The wise Seth Godin recently posted a blog titled “Hiding.” He included these words: “We hide by avoiding things that will change us … We hide by asking for reassurance. We hide by letting someone else speak up and lead … We live in fear of feelings.”
Shame is the hiding emotion. Here are some of my thoughts on the origin of hiding:
We are born with core feelings of exuberance, excitement, joy, interest and pride. Ever see a little baby convulse, shake, smile and laugh with sheer uninhibited delight in response to mere eye contact from a smiley, bright-eyed mommy?
But when a baby’s exuberance is met with a “SHHHH!” or a flat, sad, uncaring or angry expression, innate shame is evoked. The mismatch between our exuberance and our caregiver’s response causes an excruciating reaction in our young bodies that causes us to shrink. It is a primal rejection. We pull away from engagement to protect ourselves from the insult of not being matched. This is the birth of shame: the hiding emotion.
Any time our exuberance is not validated, we are prone to shame. Being shamed can happen at throughout our lives. However, the younger we were and the more it happened, the more we instinctively protected ourselves.
Shame is an awful physical and emotional experience. Shame makes us feel like we are disappearing and disconnected. It is frightening. The brain learns well to avoid it. That’s why we reflexively hide.
As adults, no longer reliant on caregivers or others for emotional and physical safety, we can relearn how to feel safe while feeling big, expansive and exuberant. We can rewire our brains and safely try again.
Below are five ways to come out of hiding:
- Know that hiding is a learned behavior that kept you safe when you were little. Your body and mind did what it was programmed to do for emotional survival.
- Know that hiding is not your fault, even though our shame tells us it is.
- Know that as adults we can handle rejection better and come out of hiding.
- Know that you can surround yourself with friends and partners who can feel the way you do, such as proud when you are proud and happy when you are happy.
- Practice changing your habitual reflex to shrink and hide. Give yourself permission deeply to feel expansive feelings such as joy, pride, interest and excitement when they arise.
Godin writes, “We’re lucky enough that the things we used to fear don’t happen so often any more, so now we fear feelings.”
Try to remember: Changing is hard and a little scary but absolutely doable. You can learn that coming into the open and expressing feelings is safe now. If you persist in allowing yourself to be seen, it gets easier. Your risks lead to rewards. And feeling expansive has many rewards.
Hiding photo available from Shutterstock