Love Letter on Naming Shame

Blossom Flow-Manhei ChanJPG

My father committed suicide. Over the years, my family has called what he did by everything except its proper name. There was an accident, we’ll say. He died. Suddenly. And my favourite--he was in exile. Well, I suppose in a sense he was exiled from himself. Lol! More recently, we’ve started calling it S. Don’t talk about S in the people, we joke. A safe name. A name that tries to take away the lingering shame. But the funny story about calling things outside their proper name, especially destructive things, is that it only magnifies their dark power. At least I can say so for suicide.

Shame is everyone’s favourite topic. Am I right? I mean, don’t you just love fessing up to the parts of your life and experience you keep closeted from everyone, most especially yourself? Which is ironic, isn’t it? Since the only real way to diminish shame’s power starts with naming it. Name the monster and see how quickly that bad boy shrinks to shrivels, melting under scrutiny.

Ok. I hear you saying. Fine, you sigh—name shame away. But what’s all this to do with Creativity? A lot actually. Shame is a toxic creative block. It’s like stuffing your creative arteries with crude oil and expecting something fresh from those very veins. Ain’t shit happening, honey. Not until you name that shame and face it head on.

And we’re all carrying creative shame. Maybe you canned your art after you showed it to a teacher who said it sucked. Maybe, like me, you grew up in a house with very little means and the idea of making a life and wealth from your creativity taps into an ugly old shame around money.

Or maybe I’m the first freak of humanity to experience that specific pain and shame. Who knows? What I do know is the power I’ve gleaned from naming the dark matter that shadows my creativity. It’s not all gone—wish I had that magic pill—but the throttle around my arteries certainly has. Which allows fresh ideas to pump through.

Today, I can laugh about S. And cry. And I can be more brave than I’ve ever been. Using its power to connect with others, to see them and be seen. Isn’t that the whole point of our creative gifts?

IMAGE: Blossom Flow, Manhei Chan