Ok, the title is a hook – I don’t believe any behavior patterns, desires or impulses to be shameful. Only our conditioning can make them so. Yet, our conditioning is remarkably powerful. It can make us writhe in shame or feelings of low self-worth over something that is inherently neither good nor bad.
I think about hoards of teenagers visiting religious counselors to “fix their gayness.” To “fix” their sexuality as though it were an ailment. On an emotional level, it’s tragic, and on another level, it’s complete spiritual misunderstanding.
How much suffering has been caused by trying to twist and change ourselves from who we are, into someone we are not?
How do we Relate with Our Instincts?
The instinctual life is prime territory for this kind of warping. Everything that we have turned into taboo – that we are uncomfortable with talking about – including yet of course not limited to food, sex, death, and money – our impulses in these areas become a breeding ground for conditioned shame.
Which one of us does not walk around with hidden shame in one of these areas? Some way of behaving that we think we should not have, and so we work privately to transform it, giving ourselves accolades when we “succeed” and being hard on ourselves when we don’t?
But what if this whole collective body of pain that comes from shame is unnecessary, and comes from a fundamental lack of understanding of our nature as human beings, and the rightness of our instincts in the bigger picture of our earth journey?
Playing Both Sides
It is observable in every area: in the area of sex, on the one hand we have pornography, illegal prostitution, and organized sex crime – and on the other a puritanical shaming of our basic sexual needs.
With food, it’s the same: one the one hand, laboratories engineering hyper-palatable addictive foods, and on the other hand, a diet industry that thrives off of poor health, body dissatisfaction and shame.
The message we are given in seemingly every sensitive area of our lives is that either we are saints or we are sinners (and, that, if we are to please all of the industrial influences deciding our self-worth for us, we must, crazy-makingly, be both, and fracture our personalities in order to do so), but for the human being in between – who is living their journey and continually discovering their own deep mystery in part through their relationship with their instincts, there is little room and perhaps no contemporary archetype to see themselves reflected in.
I can’t help but wonder: if we were to allow fluid exploration of our human instincts, would there ever be a need for such extremes, or would they seem extraordinarily ridiculous and, at best, unnecessary?
From a spiritual perspective, shame of any kind is folly because it completely neglects to realize that every human being has their own unique journey. And that everything we do on an instinctual level, we do for an exquisite reason.
For instance, someone who binge eats may do so because they are in fact starving on a deep spiritual level. They may have spent lifetimes putting themselves second, and their body has literally now forgotten how to receive. How sad that this person may be receiving messages from the media that their behavior is shameful, and that behavior modification and willpower are the answers.
As another example, we get to know someone who finds pornography extraordinarily healing. If we are to judge their behavior, we may completely miss that this person is using pornography as a way to heal shame deeply instilled in a previous lifetime as a monastic, in which they reactionarily denied their human impulses.
Astrology teaches us that denying our impulses is one of the fastest ways to lose touch with ourselves – which is, spiritually speaking, a big problem. Not one that we can’t recover from, but one that can have us living an unhappy, walking-dead kind of life on a path not of our conscious choosing.
Teaching a method for how to relate to our impulses is outside the scope of this article, but a start – for all of us, I believe – may be to take any behavior that we currently find “shameful” and wish we didn’t have – and to become curious as to what our own exquisite reason for this particular quirk may be. And to see it as beautiful, endearing even – because it accentuates our own Humanness. Society and media may have forgotten what Humanness is all about – what perfect vulnerability and nuance it necessarily includes – but we must not. We must see ourselves as magical when no one else will.
To fall in love with ourselves as we are, that is my goal as a coach at the moment. To fully love, accept and forgive ourselves without question. Only then can we live the life we are here for.
Photo Courtesy of Alexandra Gorn