Working with Painful Emotions: Shame

August 1, 2022   |   25 Comments

Audio-only version is here.
Meditation practice begins at 13:25

Dear Open Heart Project,

I hope you are well as we enter this new week on planet earth. May it be a peaceful one for all beings.

A few weeks ago, we began a series of conversations on working with difficult emotions and how meditation can help. We started with anger and then moved on to attachment. This week we explore shame, or whatever you would call it when you compare yourself unfavorably to others or feel inadequate.

In the Buddhist view, there are three ways to look at strong emotions. Each way is truly useful, and it is great to have a few options on how to meet our experience with gentleness and bravery. Our meditation practice is a potent support for each of the three options. Have a listen!

What do you think? I always love to hear from you.

With love, Susan


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  • Posted by:  Ken Marsh

    Hi Susan, — your meditation. and discussions are so very inspiring and illuminating for me.

    i’m sure there are many others who also recognise the value of your insights.
    Thank you Susan, You are providing a beautiful service,
    May you have a rewarding week, and be able to continue for the foreseeable future.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      So glad to hear it, Ken. Thank you for the kind words. Wishing you well, all the time. Warmly, Susan

  • Posted by:  Barbara B

    Love this talk, Susan, and this serie on strong emotions. The insights you offer are interesting and useful.
    Funny (not really) how you always find anger the most difficult, I think for most people it’s the easiest one. Lashing out at least gives a sense of power, even though it’s false, and indeed only creates more problems.

    I like the idea of inviting all the strong emotions to a big table. And let them talk to each other a bit.
    I’m battling shame at the moment, and find it a very tricky one. It’s so painful and deceiving.
    Pacifying it helps temporarily, generating compassion to others helps a bit.
    I find with shame that it needs to be brought out in the open, in order to normalize it. Everything that stays in the dark, will only fester. A thought and image that help me. This could be the compassion part, also to oneself, right? Is that what you meant?

    I have the book you mentioned from Tsultrim Allione, about our demons; I find it interesting but frankly a bit too hard to follow. I ‘ll try to read it again.

    Thanks again Susan, for all you offer, I love it every single time!
    much love-XB

    • Posted by:  Barbara

      p.s. the houseboat hood misses you

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        It is so mutual. xoxoxo

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hello, dear Barbara! I love every time we connect too, every single time.

      Your point about anger being less difficult than I do is so interesting. I had not thought about that, although I seem to know a lot of people who “feel better” once their anger is expressed. The rest of us, not so much. Maybe there are things from my past that make anger difficult for me, in particular.

      Shame is so, so tricky. I wish I could battle it for you. That it would help bring it into the light makes sense. Could you bring the light to your inner experience? Meaning: when you feel shame, hold it in some kind of warmth and light? Unless that sounds icky–in which case, don’t!

      Have you ever tried practicing loving kindness for yourself in each position? Meaning loving kindness for yourself in your “ordinary” form, loving kindness for yourself as beloved, a stranger, and an enemy (that part of you that is the most wounded and therefore acts in ways that cause you pain), and, finally, for all of you, this beautiful, brilliant, chaotic mix of Barbara-ness.

      If this sounds useful, I could find a recording of this meditation and send to you.

      Giant hug, much love, Susan

      • Posted by:  BB

        Thats so helpful Susan, thank you!
        Of course, loving kindness. I will look up the ‘self’ version. And holding the shame experience in warmth and light, i can see that and do that.
        Really grateful for your elaborate and loving answer.
        Big hugs back, XxB

        • Posted by:  BB

          (I found your Insight Timer recording, on loving kindness for yourself. Thank you for this! X )

          • Posted by:  Susan Piver

            Glad! Keep me posted… xoxo

        • Posted by:  Susan Piver

          love you

  • Posted by:  samantha

    I just wanted to say congratulations on your enneagram book. I remember from talks some time back that it wasn’t an easy book to write. Excellent news that you did it. I shall put aside some of my procrastination this afternoon, as a tribute, and as inspiration received from you.

    Many thanks for everything – Sam x

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you, Sam! I appreciate this. Love the procrastination-tribute! That really made me smile. Love, S

  • Posted by:  Karen

    Susan, my mind went, “Wow!” during your talk. I’ll return your words often. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      You are so welcome, Karen! xo S

  • Posted by:  amy

    This is sooo good, just great!!
    I loved how you broke down the 3 ways we deal with emotions, it was clear and easy to understand.
    And I just LOVE the idea (maybe) of a small “tea party” and friendly dialogue with all my emotive friends.
    THANK YOU!!!!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Tea all around! Much love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Patty

    Thank you Susan. I appreciate the ‘toolbox’ idea of 3 ways of dealing with negative emotions, especially about inviting everyone to the dinner table

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      So glad you found it useful, Patty. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  BB

    Thats so helpful Susan, thank you!
    Of course, loving kindness. I will look up the ‘self’ version. And holding the shame experience in warmth and light, i can see that and do that.
    Really grateful for your elaborate and loving answer.
    Big hugs back, XxB

  • Posted by:  Colleen

    I just stumbled onto your site and am so glad I did! I have listened to the past 3 meditations which I have found so helpful as you explain how to deal with thoughts, emotions in such a realistic, practical way – its like when you are speaking, I have a question in my head and the next words you say is like you read my mind and answer it! I struggle with shame. I have hurt someone very badly and can never change what I did. I don’t know how to bring this shame to my “dinner table” because the pain is too much. I know I have to come to some kind of “acceptance” for what I did but instead I keep persecuting myself for my actions. I did find peace in your response to Barbara – to give “loving kindness” to all the parts of me , I will keep working on that!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hi Colleen. So glad our paths have crossed. It is so hard to accept when we have hurt someone. If you this particular shame is not ready to come to the dinner table, don’t pressure it/yourself. Maybe it will sit outside in the yard or something! In the meantime, loving kindness is a healing balm for all parts, as you note. Keep me posted! Warmly, Susan

  • Posted by:  Karen Fleming

    Hi Susan. I’m so glad I found you somehow. ☺️ I’m just reading your “Start Here Now” book and love your meditations. Shame and Envy are big ones for me! I love forward to this community.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Welcome, Karen! It is such a lovely community, better because now you’re part of it. Warmly, S

  • Posted by:  Savanna

    Hello Susan, I really am enjoying you and your talks. All I am learning is coming into place in my 82 year old monkey mind. The shame talk was especially meaningful. I am an only child and my life was always about shame. I watched Lama Tsultrim Allione’s talk on You Tube called “Feeding your Demons”. I did an exercise with her in which I chose shame as my demon and ended up making it an ally. It was very powerful. I don’t know if it will last, but I shifted some very old thoughts and emotions, If someone had described this to me, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I love all your talks and somehow, even though I have read and heard the things you speak of, somehow, I am ready to hear it now, better late than never I guess. Anyway, I am very grateful for your honesty and humanity. Thank you. Savanna.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you, Savanna. Glad our paths have crossed. I love Tsultrim Allione’s work on Feeding Your Demons. It’s so powerful. And please don’t be too hard on your “monkey mind”! The part of you that can see the monkey mind is not monkey mind! So, that’s a great place to rest. Warmly, S

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“With wisdom, creativity and artistry, Susan Piver brings a Buddhist lens to the spiritual map of the Enneagram. The results are vibrant and nourishing; a banquet of insights that help us transmute our difficult emotions into pure expressions of our basic goodness.”

 – Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance