A suprising view on ANGER, SHAME, and EMPATHY

Self-Acceptance Project
Session 6: Understanding Empathy and Shame with Karla McLaren

In this interview Karla McLaren speaks about ANGER, SHAME, AND EMPATHY in a totally new light that I found insightful and refreshing.  I love how she points out that EMOTIONS serve as guides. They are there to tell me how I think/feel about the situation, what my standpoint is, what’s important to me, what my values are.  Emotions serve a very important purpose. However I believe many of us, myself included, haven’t been taught how to listen, understand, and properly use our emotions. Usually we run and hide from emotions, push them away, try to ignore them.  By ALLOWING an emotion to fully surface, we can learn from it, the emotion can help us discover what’s important, what the next step is,  and how to best take care of myself in a moment. Allowing our emotions is in line with other Self- Compassion research that advocates for fully accepting ourselves as we are.  The coaching model I am studying also emphasizes the importance of feeling our emotions, letting them rise to the surface and express themselves, in a safe way, so that we may understand this life more deeply.

Karla touches on how ANGER  helps me identify my ‘self’, what’s important to me, what MY VALUES are.  Historically speaking, I don’t consider myself an ‘angry’ person. When asked what I am angry about, I was unable to come with anything. I became suspicious of this and began to look deeper.  Where might anger be living in my being… and leaking out in destructive ways that I am unaware of.  Hearing Karla talk about anger this way supports the inquiry I have around my relationship to anger. And I have in fact noticed its role in exactly the way she mentions.  A friend and I were discussing how companies will conceal some of the ingredients in their products (What IS Florida Orange Juice? 0 trans fats PER SERVING doesn’t mean 0 trans fats). If a company has to LIE about their product in order to sell it, what does that tell me. I want to buy products that a company is PROUD of, feels good about selling.  My friend was taking the more shoulder-shrug stance of ‘that’s how things are in this world.’ I felt a deep energy rising. IT’S NOT HOW IT HAS TO BE!!!  I let myself get loud (without yelling AT this person, just for myself). And realized that as a consumer it’s soooo important to me to buy products from people who believe in their product! AND that I believe that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE in this world.  This surge of anger for the current system, and a typical current response to it… showed me my OWN values. And I feel good about this. And it felt good to get loud for once…

Thank you anger for serving your purpose. You are welcome to come again.

Karla also presents a positive perspective on SHAME. The core of her message is in line with what Brene Brown speaks about, but she comes from a different angle. When shame is operating functionally in a healthy-minded individual, it has a purpose.  I interpret it as our ‘conscious’.  The feelings/thoughts that come up to remind me what’s important to me. What are MY morals, rules, what are MY VALUES.  Instead we feel shame for things that aren’t actually important to us. Or shame is operating out of whack based on the messages we got as children. I can turn shame for over-eating into ‘eating only what I need’ is a value of mine.

EMPATHY for others is a beautiful thing, until we forgot who we are. Getting in touch with what I WANT, what are MY VALUES, helps me return to myself and then love myself more easily.  It’s okay to turn the focus to myself and away from others at times. I can best serve others when I have best served myself. Historically speaking, Saying ‘NO’ , or setting boundaries was hard for me. I want to please, I want to be accepted, I want the other person to feel comfortable.  However,  sometimes I need to put the other person’s feelings aside for a moment and make sure I’m in touch with what best serves ME in this moment.



A mindfulness practice helps: a practice that helps one become more AWARE of their surroundings, actions, and most importantly, their inner being. Being in touch with the present moment is key, for that is where the emotion arises. When I feel emotion/energy rising, I stay present with it, I tune into my bodily sensations and relax the body. I focus on the breath. I stay still. I notice my thoughts. All of this instead of pushing forward quickly into a certain action or thought. Stay with the moment, pause.

A mindfulness practice can be meditation, movement, or something else.  I find getting coached provides a safe supportive space for me to do this. I think therapy may do this do. I’ve also found that calling a friend and telling them what I’m going through is helpful. Especially when I don’t want to do this.  I found that this is a vulnerable moment for me, it’s been difficult to admit I’m struggling. However, once I do open up and share, it’s usually very relieving, and supportive.  ❤



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Dan
    Feb 21, 2014 @ 19:09:03

    Always interesting perspectives on how to find your place in the world ….without loosing yourself in it!


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