+SHAME AS A REACTION TO SOCIAL RISK – AND A DREAM

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014.  When I pay attention the interrelatedness of life makes perfect sense and fascinates me.  Life as I notice it does not unfold in a linear fashion but rather as an organic “one thing” that includes surprises along the way.  SHAME can very often be an instinctive and automatic response to something that crosses our path that involves some kind of social risk.  Social risks open a door to surprises we might not feel competent to handle.  Then what?

A few moments ago I responded back to an email a dear and very knowledgable friend sent me today that included mention of SHAME and relationships.  He and I have both studied the writings of developmental neuroscientist Dr. Allan N. Schore who clearly describes the inception of the shame reaction at around age one that can only begin to operate once an infant’s central nervous system has matured in its development far enough to let shame happen.

Schore describes the purposes of shame and what happens when early attachment relationship failings turn shame in the direction of toxicity that is most often then compounded by failings within the infant’s entire attachment environment.

It is not my point in this post to delineate specific details surrounding a discussion of shame other than to say it is tied to the “hide” and “freeze” response stage of the stress response system.

I want to mention a dream I woke from when my alarm went off this morning.  I know I dream often but rarely remember dreams any more.  When one is kind enough to leave me a trailing of its imagery I am very grateful — and very interested in what the dream might “be about.”

In this dream I was among a group of about 12 very nice people.  We were all walking along a road carrying small items that were personally significant to us in a variety of containers.  Carved and embellished wooden boxes, well-crafted baskets and other containers held our various objects.

Suddenly (and this kind of turn of events is always significant in dreams) we were overtaken by a BLOCK OF ICE as we and all of our objects were frozen within it.  The ice was crystal clear so that we could watch what happened next.  Our block was lifted by a crane onto a semi-trailer and we were hauled to “a place of thawing.”

Somehow, the way dreams operate, myself and all the people were free from the ice chunk as soon as we arrived at this place which itself did not appear to be anyplace especially unique.  We visited as we waited and we each took an interest in whose special belongs were unthawing next.

Nothing was damaged, nor were we harmed in any way.  Our items were not even wet as they became freed.  As my alarm woke me the last woman’s objects were nearly ready to pick up.  I remember that they sat atop a wooden stool (like I sit on here as I write with my computer above the reach of eager baby fingers).  I do not remember what any object was!

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It was not until I was responding to my friend’s email that mentioned shame to which I mentioned in return something about the “hide” and “freeze” response each being connected to our inner need to feign death to stay alive and to keep ourselves safe from threat and attack.  I think we do this with our talents, too.  My present considerations about the upcoming publication of the first book in our series, Story Without Words, and my thinking about creating a new blog and steering book readers even further in my direction was probably connected to this dream.

I find it fascinating that I was among friends who all experienced the same event that I did.  Together we had no fear at all about what was happening and perhaps it was this companionship (within an “attachment village”) that prevented any harm from coming to our favored belongings, as well.

I think healthy shame gives us wisdom about keeping ourselves safe, about our limits and boundaries, about the possible intentions/actions toward us of other people (a “Theory of Mind” (TOM) concern) and about the timing of the ventures we take on in our life.  Shame in its true sense is about negotiating social relationships with others so that they work best for all concerned.  Shame is something to pay attention to but it need not be something that keeps us stuck in life patterns that do not serve our best interests.

We can recognize it when we feel it, examine what triggered it, decide what we want to do next as we find a way to move on in our life rather than letting a part of us atrophy and die along the way.

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All of this enticed my mind to connect to a movie I watched that described the purpose of two stages of our dreaming.  I am not yet reconnected to Netflix so I cannot say specifically which stage was which — one being pre-REM and the other being REM — one allowing us to integrate experiences we have already had and the other allowing us to practice for the future.

Because dreams do not distinguish themselves separately from one another I imagine a dream like mine left me with a sense of wholeness because I was doing both jobs at once!

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NOTES:

I highly recommend (available streaming on Netflix) this NOVA program – What are Dreams?

Watching this show was the first I learned that there are two different kinds of dreaming that happen during two different stages of sleep – and depression (and probably all other anxiety difficulties) seriously interferes with both of them.

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An informative website about the general stages of dreaming:

How Dreams Work

by Lee Ann Obringer

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I came upon this dream website in September 2010 and thought it might be helpful to anyone, especially severe trauma and abuse survivors, for gaining new information that can assist in our healing work:

North of Eden – Dreams Illuminate the Soul

About Archetypal Dreamwork

Every dream has an intention.

Every dream has a plan.

Every dream wants to lead you back to your heart, your core, your essence, the very fiber of your real being-ness. We forget our real being-ness. We forget our pure child hearts.

We forget who we are.

Every dream wants to lead us back to the soul within that remembers who we are.

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Some of my notes on the writings of Dr. Daniel Siegel here popped up in connection to this post (in some mysterious way) – SHAME – as a state of mind

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