“Shame is a soul eating emotion.”
During my time as a psychotherapist, “shame” remained a permeating theme among my patients…one that I also readily related to. Shame is all too often connected to sex, gender, and social status…it is a state of suffering (I would argue) imposed by society (“how others see me”) and not necessarily an inherent mental state.
As a woman who has spend a great deal of my adult life exploring sexuality, shame is not an emotion I am unfamiliar with…although it’s never been a guiding (or rather hindering) force. For me, shame has crept in when I have been far too attuned to the opinions of others and not when I was simply exploring desires…that, to me, felt quite innocent and authentic. So herein lies the paradox (so articulately stated by another, whose post I happened upon today on Facebook):
Can innocence and shame coexist, or are they mutually exclusive experiences?
I remember masturbating as a young girl, maybe age nine or so, I truly had no idea what sex even meant aside from seductive images gleaned from rated R movies; I was simply doing what felt “good”. At some point prior I must have been “given” the idea that sex was “naughty”…but even still I engaged in this act, which I would now consider innocent…and yet, I quite distinctly recall feeling shameful at the time;
It was bad, no…I was bad!
This, and similar experiences, have certainly influenced how I now feel about sex, as an adult…how could it not? Although I would counter that, even today, as experimental and “wild” as some would consider my sexual choices…I still feel an innocence about my desires. I understand and acknowledge the judgment that others may or may not attribute to my actions; however, I don’t feel particularly inhibited by that judgment. Perhaps, it’s possible to acknowledge the shame that society imbues and yet not to become a victim of it. Maybe…it’s possible, even as an adult who experiences shame, to be an innocent explorer in the world of sexuality.
I hope so….no, I know so.