Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Breakup or Divorce: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

Breakup or Divorce: Dealing with Guilt and Shame by Beth Hemmila of Breakup Care Package

Easy is a blindfold.
- Beth Hemmila
When you breakup or get divorced there is a boatload of shame tagging along behind you. Even though statistics indicate that 41% of first marriages end in divorce, which seems like a huge chunk of the population to me, our culture still seems to attach a lot of unconscious shame to this life experience of letting go.

Consequently, the end of your relationship is going to give you an opportunity to work with a lot of deep shame that has been lurking behind you perhaps your entire life, asking for your love and attention. Working with your uncomfortable feelings won't be easy but in the following post, I've given you a sense of how you might be with the shame that accompanies a breakup or divorce.


You can't escape from suffering. Rinse and repeat.

I know this concept very well, but unfortunately my mind is convinced there will be a glorious end to the pain, hassles, challenges, and discomforts of my life. In fact, secretly I believe I am an escape artist with the power to exit stage left wherever pain exists. What's waiting for me off stage that's so exciting? The belief that things will be easy.

But what I keep hearing life say back to me is that there is no escape. If you run from suffering, it follows you and takes another form. It knocks on your door and says, "Hey, What's up? I've been looking for you all over the place."

One of the deepest forms of suffering we all share is shame. Something that I think most of us would like to avoid. Many times we see ourselves trying escape difficult situations, relationships, jobs, and circumstances -- things we can name and point to with a childlike certainty. However, what's more illusive is when we are running away from our own shame. It's hard to see and touch. Shame is difficult to explain to another person because it's all wrapped up in our mysterious thoughts and feelings.

Shame is like a scruffy, mangy, flea-ridden dog from the streets who tags along behind you looking for a handout. Maybe at first you don't see him, but then he patiently waits outside your door all skinny and beat up, making noise, disrupting your day, asking you to pay attention. You don't want to give him the time of day because he might cause you discomfort.

This is what shame feels like to me. You can't shake him. He sticks to you like glue asking for your time and a morsel of your love.

The other day while I was having yet another big lesson in no escape from shame, I felt my mind scurry around looking for solutions, band aids, and a way out. Then I realized that without a doubt there was no where to run. So I sat and laughed. And then I cried because I finally understood what it was like to have equanimity for myself.

In Buddhism, equanimity means to "stand in the middle of all this," and I have written about it before in regards to dealing with other people and circumstances outside yourself, but I have never explored how you can apply it to your own self. How do you stand in the middle of all you have created from your relationship and its ending, including the shame that follows you like a shadow wherever you go, and just be with it?

What I discovered is that perhaps you have to be like a kindly grandmother with your shame. Sit there. See it. Maybe even hold it's hand. You're not there to fix, heal or change your shame but to just be with it. To practice a sort of soft patience as you and your shame breathe in time together. To rest in the middle of all of it and recognize everything will be okay just as it is.