Sunday, November 16, 2008

Alrenous on Pavlina on Shame

Pavlina has posted an article, and since this is a post, I must have something to say about it.

"If you can’t share your humiliation publicly, you haven’t gotten over it yet. And if you’re not over it yet, you’ve still got this gaping wound in your heart, and it will always keep you from being 100% authentic."

The first part is true, the second part is vague at best and the last part is frankly obvious and unavoidable - I could even cite the 2nd law of thermodynamics as proof. Nothing is ever perfect.
"There’s no such thing as selective shielding. If you have to shield any part of yourself from being discovered and judged, you shield your entire being."
Well, fuck, I guess. We're all screwed.
"I know you think that when the shields come down, you’ll be pelted with a volley of phasers and photon torpedoes. But what’s the real worst case outcome? Harsh language? Ouch."
No! No. Also, no.

There is a reason you are ashamed of whatever it is. It's because you think, as doubtlessly Pavlina will allude to, that you've done something horribly wrong.

Letting your shields down will only seem to confirm your worst fears - your revealee will reject that part of you outright. Without question. You already know this. If you knew something different, your fear would be of an entirely different character.

While Pavlina is right in the fact that this fear is not exactly as it seems, his conclusion about how is completely broken.

So, you reject your shame, your revealee will reject your shame...and you will end up concluding that it is reasonable to reject this part of yourself. This is what you're afraid of, not 'harsh language.'

As we can infer, Pavlina does not think you should reject yourself. I don't think you should reject yourself, either.

One of the parts of yourself that you shouldn't reject is your fear. Like many if not most false conclusions, the consequences of this one lead to contradiction.
"Instead of a backlash of judgment, it’s more likely you’ll receive a compassionate response."
This is baldly untrue. Again, your fear may be arational, but is not irrational. I have personally verified this. Shockingly, we find again that while people are gullible, they are not stupid. If most people don't do a thing, it is either propaganda or a bad idea. Since there's no propaganda aside form this piece...
"Other people don’t want or expect you to be perfect. They want to connect with you and to be able to trust that you’re being honest with them."
So these people Pavlina is suggesting you open yourself to. Do they make a habit of revealing their secret shames to you? What? They don't? Then what makes you think they're capable of connecting to you in this way?

What, they're suddenly going to think, "Oh man, I was waiting for this person to tell me something horrible about themselves! Just waiting for it!"

If hiding such things were not widespread, Pavlina would feel no need to make an article about it. As you can easily see, it is not just widespread, but endemic. If such advice weren't doomed to failure (in most cases - again, check your fear and ask yourself) then all those people doing it right would have let you know that you're doing it wrong.
"People may still communicate with you on a superficial level, but they won’t go out of their way to help you as a fellow human being. Why not? Because they won’t know the real you."
Again, do you know the real them? If not, what makes you think you're going to magically change that?
"When you share your shame with others, you transform your resistance into acceptance and your sorrow into joy. You learn that there’s a reason you had to endure certain experiences, even if they were self-inflicted."
This is terrible.

Learn the reason you had to endure them? How does that happen...magic? Does anyone you might care to share it with know exactly why, and you just happen not to? Are you hiding it from yourself, but you'll suddenly let yourself know?

No, sounds like magic to me. Of course Pavlina will not explain.
"Your painful experiences can actually help you connect with other people on a deeper level than you imagined possible."
You know what I like? Bald statements of fact, with no support, with no description of what I'm supposed to be looking for or how it is supposed to work, followed by a total non-sequiteur.

"Many personal development books are written by authors who project an air of perfection — idyllic examples of order, achievement, inner peace, wealth, and so on. To me this is a form of shielding, an artificial wall, a fake standard no human being can realistically aspire to."

Apparently Pavlina endorses my blog style. Of course I want to take it at face value, (Pavlina's traffic is millions per month) but thinking about it, I can't say for sure what this actually means...

"Others have already shared their stories on these topics, which enables them to help others with similar challenges. Why not you? Do you need permission to do this? Okay, I hereby grant you permission to be human. You have the right to be a total screw-up."

I take extreme issue with this. Humans are not total screw-ups. Humans, secretly, deep down, are beautiful, shining beings of incredible power. If you are are human, yes you make mistakes, again, 2nd law of thermodynamics. But they are precisely that - mistakes. As in, when you avoid them, you do something right.

What makes humans screw-ups is not their humanity, but inhumanity that has been done to them. We have, all of us, been warped and twisted by warped and twisted cultures and warped and twisted ideology.
"Also, if someone would reject me for being who I am or for doing what I did, then I say, “Let’s get the breakup over with, so we can both move on.”"
Remember how Pavlina was being vague? Unfortunately, this is why. Notice the subtle, but incredible power of this statement. Synthesise his ideas and mine. (I later find he goes on to say many similar things.)

Now, go admit your shame to someone. If they reject it, you reject them. Then go onto the next.

Go on. How many people are you going to have left to talk to after this is over? Are you okay with that? Or do you prefer your imperfect current arrangement.

While it's true that, really, you only want to talk to people you can be honest to in this way, and by emptying people you free up space in your monkeysphere, I don't think we as a species know enough yet to know when this is a good idea, and when this is a bad idea. So, if you as a person know, kindly let me know.

Yes, you should have been honest in the first place and never accumulated these people. But you have now, and the situation is different.

But actually, I find the reality is a lot more boring. Admitting such things tends to lead change. As if it never happened.

Fear and Shame
Pavlina is right about one thing though, and that is fear holds you back. If you did not have fear, you could be free - you could really be yourself, instead of playing someone else your whole life. However, Pavlina apparently never asks why this fear exists. The answer is that there's something to be afraid of.

The fact is, if you open up to someone who can't open up back to you, they immediately realize at a gut level that you're doing it right and they aren't. This brings up all their internal shame and anxiety about sharing that shame. Since they're generally not philosophers, all they see is an event - your sharing - and a result; their pain. They take that correlation and assume it is causation, and react negatively, and indeed properly based on what they believe.

This, as I outlined above, does indeed "transform your resistance into acceptance," it transforms your resistance to the idea that you are in part a bad person into acceptance of the idea. At least, unless you're extremely careful. If you didn't suspect you were a bad person, why would you be ashamed of whatever?

And, unless Pavlina is preaching to the choir, n-1 out of n times, this is exactly what will occur.

Emotional versus Mental
So, what's actually going on here? As I'll hopefully detail in a future article, I've finally figured out this whole rationality versus emotion thing. The brain has two systems for making decisions, one rational and the other emotional. These systems are separate; you cannot engage both at once, though you can engage them sequentially on the same subject if you like.

Pavlina is talking to the emotions. The input for the emotional system is not facts, but feelings. The factual content of his sentences can be pretty fuzzy, as long as thinking about them makes you feel the right way, your emotional system will deal with them - and the world - correctly.

However, while you cannot internally engage both at once, you can write so that either can engage, by adapting your sentences to be both logically sound and have the right emotional content. Pavlina has utterly failed at this task. This would be fine if he simply acknowledged that he is talking to the emotions, and thus the logic is not likely to be correct. (Similarly, I expect traditional institutions to have effective outcomes, not be consistent or make correct predictions.)

Personal Experiment
I am willing to put myself on the line for this. I can, (and have,) gone out into the world and admitted something like this, to see what happens. I will do it again for you, dear reader. If you want, we can choose something to admit about myself, and to what kind of group, and I will do it, reporting back on the results.

I have nothing to lose from this - either I'm proven right, or else I'm proven wrong and end up connected at a deep level with someone. So.

There is a problem, of course. I have a range of shameful facets. Some of them are so horrible I can spin them into fatal admissions to just about anyone. This is a source of bias - I can decide in advance the outcome of the experiment. Even if I try not to, I may fail. As such, if you take me up on this, you need to make the first move, effectively taking this control away from me. This takes some finesse, but the upshot is you need to suggest a general category which I'll help you refine.

As an aside, I could easily use one of these facets as a weapon against Pavlina in a face-to-face debate. He would say, "You should admit your shame," and I'd respond with something even he can't respond compassionately to, both in content and in style. I would introduce permanent cognitive dissonance, because I seriously doubt he's capable of dropping this theory.

In direct connection to nothing, I have to say that if you cannot do this with a potential spouse, then either achieve it or dump them. Otherwise, at best they can be a sort of sexual business partner. More likely you'll do the common thing and pretend you have a real relationship. This is corrupt. Or perhaps this isn't unconnected - another phrase for 'corrupt' is 'warped and twisted.'

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