Three Paths to Growth
Dr. Brene Brown, a famous professor and social scientist sheds light on what most people avoid. Not only has her studies of courage, vulnerability, and shame gained global attention, she’s a woman after my own heart. I’ve experienced the truths of her research through my personal history. She shows us how to break free from shame. And I’ve used three paths to growth through the acronym AIR.
Shame is a human condition
Shame is a human condition in which we need resilience. Dr. Brown clarifies that silence, secrecy, and judgment keep shame in tact. To illustrate, I use a flourishing plant in my office to explain how shame grows.
I tell my clients. “A plant needs regular sunlight, water, and plant food to keep growing. Otherwise, it will shrivel up and die. If shame was a plant, it needs regular secrecy, silence, and judgment to stay alive. If it doesn’t get those three things, it will eventually shrivel and loose it’s power over us.”
Shame drives addictions
Shame drives addictions like drugs, alcohol, and pornography. Shame can also drive socially acceptable behaviors like over-working or home-schooling our children. Hyper-religiosity, over-achievement, perfectionism, and over-responsibilities are also shame-driven behaviors. Those and many other things block our authentic journey. I’ve claimed Father Richard Rohr as one of my spiritual directors. He writes about scanning our thoughts for spiritual malware. When we detect “malicious software” on our computers, we need to be aware of how our minds are subject to addictive thinking. (from his book, Just This)
Shame Can Be Broken through Faith
When our faith helps us take risks to break shame’s power, we no longer bear its weight. Yet it requires daily awareness and intentionality. Or a daily scan for spiritual malware as Rohr would say. We must first be aware, then intentional before taking risks of growth.
Awareness, Intentionality, and Risks
AIR is the formula I use for growth. It stands for awareness, intentionality, and risks. Awareness leads us to recognize self-judgments and comparisons with others. We can be intentional to share with another person or group to weaken shame. Freedom happens when we expose the dark places of our humanity to the light. But it’s a risk. And that’s when we align with our authentic selves. That’s why I call my counseling office sacred space. For most, it’s holy ground that breaks through shame.
There’s more to the story as I continue this amazing book-writing journey. It’s worth the risk. Let’s all break free from shame. And breathe AIR for three paths to growth: awareness, intentionality, and risks.