Have you noticed that there is a common word that seems to be used more than usual recently? The one I’m often hearing is "Should", and there has been hardly a conversation in the past weeks where it didn't crop up more than once.
Phrases like "I should use the time of lockdown to gain extra skills", "I should exercise more", "I should be more disciplined" are among the most common. Those phrases usually continue with the admission that whatever should have been done has not been done. The feelings that come with it are shame, embarrassment and guilt.
When I noticed the pattern, I began to reflect on the use of the word "should", and the role shame plays in our relationships and society. Even if we don't know how the sentence will continue, the appearance of "should" signals that the speaker has failed to accomplish something, or expects failure even before acting. So, what are we really saying when we use this word? I believe that it is an expression of dissonance, and it points towards a split in our personal reality: on one side there is an expectation, and on the other, there is the truth of who we are.
In my last blog, I briefly discussed how society shapes us by using the concept of "good versus bad" and creating a shadow personality by suppressing whatever parts of us are being rejected. Let us now look for a moment at how this plays out.
The most commonly used tool to shape a personality is shame. Whenever a child acts in a way that is not welcome, others will react in ways that instil feelings of embarrassment, guilt or fear of abandonment in the child. Sentences like "Look at what you have done - I am so disappointed in you!", or "How dare you to embarrass me in public like this?" come to mind, along with actions that make clear that we have lost the other person's affection to some degree. As humans, we are social creatures, and nothing instils a more profound fear in us than the threat of abandonment or exile. Because of that, shame and embarrassment become existential threats to us. Even as adults, we will go to great lengths to avoid situations where we could be shamed, because our survival instincts associate shame with the risk of exile and death. This is why teenagers panic at the thought of being ridiculed by their peers, and often act foolishly to be seen as "cool" even though they should know better. To avoid shame, we do our best to fit in with our tribe, our social network. It affects our appearance, the way we speak, who we associate with, and who we may love… no area of life is free of the influence of shame.
But what do we do when the demands of our social circle go against our nature? When the threat of shame forces us on a path that leads to misery? How much are we ready to sacrifice to avoid the spectre of guilt? At some point, everyone has to face that question in one way or another. Each of us is a unique creation, not a puzzle piece that fits seamlessly into the social fabric.
When you look back over your life, you might notice that those moments you had to weigh being true to yourself against potential ridicule and rejection, have shaped you. No matter which option you chose, you would not be who you are now without it.
In my last blog, I introduced you to the concept of the 5 drivers, and how they are utilised in Naad Yoga. In contrast to other spiritual or yogic schools, the 5 drivers are not rejected or suppressed. Instead, we channel their energy without distorting the law of nature.
Imagine a river that rushes through a deep canyon. If you dam up the flow, sooner or later the rising water will wash away the obstacle, or find new channels and flow around it. However, a hydroelectric dam uses sluices to control the flow, letting enough water through to avoid the barrier being overwhelmed. At the same time, the energy of the water is used to create electricity. Naad Yoga is like such a dam, creating a balance between all 5 drivers and ensuring their power is used consciously and constructively.
Shame is a topic that we need to address when we want to achieve mastery over our drivers. Otherwise, we trip over our own feet - or rather, over our own fears!
The driver Lust or Kaam is the driver that has been burdened the most throughout the evolution of human culture. Societies have been dominated by religion for a very long time, and most religions have been bent on strictly controlling and restricting sexuality. As a result, lust and sexuality have been weighed down with shame. Even the modern society we now live in lacks a healthy relationship with both. There is still a sense of discomfort, fear and the forbidden associated with it. But what is this driver actually?
Lust is a driver that provides us with sexual energy and the force behind our creativity, curiosity and enthusiasm. It enables us to engage in romantic relationships, allows us to closely interact with each other, and relate to each other's feelings - or rather, to be aware of each other's "being". It fosters deep connections and balances our intellect. Without this driver, no children would be born, but there would also be no works of art - no music, no dance, painting, sculptures, poetry… creation means to bring forth something new, to be a channel for inspiration and life itself. It doesn't really matter if the outcome is physical, intellectual or brought about by our hands' work. This is the driver that nurtures life, opens the door for profound experiences and through it, we are reborn many times within one lifetime. We invent ourselves anew, start over, throw ourselves headfirst into a new adventure. It doesn’t matter if this adventure is a romance, a new project at work, or cooking dinner. Whenever we create something and open ourselves to a new experience, this driver provides us with the energy to do it.
I would like to invite you to explore your relationship with the driver lust, contemplate how you feel about it - which parts of it are you comfortable with, and which ones make you uneasy? How aware are you of shame? Are you aware when it influences your decisions? How much of yourself are you ready to trade away for the sake of safety and acceptance?
You can master your drivers or let others take the reins to master you - so sit with your fear of shame and decide when it make sense and when it does not. The more you can embrace your nature and your whole being, the less you are prey to shame.
Let us not forget that we, as human beings, are unique creations of the divine, growing and continuously evolving to express our highest potential. There is no shame in that!