Dealing With Blemishes in Dreams and in Real Life
A blemish in a dream is an imperfection. Everyone has blemishes because everyone is imperfect. The modern culture seems to want me to be like this photo below. I pick up my copy of Runner’s World Magazine which is full of good articles and good advice, but the cover shot is the perfect man image. The visual image is the unconscious goal, not everything else about a healthy life style, good health, etc.. Look perfect like the guy in the photo! That is the message.
How did we get here to where we have to look perfect all the time? This is actually not a new phenomenon. It has been with us for quite some time now, more with women than men. Making mistakes, having weaknesses, blemishes in appearance have been and continue to be a source of great shame in the culture. I wish I could say that there is a culture that has overcome the belief, but wherever you go in the world, it is always ever present. Being imperfect is shameful. It is so bad in certain parts of Asia that if you make a leader look the least bit bad, even when they have acted horribly, you are the one who is going to get fired because they cannot stand the thought of themselves having imperfections. They are supposed to be like God. They even believe that they are God.
Trying to play God is always the problem when it comes to shame. If you feel shame, it is because you believe that you should be God, perfect. God doesn’t want you to be God. He wants you to be human. Having blemishes seems to be quite ok with God. When I say my Baha’i prayers each morning, the thing that strikes me is how often they allow me to refer to my weaknesses and relax about them. It appears that God doesn’t want you to be perfect, but only that you are fully engaged with transforming your weaknesses into strengths on a daily basis. Imperfections are what we call being human.
How do you deal with the blemishes, the imperfections? The first thing that is important to understand is that shame is the negative emotion you feel when you feel horrible about yourself because of something that is wrong with you. The way that the culture is constructed, despite all the advances in treatment and technique, makes us try to hide the weakness or blemish, rather than freely admitting it. Hiding and covering up the blemish, which is what the culture loves you to do, is a strategy that doesn’t work, but just freely admitting it also is not that helpful even though it is better than hiding.
The important first step in dealing with the shame of being imperfect (not God) is to have a bank full of positive memories that are accessed and available all the time. This allows you to feel good about who you are despite the weaknesses. You can freely admit to weaknesses, but if you don’t believe that you have strengths and capacities, you will not have the motivation and inspiration to move forward in the process of changing weakness into strength. The culture is based largely on finding weaknesses and exaggerating them. In my current city in Vancouver I often pass women having a conversation where the tones illustrate the cultural difficulty. The speech is often has 100% certainty in the negative point about someone. The sentences are short and cut off. It is like there is no room for acceptance of weakness. Who would ever want to admit to anything in that kind of culture? This morning I saw a taxi driver make a minor mistake in doing a right turn whereby a person on a bike and a nearby pedestrian started super criticizing the driver as if he were a serial killer. There was no room for the mistake. The shame is everywhere. In a culture of encouragement where finding the positive is the rule rather than shaming others, people are allowed their mistakes and then feel motivated to deal with them freely. Building the bank of positive memories is what gets us out of shame. It is the antidote and remedy of shame. It requires almost always living in a state of positive memory. It is not only how great of a run I had this morning. It is also how well I can remember it and relive it. That is what lets go of shame.
Once I can relive my positive memories, then I can deal with my weaknesses because the shame is gone. When my shame is gone, I can freely admit to the weakness and start transforming it. Let’s say my weakness is core strength, which it is, by the way. First I relive my runs and other aerobic activities. Then the emotional issues blocking the core strength will open to me.
What are my issues? Since I don’t have a lot of shame anymore after reliving my runs and being ok with imperfection, it is ok to explore the negative energy blocking the core. What comes up is a belief that despite doing a lot of work I am still going to be really weak way behind others. This lets me know that I need to get out of the world of comparing myself to others, to just feel my own improvement and remember it the same way I remember the runs.
In summary, to get rid of shame, we first need to have the belief that mistakes are part of what it is to be human, that the goal is to NOT become perfect, God. Then we need to build a bank of positive memories about are capacities and strengths. We do this by reliving our positive experiences repeatedly. Then we are free to work with the next issue in front of us.