connection

Can shame be surgically removed?

I unexpectedly lost an organ last week, and I can already feel that it's a major turning point for me. First, let's rewind to a time before the surgery, to a moment almost two weeks ago when I was sitting in a somatic coaching session, discussing areas in my life where I still feel shame holding me back from being the fullest expression of myself in relationships. I have come to understand shame as not accepting part of who we are, whereas I understand guilt as not accepting something we have done -- both leave us believing we are not worthy of connection. 

Despite my efforts these past several years to live a more unapologetic, authentic, connected, and self-accepting life, there are certainly still places, generally tied to very old childhood conditioning, where I hold onto shame. This shame, at times, has me feeling like my insides and outsides are incongruent, as we often hide away shameful parts of ourselves in order to be accepted or loved. Incongruence is painful to me, being one who dedicates myself to radical truth telling in service of feeling congruent, transparent, and fully expressed. So I'm in this process of overturning every stone, in order to reveal myself... ultimately to myself. 

While explaining this to my coach a couple weeks ago, I felt the meta-shame of what she must think of hearing my honesty, which, of course, made for a rich and wonderful present-moment healing opportunity. In the session, I tuned closely into how my body was experiencing this. (Damn, I love Hakomi.) Immediately I felt a strong wave of nausea, like a heavy, murky discomfort in my gut. I felt disempowered and small. My chakra-nerd self connected that the gut is the 3rd chakra, our solar plexus, corresponding to our digestive organs and how we not only process our food, but also how we process emotional content. The third chakra (manipura) houses our personal power, will, and self-esteem. The shadow of this chakra is --guess what-- shame. (Wanna learn more about the psychology of chakras? Check out this book, which I used for my master's research back in the day. It's so enlightening!)

Following that session, each time I dove into processing this shame via journaling, art, meditating, or talking with others, I'd sense that same familiar wave of nausea. Two mornings later, hours before the full moon, I woke up with an unbearable stomach ache. I went to the ER, and within hours, I was having my acutely inflamed appendix removed, to catch it before it burst. Sure, there are medical reasons for having an emergency appendectomy, AND the psychosomatics of such an ailment can be profoundly meaningful, and full moons are for letting go and releasing that which no longer serves us. I'm still very much in the early stages of mining this incident for its lessons and gems.

While I realize that removing an organ is not a shortcut to doing the heavy-lifting of overcoming shame, this experience highlighted for me the importance of not holding onto imposed values, cultural norms, and belief systems that keep my adult self feeling stifled and unexpressed. Being in an emergency scenario like this also brings up the urgency of living life RIGHT NOW the way I want to be living it. It helped me to hone in on what and who I want to spend time with, and helps to clarify and cull that which is not worth pouring my energy into. Gosh, that sort of detox sounds like it'd be clarifying, but honestly, the letting go has also been difficult and disappointing in some ways. I'll also be cleansing from the anesthesia and other weird meds for a while and working through healing the trauma my body remembers from this experience. Ultimately, I am feeling grateful and have a renewed focus on what truly matters. This solidified my commitment to truth-telling and making my fierce vulnerability visible, for the sake of my health, if nothing else.

(This procedure also caused me to recite the children's book Madeline for over a week! The image above is by Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeline's author and illustrator.)