How Shame Can Help You Grow Intimacy

My van – a Ford Econovan with a bed and Ikea mattress in the back – is a powerful symbol in my life.

It represents –

1)      Lack of safety and support

2)      Shame

3)      Fear

4)      Homelessness

Yikes! It broke down on Saturday night when I was an hour away from home, in an area I didn’t know. It was cold and dark, and I felt vulnerable. I didn’t know what to do. I called my lover for help.

It was really difficult for me to ask for help.  I felt ashamed to ask.

I bought this van at a very vulnerable time in my life.  I had just left a relationship with a man I loved and moved back to Australia. I was grieving deeply.  I was in shock. I was homeless. I arrived at Bondi Beach, suitcase in hand. I bought the first van I saw because I didn’t have the energy or will to look at any more.  From that first moment, I felt shame about this decision – about not having more strength or good sense or stamina to find something better.

my van

In the end I didn’t need help to get home on Saturday night (except from the good old NRMA!).  And yet this incident revealed to me a way of being in the world that I had not been aware of before -  that I go through life feeling unsupported, believing that I should be able to handle everything myself.  I had bought a van rather than a car because if I remained homeless I would always have somewhere to sleep.  No wonder I had hardly ever slept in it, and have never been on a camping trip in it! It represents fear, lack of support and homelessness!

Realising the depths of this fear and shame was uncomfortable.  I felt dizzy and tearful all day. And feeling it allowed it to pass. I spoke with my lover about it.  It eased.  I heard that I was supported, and that it’s ok to ask for help. 

Shame is isolating. It’s debilitating and exhausting.  It takes effort and courage to move out of it, to reach out, communicate, to connect.  And it’s rich ground for growth when we do those courageous things. This is what grows intimacy. This is part of what creates a strong foundation in relationship – revealing the parts that we don’t believe are loveable. Those parts hiding in the shadows deserve love too.  We don’t have to do it all alone.