Shame has Become Our Default Setting

  • May 29, 2013

At the core of our sexual being lies sexual shame instilled through an elaborate structure of cultural mores and religious values. Over millennia, shame has become our default setting. And though I see things changing in the younger generations, the reality is that shame exists deep inside our unconscious sexual identity.

Shame creates strong feelings about sex and sexuality. Feelings that confuse us about our pleasure, needs, wants and desires. Shame can make us feel that what we want to experience is somehow bad, evil or wrong.

And it’s even more subtle than that. The problem for us all is that when we do want to express our deepest desires, we are held back by thoughts of suffering, deprivation, scarcity and fear.

It’s scary to go for what we want on a regular basis. Especially sexually.

In my experience, most folks, given the opportunity to experience more pleasure in their lives, without fear of burning in hell, without fear of being called a whore or a slut, without fear of people judging them or their families disowning them, would definitely allow themselves to have more pleasure.

But because it is difficult to do have these experiences without guilt or shame, there can be a lot of drama and hijinx that ensues as we move closer to pleasure and freedom.

I often see this very clearly when I’m leading workshops. I have to gently help people off the ledge of shame so they can step more powerfully and more fully into their pleasure. However, to face our pleasure we have to face our shame. Shame is saying “no” and the desire to experience more pleasure, freedom and happiness is saying “yes.” These tend to be at opposite ends of the spectrum of sexual well being.

It’s worth working with our shame in the sense that there is great power inside of our shame. The pain of shame can move us to face the gunfire, face the limiting beliefs, face the fear of freedom, face down our inherited mores and cultural values and step more fully into the adult possibility that there is even greater power in self compassion and pleasure.