For fatherless daughters living in a patriarchal culture shame is the cornerstone emotion that fosters an inborn lack of self-worth and value in a young girl’s early identity formation, often becoming a debilitating force in her creative pursuits and deep need for belonging and connection with others. Since shame is understood as a core identification with feeling unworthy of genuine belonging and intimate connection, which are two fundamental requirements of human existence, it becomes a vital necessity for fatherless daughters to embark on a journey of rediscovering who they are in a world that makes them a second-class citizen. If people can work through their shame by grieving the loss and forgotten aspects of the self, the ways in which one has been abandoned and abandoned oneself, then there is a depth of being that opens up in which one gains access to one’s authentic self where creativity blossoms forth.
Since shame implies a loss of self that occurs through the disconnection between self and other, the road to reclaiming one’s alienated self requires immense grieving for the disowned and forgotten aspects of one’s self. By going deep into one’s underworld of repressed emotions, memories, thoughts, and states of being in a safe container with a loving witness one co-creates the opportunity to heal the inner psychological splitting in one’s psyche. Witnessing becomes a sacred and redemptive act that provides a passageway for self-love and acceptance. By deeply accepting one’s self, one is granted access to one’s true potential and desires. When people feel safe enough to be themselves, they are able to express their true thoughts, feelings, and visions, bringing forth the creativity that originates and flourishes in the depths of the imagination. Naturally, when one reclaims aspects of oneself, one gains access to more creative energy.
At first, the idea that one must share one’s feelings of shame seems counterintuitive to the self-defense mechanism of wanting to protect oneself by hiding vulnerabilities, insecurities, and self-judgments. Paradoxically, hiding shame, keeping it in the dark, is the ideal condition for shame to grow and magnify in potency. If one can withstand the discomfort of sharing oneself with another, being witnessed in a loving way without judgment, then a person may begin to heal the shame that keeps one in an inner and outer state of imprisonment.
Concluding Thoughts and Future Research
From a depth psychological perspective, a significant loss in one’s life, such as the loss of a parent, can actually be the source of a profound creative drive. Examining the potential effects of the loss of a father early in a woman’s life, Reis (2006) discussed the role of the loss of a father in women who have had a large cultural impact in recent history. Reis wrote,
Although a father’s early interest and encouragement seem to be the most important factor in a women’s creative life, in the lives of these women it appears to be the opposite. These accomplished and gifted fathers did not act as mentoring, encouraging, teaching fathers, but rather were distant, closed, unavailable men. In fact, the father’s emotional or physical absence, his lack of validation, affirmation, authentication seems to be one of the key factors that drove these women’s creative process. Whether she is trying to reach him, please him, fight him, sleep with him, or destroy him, the father appears not as an enabling figure, nor even as an obstacle, but rather as a void into which these women threw their creative efforts. (pp. 206-207)
Vocalizing shame is a highly relational act that requires profound vulnerability, deep listening, and compassionate witnessing. Brown (2012b) proclaimed,
Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path. (p. 33)
As I heal the shame that disconnected me from self and others, I imagine living in a world in which there is a fluidity of relationships, where each person is both wounded and a healer depending on the moment and the situation; where there is no longer a hierarchy of power and domination, but radical interdependence and mutuality in which difference is honored and celebrated! I imagine women no longer wishing for things to be different as they continue to perpetuate patriarchy by their compliance. To strive to be accepted by a model of living that is killing this planet is insanity. A woman living her truth—and her capacity to love herself and be genuinely present in her relationships—in an embodied and self-expressive way is the revolution, a revolution of the heart. I also imagine, within the psychological community, more research that explores women’s experiences of being psychologically wounded and shamed, tracking what occurs in themselves, their relationships, and their pursuits as they give voice to their intrasubjective lives and their perspectives on their worlds.
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