Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Do you hide your light from others?, by Alexandra and Dan.

"Dear Saint-Germain, I love learning new and alternative ways to heal. I want to help others with what I already know, but I would still like to learn more. Right now I’m involved with homeopathy, reflexology, Reiki, and yoga. 

"My big problem is stage-fright. I have difficulty getting up in front of others, no matter what I’m doing. I feel exposed, so I find myself hiding my light. This keeps me from offering all that I am in service to others. Can you help me?" 

My dear friend, I AM Saint-Germain. 

It is clear that you have a great love of knowledge and an affinity for the healing arts. You are also drawn toward sensitive expression of all kinds, and this is something you should encourage in yourself as you go through life. You understand things easily, your interests are diverse, and your desire to use your creative talents is admirable. 

You love learning, teaching, and performing, as well as being in compassionate service to others. However, as you already mentioned, you’re experiencing some discomfort in doing this. You call it “stage fright” or performance anxiety. But in reality, it has more to do with how you relate to others emotionally, how you maintain your personal boundaries, and how willing you are to get to the depth of your experiences. Here is what I mean by this.

Subconscious emotional patterns
You are naturally attracted to positions of leadership, where you can demonstrate and share what you know with others. Yet, you can also feel uncomfortable being in front of people, whether these are friends and peers, or individuals you haven’t met before. 

This is largely due to subconscious emotional patterns that you carry within you. These may come from past lifetimes or earlier in this lifetime. But what they share in common is a conditioned expectation that you will be shamed, embarrassed, threatened, or hurt if you speak out or perform in front of people – no matter how much you might want to do this. 

What this suggests is that self-worth and esteem are involved here, as well as knowing that you are safe and secure in the world, and that you can trust others. 

This is the reason that you may feel challenged to move beyond your love of learning, to interacting more with your clients. To do this requires you to establish bonds of trust, and this could feel emotionally threatening to you. This is one of the main reasons you feel anxious in front of people, something that you are calling “stage fright”.

The perspective of neutral observation
You are being encouraged by your Soul to detach from the anxiety and discomfort that you feel when you are around people. This anxiety simply reinforces the belief that being seen as you really are, is an avenue to ridicule and shame, or a threat to your self-esteem. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should suppress or deny your feelings, or stop expressing yourself. It simply means that you should put things in perspective. It means that you would benefit from assuming the perspective of the neutral observer as much as you can, until you learn to feel more comfortable around people. 

When you take up the perspective of the neutral observer, you are calling upon your capacity to watch yourself as you interact with people, without getting caught up in the fear of being embarrassed. It is a detached and humble kind of self-assurance that doesn’t depend upon the validation or approval of others. 

You've learned to hide your light from others in order to protect yourself and not expose your sensitive feelings to rejection. But this is not working for you any more. Instead, if you can learn to let yourself be seen, instead of fearing that you will be hurt if you are exposed, then you will allow others to connect with you in a heartfelt way. This is how they will learn to trust you as a healer, and how you will learn to serve them as a provider.

When you assume the perspective of the neutral observer, it’s easy to remember your worth and abilities, and just go from there. You won’t be fearful about the impression that you will make on others, and your clients will sense this and relax. As a consequence, you’ll be able to focus on applying your skills, and your clients will be able to receive the treatment and care they seek from you. 

As you reach this place of neutrality, try shifting your attention to helping your clients. An attitude of service is a good remedy for performance anxiety because it takes the spotlight off of you, and allows you to shine your healing light on them, instead.

Staying open, while maintaining boundaries
Yes, as a healer you will need to establish trust with your clients as you serve them. You will do this by staying open to them emotionally, but within appropriate boundaries. This means that you must be available to inspire and uplift them, so that their healing is facilitated by your care and concern – but without getting pulled into their drama or suffering, which would only debilitate you and encourage their dependence. 

Maintaining appropriate boundaries with your clients means that you will need to establish your position as a professional who serves them, but not give away ground or disadvantage yourself by feeling uneasy around them. If you do, then you will soon find that there is no place left for you to stand. Remember to trust yourself and the Spirit that guides you. Have confidence in your ability and don’t depend on the approval or recognition of those you serve. It’s enough that the work is done.

Getting to the depth of your experiences
You are motivated by high ideals and a love of healing knowledge, but now you will need to ground these in the practical organization and execution of your craft. This is going to require your focus, discipline, and renewed commitment.

Remember that it will soon be time for you to get to the depths of your experiences as a healer. This means that you will have to make a commitment to staying focused, and not allow yourself to get sidetracked by competing interests or the temptation to try out everything that attracts you, without mastering any single modality. 

What is important for you right now is that you thoughtfully examine everything that you want to be doing. Look at this, and be honest with yourself about what really matters to you and what you want to achieve with your career. How do you want to step out into the world of service as a healer? 

You do love knowledge, it’s true. You’re someone who’s born to illuminate your mind by the light of your spiritual lamp. This means that you will be motivated to learn about the things that feel good to you and that you connect with deeply – and this is how it should be. But what you need now is to ground and focus your spiritual desire, so that you can step into meaningful and knowledgeable service as a healer. 

Your Soul is encouraging you to trust yourself more, remain confident in your skills, and have faith in the spiritual processes that are operating behind the scenes in your life. There is a great transformation taking place in your life now, and it’s going to continue for the next few years. So, be willing to accept what’s offered to you, if it feels right. Trust your intuition in this, as this IS the voice of guidance speaking to you in your moments of calm stillness. 

Remember that you are dearly loved, my friend. I AM Saint-Germain.

This material is offered to help free us from limitations by expanding human consciousness. It may be distributed without charge, provided this intention is honored. Commercialization by other parties requires the expressed written consent of the copyright holders, Alexandra and Dan. If you are reproducing this material, please credit the authors by name and include the following link: http://www.joyandclarity.com
© copyright 2007-2012 Alexandra and Dan
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The Power of Vulnerability, by Brené Brown

At the end of 2010, a reseacher named Brené Brown gave a talk at her local TEDx event, TEDxHouston. That talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” has since become a web-video phenomenon — viewed and shared by millions of people, who write us to say that her words — on shame, vulnerability and honesty — moved them, inspired them, helped them make change in their own lives. (It has also inspired at least two tattoos.)

When we invited Dr. Brown to speak at TED2012, she shared the impact her new fame has had on her own life and how putting her words on this big stage has caused her to reexamine what she knows about vulnerability. Before she spoke, our own Roxanne Hai sat down with Dr. Brown to ask her a few questions about the nature of vulnerability.

What’s the greatest lesson you have learned in your own life?

When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible. Keep worthiness off the table. Your raise can be on the table, your promotion can be on the table, your title can be on the table, your grades can be on the table. But keep your worthiness for love and belonging off the table. And then ironically everything else just takes care of itself.

How has your own journey in vulnerability and authenticity changed as you’ve become more well known and your work has become more well known?

Oh, it’s been hard. I call 2010 the year of the vulnerability talk and 2011 the year of walking the talk, because I was very unprepared. I so believe everything I said, and I really am trying to live that way, but I’ve become very clear in the last year that it is more complicated and more difficult than I thought.

One of the things I did when I discovered this huge importance of being vulnerable is very happily moved away from the shame research, because that’s such a downer, and people hate that topic. It’s not that vulnerability is the upside, but it’s better than shame, I guess. And what I realized over the last year is, if you don’t understand shame and you don’t have some shame resilience and awareness, then you cannot be vulnerable.

How did you come to realize that you needed to understand shame to be vulnerable?

It has been a great year, tons of support, tons of people saying, “God, I’m with you, thank you,” and then also really hardcore mean-spirited, cruel attacks. Which are just part of the process, right? And I think the reason I’m still standing is not because the word got out there that I was vulnerable, but I’m still standing because I understand shame.

I was very careful not to attach my worthiness to how well that talk did, because when you do that, then those comments are devastating. It’s not that they’re not devastating anyway — they hurt your feelings. I would argue more than ever that vulnerability is still just absolutely essential. That we can’t know things like love and belonging and creativity and joy without vulnerability, but in this culture of reflexive cynicism you better also really have an understanding of shame if you’re going to put yourself out there.

You mentioned you have received attacks and negative feedback from your vulnerability work. Can you talk about those?

I got a lot of feedback that was constructive and hard to hear, things like: “You shouldn’t be talking about vulnerability unless you’re going to talk about the construct of trust, and what do you think about trust?” And the truth is, I don’t understand it well enough to talk about it yet. I’m really still researching. And “What about this image that you used, I think it was hurtful.” It’s been a great debate. And I’m not afraid of that. You’ve been a faculty person for thirteen years, you’re used to some horrendous discussion and debate. I love that.

But the stuff which was really the most hurtful was just the mean-spirited stuff like, “If I looked like you, I would embrace imperfection too.” Or “Good mothers don’t unravel, and I feel sorry for your kids.” Just really mean-spirited cruelty, which is rampant and is really a part of our culture right now.

One of the things that I’ve learned, that I didn’t know before that [TEDxHouston] talk exploded, is how hard I’d been working to keep my career small. And that was a little bit heartbreaking for me, because I usually thought of myself as being pissed off because I couldn’t get my work out there enough. But really I think I was engineering that, because I was afraid of these things that actually happened, like the personal attacks.

For people to look at other folks who are trying to come up and share their work with the world, or their art, their ideas, their writing, their poetry, whatever, and say “You can’t care what other people think” is bullshit. When you lose your capacity to care what other people think, you’ve lost your ability to connect. But when you’re defined by it, you’ve lost your ability to be vulnerable. That tightrope is what my talk is about, and I think that balance bar we carry is shame resilience. I think it’s the thing that keeps us steady. If we can understand that: I’m not the best comment, I’m not the best accolade I’ve received, and I’m not the worst. This is my work.

What have you learned from the critics?

One thing that they’ve taught me, that I’m grateful for, is that at the end of every day, and at the end of every week, and at the end of my life, I want to be able to say I contributed more than I criticized. So they’ve taught me that I’m still standing.

What’s the one thing you really want to share, that didn’t make it into your talk?

I wish I could talk more about what I see going on in schools and corporations and families and churches and organizations. I wish I could talk more about why and how we’re losing people. The whole measurement idea of good parenting versus bad parenting, good employees versus bad employees — I don’t think it’s helpful and I don’t think it’s illuminating. I think the best way to look at things is: Are people engaged? Are people engaged parents, engaged employees, engaged leaders?

And I don’t think engagement can happen without vulnerability, and I definitely don’t think it can happen in the midst of shame. If you think dealing with issues like worthiness and authenticity and vulnerability are not worthwhile because there are more pressing issues, like the bottom line or attendance or standardized test scores, you are sadly, sadly mistaken. It underpins everything.

There’s not a talk that I’ve seen since I’ve been here — and I’ve been in all the sessions, and I saw the TED Fellows talks — there’s not a talk I’ve seen where people really touch lives and made a huge difference where they were not excruciatingly vulnerable. The results that we see at TED, and the innovation, and the incredible music and the art is an expected outcome, in my opinion, of human potential when people are willing to be brave and vulnerable. The reason why this is so rare is not because of the human potential that’s here. It’s because of the willingness of the people who are here to be brave and vulnerable. We all have this capacity; it’s a bravery conference. There’s no one who’s up there, including myself, who hasn’t failed. And I seriously doubt there’s many people up there who haven’t been the subject of major, heartbreaking criticism.

What group of people do you feel has been most impacted by your talk?

Across the board, I would say. If you want to ask me who needs it the most, I think we all need it. But the people who are really grappling with it the most are in the corporate sector. Veterans are a population that I’m really interested in, and police officers and firefighters, and people who we basically pay to be invulnerable. Then, when they return back to their lives, whether it’s at night when they come home or when they come back from a tour, they have no capacity for vulnerability and their lives are falling apart. We’ve seen a lot of research showing that for the veterans coming back from the Middle East right now, they’re more likely to die when they get home than over there, because of drugs, alcohol and violence. So I think all of us need this lesson, and all of us need this work. It’s not easy for any of us.

I asked my girlfriends (who are also big fans of your work) what they would ask you if they had the chance, and they all came back with this: What advice would you give to someone who feels like they are not [blank] enough to go about living more authentically and vulnerably?
Well, the idea of “I’m never enough” — beautiful enough, successful enough, thin enough, popular enough, loved enough, worthy enough — that’s shame and scarcity, and I’ve seen people overcome that every single day. I’ve gone through the process myself. I’ve interviewed people over the course of four years who’ve done a lot of this work. You have to understand shame. You have to understand where the message comes from, what drove it, how has it protected you in the past, and are you willing to look it in the eye and say, “Thanks, I appreciate it, but I’m not subscribing anymore. I’ve got a new way of doing things, and maybe you kept me safe and small in the past, but I’m not doing that.” The answer is absolutely that I’m not enough. You can overcome that, but you can’t overcome it without an understanding of shame. If you are not willing to have that conversation, there’s no way to the other side of it. You have to know what shame is.

How has understanding shame and vulnerability changed you as a parent?

Oh, it’s changed everything. My husband’s a pediatrician, so he and I talk about parenting all the time. You can’t raise children who have more shame resilience than you do. Because even if you don’t shame them, and even if you are actively trying to raise them feeling good about who they are, they’re never going to treat themselves better than you treat yourself. So that’s the bad news and the good news, but mostly the sucky news. If you want to raise a daughter with a really healthy body image, you better love your body as a mother, because that counts way more than looking at your daughter and saying “You’re beautiful and your body is beautiful.” All that matters to her is how she sees you acting with your own body. Which sucks. We can’t give children what we don’t have. We just have to be the adults we hope they grow up to be.

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness.