SUPERIORITY: a core wound of shame
Finding fault in others has been easy. I did it so fast I didn’t even realise I was doing it. Instinctually I learnt this to protect my vulnerability.
All those parts I felt were unlovable. Parts I felt were bad. As a child my natural emotions were not nurtured. My parents felt challenged by emotionality, often solving issues by being told to go to my room, which left me feeling unheard and unseen. As a young child being left alone to deal with uncomfortable experiences which felt overwhelming and having no skills to successfully move through them, resulted in shame. This is what occurs when caregivers lack the necessary skill to navigate such demands due to their own unexpressed emotions.
Shame happens to a person when they feel isolated from other people when experiencing strong emotions, often internalising ‘I am bad for feeling this way’. Believing we are wrong for our natural emotions, we tend to hide them. They stay hidden, unconsciously controlling our reality. When we start to feel these hidden emotions rise, shame appears.
It is a subtle feeling that happens when we separate ourselves from the outside world. Often it happens quickly, becoming an automatic default pattern, protecting us from feeling the life-threatening feelings of unlovability. There are two ways this can show up:
- Inferiority: through a sense of feeling less than, not good enough.
- Superiority: a belief that you are better than another person or more than someone else.
The inferior side tends to run and hide until the stormy inner waters pass. Usually the person will re-emerge until the next storm hits and so the pattern continues. It can be crippling for our self-esteem. All the feelings associated with thinking we are less than take over. Some of the physiological symptoms can be physically withdrawing, disengaging from conversations, feeling like you have been shut down, not being able to make eye contact and body sinking inwards.
The superior complex is isolating in a different way. It hides us through our belief that we are better than another when really it’s main purpose is to avoid feeling vulnerable. There tends to be a taste of arrogance involved. Superior shame can be cunning, constantly finding new ways to hide our true nature. It can be seen as an ungrounded, mental energy, comparison, very analytical of another or focused on another person’s behaviour rather than staying connected to your own inner experience, speech tends to get very definitive and often avoid feeling because it makes them vulnerable.
Pretentiousness, arrogance, blame and self-righteousness are all strategies for offloading (projecting) unconscious shame and forcing other people to feel it (Joseph Burgo).
My mind is crafty. No doubt about it.
A few patterns of my superiority has been through spiritual ascendency, intellectual ambitiousness and expert authority. It’s cheeky, even if it is my desire to eradicate shame. It is constantly on the lookout for ways to hide from re-experiencing childhood shame. I have used my mind to make myself feel better which was a genius strategy to survive my overwhelming emotions. However, the more I try to suppress those uncomfortable feelings I step further away from my true heart’s desire.
In essence the only key to unlocking shame is to acknowledge and feel it. You don’t have to hide or pretend you are better than someone else. Just hold it in your awareness. Like you would a child who is crying, hold it with a compassionate tenderness. Allow your full emotional landscape to arise. If you struggle to initiate this by yourself, seek guidance from someone who knows how to heal shame. As shame can often make you feel like you have to do it alone. You don’t have to suffer alone anymore.
When you give yourself permission to be okay with how you feel inside magic happens. It takes the pressure off. Giving you back the power and control of your inner world. When you no longer get stuck replaying past experiences, you have the gift of dreaming in a new future and sharing your natural gifts with the world.