I was making about a) being shamed, b) getting feedback I didn’t understand/didn’t want to hear that felt shaming. I also made sure to sincerely apologize about the errors I made and let the leader know I was willing to make amends for how they might have impacted the group dynamic.
While I was journaling, I continually reminded myself that this feeling sh**-storm I was going through wasn’t personal to anyone but me. In other words, I was reminding myself that even if I had felt hurt or shamed or judged in that moment, this likely wasn’t the group leader’s intention.
I also – and this is very important! – didn’t send the first or the second or the 10th draft of the letter I wrote. And it took me at least three hours to write all the drafts I needed to write, which was a drag because I spent my whole morning feeling completely stuck in the events of the previous day.
But as I wrote and rewrote and rewrote, I got clearer and clearer and clearer about why I felt shamed, what still makes me so vulnerable to shaming in that area of my life and what my goals were for joining the coaching program in the first place.
I also began feeling less triggered and more objective about my whole entire future life perhaps not being a big sucking waste of time and space after all.
This, as you might imagine, was a big relief.
Then I deleted the whole series of drafts. Swoosh. All gone.
9. I sent an email asking for clarification.
Then several hours later, I started the whole journaling process all over again. This time I was able to complete something in three drafts and that I felt basically good about sending (i.e. I felt it was not perfect but sufficient).
So then I sent it.
By this time I was feeling much, much, much better, calmer, clearer overall as well.
I could tell I felt better because I was able to go back to work (i.e. write this blog post and then other blog posts I needed to finish for other clients) and focus on the present moment rather than having to constantly yank my mental leash to drag my mind away from ruminations about yesterday and shame shame shame shame shame and back to present-now-here-work-life.
Shame Slamming Is Common In Our Culture
Shame slamming is kind of a thing in our culture, I’m realizing. It happens a lot on social media when one person posts a not-nice comment and then others see it and jump on board and before you know it you have to shut down your account to stop all those falling dominoes from burying your car and your casa and, well, you.
While I’ve never had anything that bad, I have definitely experienced shame slamming on social media and even here on this blog from time to time.
Shame slamming is modeled for us with some of the reality television shows as well. People go on the show and then become objects of mass public shaming in ways that can easily start to feel socially acceptable instead of cruel and unwarranted.
Looking back now, I can see that in the past I have taken in that culture to the point where I even invited shame slamming on some occasions, like putting myself down in public around people I knew would love to join in. It felt easier and safer than waiting for them to spring their singular flavor of sneak-attack cruelty on me.
But now I know the best way to avoid that kind of cruelty is to stop hanging around the perpetrators.
The good news about all this is that shame slamming actually hadn’t happened to me for awhile until this incident occurred.
So this time when it happened I had a lot more tools to tackle it.
Most importantly, I was able to name it right away without any extended miserable wondering about what was happening to me and why I felt so rotten and lost and unsafe and what was so wrong with me, etc.
Because shame slamming is so embedded in our culture today, I feel like we each need to develop our own methods to take good care of ourselves right away in moments when others clearly can’t or won’t or don’t know how or don’t want to, which is why I decide to write this blog post.
If you ever get shame slammed, I hope this will help you feel better faster.
With great respect and love,