Dan’s process echoes what I have seen repeatedly with men (and women)—that allowing and becoming intimate with our shame is the gateway to reclaiming our power, strength, and potency as men and as sexual beings. It isn’t shame per se that diminishes our power and capacities, it’s our resistance to feeling it. That is what disconnects us from our hearts, and from our authentic selves, from where the true power we long for springs.
I recall as a kid being frightened while trying to fall asleep alone in my room, scared that there were monsters or ghosts hiding under the bed or in the closet. It was only after my mom or dad would come and open the closet door for me that I could I relax and fall asleep. Keeping the door shut and locked, afraid to look at our shame, we remain scared little children. Only by opening the door, peering into the dark, and shining the light of our awareness on those shadowed places can we free ourselves from the burden of our hidden and unacknowledged shame.
And, as with children, opening such doors is a lot easier with some company. Diving into the depths of our psyche to excavate what has been buried and repressed seems less terrifying when done alongside an adult therapist or fellow traveler. And we may need to examine the closet many times before we’re convinced that no monster or ghost lives there. Alone or accompanied, instantaneous or gradual, it is all healing transformation.
In one of our sessions, Dan recounted a time when he challenged his teacher in the first grade. He was sent to the principal’s office where he had to wait for his mother to come pick him up. A single working mom, she was incredibly stressed and embarrassed by the incident herself, and she ended up locking him in his room for the rest of the day, uninterested in his side of the story. There, feeling misunderstood, sad, lonely, rejected, and already abandoned by his absent father, Dan concluded, even if unconsciously, that other people were dangerous. They were not to be trusted and depended upon, especially not those in positions of power.
I prompted Dan in our session to find compassion in his heart for his younger self. He asked his six-year-old self what he needed and heard in response: “I need to be accepted,” “I need to belong,” and “I need a hug, someone to hold me.” As he hugged his inner child in his imagination, both his adult and younger self relaxed. After, his child-self was ready to go out and play. It affected adult Dan as well! He contacted a joyful, innocent part of himself that rarely would come out. “This playful energy is very attractive,” adding “not only to myself but also, I imagine, to women.”
Dan and I would revisit his shame many more times. And with each dive, Dan recovered another jewel buried within a painful and traumatic memory that could be transformed and healed. In one particularly productive session, Dan told me that he had reached a tender, vulnerable part of his heart, one that felt like a naked infant, utterly dependent on a mother’s care and needing to be nourished from her breast. At first, he resisted feeling that level of vulnerability and need for others, but then as he continued to open himself up, he learned to revere its beauty, purity, and innocence.
We continued to use the AI method to explore the feelings and beliefs that accompanied these incidents until Dan developed a close relationship with his younger self, learning to comfort and reassure him. As he embraced his inner child, he let go of his need to be “independent” and instead accessed his playfulness and innocence. Along with it came a healthy appetite for connection and inter-dependence. He learned to become more vulnerable with this partner, which deepened their relationship and love. And, while he continued to be attracted to other women, his need to act out through external affairs was eliminated over time and his difficulty with sustaining an erection all but disappeared.
Continue reading: 8: DIFFERENCE, GENDER, SEX, AND SHAME
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