What Do You Do When Feeling Shame & Regret?

Profile of bearded man gazing down depicting feeling shame, with blurred ocean in the background

Lately, I’ve been feeling shame. The origin of this shame is the relationship I have with choice.

Feeling Shame Based on My Choices

Choices made, choices avoided, choices of courage, choices of cowardice. I linger, looking back, revisiting encounters where I could have risked all, diving headlong into the deep salt of the ocean. But instead I chose to find a dark cavern in a cliff where I could preserve myself from what I thought I wasn’t yet ready for.

I wonder if you, you who have experienced or are experiencing disordered eating, go through these punishing spells of regret too.

Feeling Shame Led to the Cave

Today, I’m recovered but still mending. Still stitching together, with care, my neglected parts. Attempting to integrate. Still timid at times. And still tending a narrow ribbon of flame that can expand as a blaze of fiery boldness and at other times diminish to an uncertain smolder. Now, I find myself again in a state of gestation. I am raking embers, warming myself by a quiet glow of red coals.

For ten long years, I hid out in a metaphorical cave. I was afraid to expose myself in the open. Feeling afraid and too feeble to cope with criticism or the carelessness of others, I hid from the cruelty of civilization.

Compartmentalization was a useful tool to ensure survival.

With this tool, I carved out unique spaces in my life for courage. My jobs as a crew leader and coach and conservationist, for romantic interactions, for my metaphysical interests and bookishness, my brazen thoughts and radical ideas, my poetry and passions.

But I prized aloneness outside of these categories. I never felt sure or too ready to bring my full talents to bear on the world.

Do you feel shame?

I wonder if you can relate. Do you ruminate on all the times you failed to unpeel the gossamer of your chrysalis?

I wonder if you dwell on those moments when you could have unfolded and flown. But instead you chose to retreat inside the familiarity of a habit.

I wonder if you’re too conscious of all the times you could have chosen to wake up and act accordingly – but instead trembled at the threshold of awareness.

Do you punish yourself, again and again, for not choosing growth over security?

I wonder if you filet your ambition, saving it for other, more valiant, souls. I wonder if you tell yourself easy lies. Do you tell yourself you need more time?

Freeing Yourself from Feeling Shame

I wonder if you can allow yourself more time.

Can you can forgive yourself for needing the open shoreline to rest on while you observe the ocean swell?

I wonder if you can forgive yourself for sometimes not moving boldly.

For desiring without pursuit, for permitting abuse and disrespect in relationships when you were not born yet and unsure of your value.

I look at my shame. And I look at the world. And I know, in the broader, compassionate lens of the cosmos, we each suit ourselves to our destiny in our own way.

I can also assent that our struggles and our coping is also the source of much of our understanding and emotional strength. Perhaps we compare ourselves to others. And then we feel regret.

But, at the same time we’re broken open by our weaknesses and challenged to greater depth of feeling.

In the darkness…

I tell myself, when I revisit regret, that it was in the darkness that I wretched and wrangled the real marrow from my bones. It is in the darkness that I found out about the paintings and petroglyphs that marked on the walls of my inner world.

It was in the darkness that I discovered the numinous, wondrous, miraculous. And I needed this darkness to compliment my light, to give contour and shading to the outer landscape.

There is no shame in dropping your roots down, reaching out your green tendrils, unfolding each petal at your own, intuitive timing.

And when the weather threatens your blooming, you are allowed to bow your head while the rain falls and absorb the water from the soil. Give yourself this season. Allow yourself your unique destiny.

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