So, I wrote a blog post about lists the other day. You might wonder why I was so intrigued that I wanted to write about it. How does it connect to the de-construction of shame?
Allow me to take a few steps back. First of all, I attended this workshop on sleep and dreams because I am passionate about them. Most of the folks taking the workshop were there because they ‘suffer’ from insomnia. I was the odd ball for sure, stating in my self-intro that I loved sleep and naps. The presenter shared a lot of information about the ‘whys’ of insomnia and suggestions for modifying common behaviors that work against sleep.
What I got from the sessions was validation of my (I don’t know where it came from, but I have always felt it) belief in the significance of sleep and dreams. There were many obvious (once you hear them) insights into how our cultural norms are stacked against valuing sleep, rest & dreaming; about the mechanistic way that sleep is addressed medically and colloquially. Generally sleep is considered a matter of bodily maintenance; the personal, emotional, psychological and spiritual realities of sleep and dreaming are widely disregarded.
I absolutely love it when someone offers language to describe and explain what I have been feeling or intuitively knowing. I guess that’s why I write, in the hope that I could offer that sensation of “Yes, that’s how I feel or think” to another person on the planet. Speaking of the planet, of course there are other cultures where sleep and dreams are highly esteemed. Our loss (rejection) of this fundamental human experience appears to be part of the post-Industrial Revolution cultural shift that includes so many other de-humanizing elements.
One of the behaviors mentioned as being detrimental to entering and remaining in the world of sleep was referred to as Mind Noise.
That’s where the lists come in. I know I regularly go to bed with a head full of ‘to do’s swirling around. If I don’t drift into sleep easily or if I awaken in the night, it is ‘to do’ worry that keeps me revved up. Tomorrow plans: which errand, chore or task to prioritize, what to wear (is it clean?), what to cook for supper… It’s a mess. Not surprisingly, when those are my final conscious thoughts, they are there waiting for me first thing in the morning.
How many times have you read or heard these words… “I woke up and at first I felt good and then I remembered…” The sentence is often finished with the mention of a tragedy, like the death of a loved one, or one’s own illness, but it can also be a less dramatic, but very real worry like not having a job or enough money to buy food for your family. Or having a report due at work or school. The point is, we often awaken to some form of dread.
I’ve been reading Brené Brown’s 2012 book, Daring Greatly. Her thoughtful words on vulnerability and shame always resonate for me. But I was gob-smacked (love that expression) while reading her chapter on Scarcity: Looking Inside our Culture of “Never Enough”. I encountered this quote from Lynne Twist’s book, The Soul of Money.
“For me and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ The next one is ‘I don’t have enough time.’ Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. … Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack…”
And there you have it; my day is book-ended by lists and worry, which perpetuate the nasty shameful feeling that I am not good enough. No matter what I do. So, as part of this battle to deconstruct shame, I am taking a closer look at the verbs that occupy my lists and the adverbs that inform the actions. Can it be that this strategy, which I have presumed to be useful and benign, is actually a way that I participate in self-shaming? Maybe it’s not that simple, but I need to look into it.
Your thoughts are welcome…