I was in deep sadness when i realized that what i was missing was a mutual interest in repair. And i was missing COAL. I could remember the acronym. I couldn’t remember what it stood for. As i was leafing through my notes from a workshop by Sarah Peyton (yes, avoiding my pain), i saw another note “shame immobilizes.” Then i found COAL. It stands for curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love.
And what about that immobilizing? I felt completely immobilized. I couldn’t even imagine getting out of my chair. There must be shame there somewhere, i realized. As i was looking at my pain, i noticed that i was longing to be seen by the other person. I wanted her to see the pain this was causing in me – and she didn’t seem to see that. She seemed to be blaming me (which may be completely my (mis)interpretation – i haven’t been able to check that out with her). I was telling myself: It is all my fault!
There it was! Starring at me maroon on white (i journal in color): It is all my fault! That was the shaming belief! And then i remembered that there is a process i could use to transform that belief. It’s a process developed by Sarah Peyton that integrates Nonviolent Communication and interpersonal neurobiology. It involves saying the belief out loud as if we mean it (and i meant it, at least at first) and then sensing into our bodies and guessing feelings and needs. This allows us to access an implicit memory – the core belief – and reconsolidate it with new meaning. In this process, we repeat these steps until saying the core belief no longer rings true. That’s when it sunk in that it’s not all my fault.
As i was working through this process, the tears finally started running. I had spent some time earlier during the day working with another friend on this. She had pointed out how i kept analyzing what was going on – avoiding experiencing the pain. I had been doing that again – and somehow transforming the shame helped me access the tears (well, and sticking with the process, knowing that i have a tendency to avoid pain). I also transformed my suffering into mourning. In suffering, we are stuck in the amygdala (the part of our brain that stores implicit memories that haven’t been fully processed and integrated), we cannot make sense of our experience. We are asking why something happened, continuously blaming ourselves or the other for what happened. When we transform suffering into mourning, we move an implicit memory with all its emotional charge into the explicit with its contextualization of understanding. It now makes sense. It’s still sad, yes. The sadness is no longer overwhelming, all encompassing, immobilizing. At least in my case, i took the shame out.