Transform Shame into Essence then Action

May 17, 2011

The deeper I’ve dug into my stories of shame (thanks to the community at the Savor & Serve Cafe and the guest experts we invite in for long wonderful chats like Brene Brown and Eric Klein), the more I’ve seen the link between failing at something and creating a huge, heavy story of “I can’t ever have it.”

I have a plethora of shame stories – ancient ones from the 5th grade talent show, USC film school, my first job as literary agent’s assistant – and more recent ouches like my divorce, losing my magazine column, another year going by without writing a new book.

What I find fascinating about my failures is how my default used to be to go into fear and “never” rather than “ouch!” and heart-cradling.

Fear and never looks like because I failed at X, I can never have Y.

Ouch and heart cradling looks like calling my best friend to be witnessed, crying, long walks in the woods, naps with the doodles, talking to my Bob, meditating on my feelings, prayer and later (sometimes lots later) asking “What is the essence of what I wanted and how else might I express that essence?”

Alchemize shame into essence, and then into action.

I wanted to be a film director. I wasn’t very good at it. I also hated working in Hollywood, was clueless about politics and positioning (still am). The essence of my filmmaking dream? Create with other fun people.

But for years after “failing” in Hollywood, I shut down that desire and worked alone, mired in shame that working with others was not possible.

Chains of shame vs. alchemy of essence.

Which one will help you savor & serve?

I feel such mercy for the me that believed that because things don’t work out the way I wanted that meant I’m flawed and thus blocked from having what I want. Forever.

I feel such mercy for all of us when we fall into these erroneous stories.

I invite you to alchemize your shame stories. Here’s the secret philosopher’s stone to do so:

I can’t have _____  because of _________. You may find yourself making a long, long list of what you can’t have or do or you may find yourself getting bored very quickly.

Now for each item on that list, ask yourself, “What is the essence of what I wanted and how else might I express that essence now?”

Now go take action on expressing that essence now.

Big love to you the s/hero of your own life!

P.S. Shame is a kudzu vine choking off your life force. Shame blocks savoring: it’s too painful to be present, you don’t feel worthy of all that is being bestowed on you. Shame blocks service: what do I have to offer?  Let’s blow the doors off the past and realize our desires into action – right about NOW.


I’ve been humbled and totally blown-away by the amazing response to my Writers Retreat contest. You have to read the entries in the comments – zowee wowzee hot dog! In fact, there are so many amazing entries (like 95) I’ve decided to shorten the deadline  – otherwise, my blog might spontaneously combust from all the creative energy.  You now have until this Friday, 5/20, at noon PDT to enter.

Whether you’ve entered, or not; whether you win, or not, I hope you’ll give some serious thought and consideration to attending the retreat. It’s a fabulous week full of great teaching, luxurious surroundings, and, of course, generous, extravagant writing. I promise: it’s worth the investment.

Read more. Join me!

Jettison Self-Doubt and Lose the Itty-Bitty-Shitty Committee and Make Your Thing Now

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