Freedom From Hidden Shame
In 1977, Barry and I had the great fortune of having Ram Dass counsel and mentor us in person for over two years. He is the Harvard psychology professor who brought the teachings of his Indian guru to the United States. His first book, Be Here Now, became a kind of bible to us, and was a world-wide sensation. Ram Dass went on to teach many thousands of people directly through his talks and also millions through his books. He was writing a book about his guru and moved to Soquel, a small town ten minutes from our home in Aptos, near Santa Cruz. He decided that, rather than isolate himself completely, he would choose six people who he would counsel and help over the several years that he was writing his book. Barry and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and he chose us. And we needed help to become humble and more grounded.
Ram Dass taught us many very important things, many of which we still use in our work forty-seven years later. Perhaps the most important is to accept and love ourselves completely and to not hide the darker sides of our being. Everyone has something that they hide from others. They feel that if others knew their dark secrets, they would not like them. Therefore, it is easier to just show everyone the best part of themselves. He told us again and again that we must bring out these hidden parts and embrace and make friends with those parts of ourselves. As we can love the parts that we keep hidden, we become more authentic and powerful.
For twenty years, Barry and I worked in Europe leading workshops in Germany, Norway and Italy. In one of the training workshops in Germany, we asked everyone to share with a small group something that they keep hidden and have difficulty loving. An older man named Tom asked us to come us closer and sit with him as he shared. He was obviously very scared. He went on to share that he had a terrible secret, that to comfort himself he dressed in women’s clothing. No one knew about this, except for his wife who thankfully was very accepting. They raised two children together and these children never knew about this. We gave him a lot of love and acceptance and then told him that it would be good if he shared this with the whole group of about twenty people, who had been together as a training group for two years. Tom grew pale with fear. But because he trusted us, he did open up. When he shared his shame, all of the people in the group were very accepting and loving. This acceptance and love allowed Tom to more fully love himself and not live in shame for this part of himself.
The next year with the same group of people, we asked him to show us how he dresses in women’s clothes. His fear level was very great, but he excused himself and came back several minutes later wearing a woman’s flannel nightgown. Most of the group imagined the outfit would be more sensual, but this is what brought comfort to him. He looked a bit like an old-fashioned grandma. Once again, the group was very accepting and loving towards him. The act of so-openly sharing this secret with others brought great freedom to Tom. Over the following years that we saw him, he reported that as he loved himself more, he was able to love others more and was able to see beauty around him more fully. He told his two grown children and they had great acceptance for him and they got even closer. The act of bringing forth his shame and feeling the acceptance of others was a very positive life change.
It takes great energy to hide a secret shame. It takes great energy to only show the positive side of yourself and be in fear that others might reject you if they knew what secret you had. As you bring this forth and feel love and acceptance for yourself, your whole life will change for the better.
I am currently counseling a woman who is gradually week by week sharing a secret she has held onto for fifty years. It was very difficult for her to first share with me, I am the first person to know her secret. I have met everything she shares with me with the deepest love from my heart. It is an absolute privilege to hear her shame. As she shares more, I find myself loving her more and more and seeing her beauty more clearly. She has shared with me that since telling me of this secret shame, her work and love life have greatly improved.
There is great power in bringing forth the parts of ourselves that we keep hidden because of shame. In the words of Ram Dass, “As you bring forth these hidden parts of you to love, they become part of your power.” We become more whole as we can love ourselves more fully.
I am suggesting this for all people, to find someone that you can share something that you hold as shameful, something that you have never told anyone. This could be a close friend, a partner or a therapist. Share with them this hidden shame. You will find that they will be able to accept you and love you and show no judgement. This act of sharing something that you have kept secret will open you up to greater love and a more profound sense of freedom.