Understanding Shame – What is the Shame Matrix™:
The movie trilogy “The Matrix” grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide. The premise was that humanity was all part of a complex technological program and very few individuals would awaken to actual reality outside this matrix. When I observe individuals and families heal, there is a similar process of awakening that is fundamental.
Early in my career, I was perplexed with how many clients I was seeing that had been through prior treatment. Some programs flat out failed and some did harm. But the majority had helped, teaching great strategies and tools and resulted in times of sobriety. The trend, however, relapsed, followed by deeper secrets and self-loathing.
Client’s Personal Struggle
Years ago a close associate often contacted our clinic regarding his addiction struggles. He had tried various recovery programs and shared with us the meaningful tools and lessons he discovered. He was up and down but overall progressed over the years.
One day he became vulnerable and stated,
“I just feel like something crucial is missing. What is wrong with me!?”
A light went off or perhaps it was more like a Nuclear Event. He had just stated,
“What is wrong with me!?”
Upon further discussion, it came out how deeply this good man loathed himself, his past, and his upbringing. Many times throughout the years those around him had confirmed this self-loathing, this shame.
Understanding The Shame Matrix™
He was stuck in the Shame Matrix™ and so were so many he associated with.
Another close friend stated,
“When in the (expletives) will I hit my rock bottom!? Haven’t I already hit it!? I’m financially ruined, divorced, and should be dead or in jail.”
Behaviors did not change for some time despite token efforts. Now let me jump ahead. This person met with someone who I call a “Healer.” We can all be healers. My friend unloaded his past on this person. Suffice to say, the past was messy.
He expected to be told how awful he was, how many people he had hurt, and that he was destined for hell. Instead this healer stated,
“How long have you been beating yourself up? You have tortured yourself for so long. You are amazing to tell me all this. Thank You.”
More was said but that emotional compassion was the premise. This friend stated,
“I progressed more in 2 months than I had in 20 years.”
Once he started understanding shame, he was motivated. He had begun his awakening outside of the Shame Matrix.
It was met with a lot of self work, recovery meetings, and action but the process of healing became a reality. This friend embraced their vulnerable story, was met with compassion, and then went to work.
Shame Does NOT Go Away
Reality check! : Shame is not something that just goes away. It is a part of being human.
One certainty is that the Shame Matrix will try to suck you in as long as you live. One of my all time favorite client comments that sent us into laughter was,
“I am so ashamed of feeling so much shame.”
“Welcome to the shame club!”
Our Own Shame
Life has been as much of a tutor as my profession. My sister, also a licensed therapist, and I joke that we would win an award for self-shaming. We all are our own biggest critics, or we are narcissists, to whom I would say,
“You are an amazing narcissist. Don’t be ashamed!”
Despite my own shaming experiences (constituting my life until 30 years old) I also have done 100s of my own hours of work, therapy, and learning to walk through and understand shame in healthy ways. Awakening from the Shame Matrix is NOT about perfection but PROGRESSION.
Deep Contemplation I Can’t Ignore
Hours of deep contemplation and 1000s of client experiences have created an awakening I cannot ignore. A 12 year old client stated,
“I will never be good enough. Why even try?”
An elderly client stated,
“My whole life is a failure. I don’t even know if it’s possible to not hate myself.”
A mother stated,
“I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t do it all. I’m not capable, I’m not good enough.
Why do I hate myself so much!?”
Those who know me know my heart weeps with compassion for those who feel like this. Don’t we all at times?
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I hope we can all experience or amplify the awakening in ourselves, our families, religions, and society by understanding Shame better.
You are great despite the struggles you may be experiencing.
Robert S. Robison, LMFT