When I started grad school for counseling psychology three years ago I started having all these dreams about pooping in public. Someone was always poking their head out from above the adjacent stall to talk to me, or there was no stall door at all, or the door was so short you could see everything but about a foot of my torso. What I took away from these dreams was that I was doing so much inter-personal processing in my training that was exposing so much of what for years I had kept hidden from others… the things I was embarrassed of, things I was ashamed of, the shit I never wanted anyone else to know about me. Facebook is all about presenting your best self, your most attractive self, your most appealing self, your most successful self, and hiding everything else from view. But when we do this, we amputate off entire parts of ourselves. Not just from each other, but from ourselves as well. We send ourselves the message that certain parts of ourselves are not loveable, not acceptable, not beautiful, not okay. We become entirely internally fragmented. And our lives become this rat race about desperately striving at all costs to preserve this self image of goodness: grasping for things that reinforce our hope that we are good, and desperately sweeping under the rug any counter-evidence that suggests we are bad.
Imagine that these parts of yourself that you suppress are separate entities. Imagine they are your children, and you are their parent. You never let these parts out to see the light of day. When you introduce yourself to others you make these parts stand behind you where they can’t be seen… you don’t want them having any bearing on the impression others have of you. You tell them to “keep quiet and shut up! Don’t embarrass me!” When these parts want attention you ignore them, and put up your hand as if they aren’t even there. You make them live in the basement. Now imagine what that’s like from the perspective of these parts. They are living in a basement where it is cold and dark and scary and lonely. They are probably crouched in a corner crying… “Why doesn’t she love me? What’s wrong with me? Why am I so bad?” Starved for love and affection, she starts to feel horrible about herself…that she is trash. That is the sad truth of the dynamic between most of us and these parts of ourselves. In reality, it is likely that you (in some of your parts) were treated this way by your parents, and certainly by society. Only when you stopped being yourself… stopped showing the true expression of how you were feeling… dried up your tears, packed away your anger, and brushed your hair, would your parents introduce you to their friends. If you protested against a guest or didn’t want to hug them you were told to “go to time out!” or, “go to your room!” In other words, you were punished for having certain feelings. Certain feelings were evaluated as “bad.” Or the message was, “make yourself scarce until you are presentable!” And we internalize these messages. Soon we don’t need a parent or an authoritative agency to dictate how we should and should not behave. We do it ourselves, because we personally feel that certain parts of ourselves are bad or inappropriate. But how are we supposed to feel self-love…real self-love if we are simultaneously banishing certain parts of ourselves? If we want to feel real self-love, true deep and profound self acceptance and inner peace, we have to embrace and welcome these parts, even when they are unwelcomed by the external world. I heard this quotation one time on a tarot card and I love it. I think about it daily: “How are others going to embrace you if you don’t embrace yourself.” Embracing our disowned parts by showing them unabashedly to the outside world is the first step.
If we spend our lives clinging to and identifying with the parts of ourselves that are acceptable, and disowning and denying and pushing out of consciousness the parts that are not, we can become deceived in to thinking that we are only our acceptable parts—the image others want us to be. We may not know any more of ourselves. This acceptable image is like a mask. It is a mask we put on each day when we step out into the world or go on social media. We hide behind it. And at the end of our day, when we are finally alone, we usually take (most) of it off. But we can still not know, not be connected with the rest of ourselves. We may still, even in private, fancy ourselves the very successful business person, very identified with his company. We may look in the mirror and see the prom queen, the model… kind of like when Marsha Brady sits for one hundred counts in front of her bedroom mirror brushing her hair, and you can tell that even in private she still hasn’t dropped this sense of herself as anything other than beauty queen. What all is there behind the mask? Our wholeness…
So, consider posting something on social media that is your Truth but that you fear might not be accepted by others. That you think will probably not paint you in the most flattering light by conventional standards. This sends that part of yourself the message that you love it, and you are willing to advocate for it, stand up for it. That you are not ashamed of it, but perhaps even that you are proud of it! When you wear it unapologetically and confidently, you’ll notice that even though you will get some pushback, if you are unwavering enough in your integration of this part against the status quo, others will start to look to you like you’re the one who knows what they’re talking about. Their own personal insecurity will be rocked. They will see how strong and steady and loving and secure you are with yourself, and they’ll check themselves and think, “I want to be that okay with my own [sexuality, disability, body, bodily functions, ignorance, vulnerability, sensitivity anger, love, fear, sorrow, etc.] Of course, this should not be our motivation for doing this, but it will inevitably happen.
Pooping and farting weren’t really talked about in my family growing up. There was quite a lot of shaming around it. Someone would smell a fart on a road trip and everyone would go “eeeewwwwww!!” as if whoever dealt it was diseased and needed to be exiled to an island of lepers. I remember vividly the first friend I had who talked about pooping openly… it was so liberating!!! We told funny pooping stories for an hour, laughing our asses off!! It was such a relief to me. From that day on I decided I wanted all of my relationships to be like that… a space where we could openly talk about bodily functions. And to this day, it is one of my favorite topics!
Poop is a very significant symbol, in dreams and in waking life. Have reverence for it! Here in the west, we poop privately in porcelain thrones and then flush it away to be carried off to some far distant place we don’t know about. Out of sight, out of mind. Meanwhile in other parts of the world… they compost it, and use it to garden! We can live in denial that we ever poop, completely separating our “clean” image from anything unclean. I love moments where we can’t deny it anymore. At my current home our septic system broke one time after a party, and poop was coming right out of the pipes and spilling out in a landslide into our back yard… and even the neighbor’s yard. It’s like a metaphysical sign from the disowned, suppressed parts of ourselves that’s saying, “Nope!! You can’t push me down anymore!! I’m making myself known!” These parts want to be adopted, integrated into our being, accepted by the self, and shared with the world. I also love when I go into really rich people’s refrigerators. Wealthy people being those who live the most removed from the elements, in their big, thick-walled mansions, I think of as the most involved in keeping up social appearances…the most invested in coming off as pretty, perfect, successful, etc. More often than not, wealthy people’s refrigerators stink. I can usually smell something rotting. I seriously get a little tingle of joy. Something is rotting behind all those efforts to appear perfect. All the “stuff” they hoard, all the materialism they accumulate in order to make it look like they have it all, the more they lose track of the elements, of their human-ness. Then this little voice from a $10 container of organic, probiotic, pastured, free-range, non GMO, grass-fed yogurt from last month starts squeaking, “ummm…. Hello?? Forgot about me back here… I’m rotting back here!!” and starts letting off its phosphorous farts from the back of the refrigerator. The more we try to distance and dis-associate from our elemental parts by piling on top of our true self veneers and adornments of perfection, the more our human-ness will find their way in through the back door, so to speak, and make themselves known. We have to routinely excavate our emotional “shit”…go through it, get our hands dirty, get to know it, and assess what’s there. Is there old stuff that no longer serves us that we want to let go of? That needs to be transmuted? We need to deal with this stuff in an intimate way. If we don’t give these parts attention, they will rot. Then the pressurized byproduct gasses will eventually build to such a degree that our mask will explode from the inside, in nature’s forced way of making us come face to face with our true selves.
Every time you have an “accident” in public, think of it as a blessing… that which you are trying to hide and keep privately inside wants to be known, wants to be shared. These events humble us. Unless we struggle even harder to hide them, we usually have to admit our humanness and excuse ourselves. This is a very loving and beautiful moment. We are reduced to infants (and everybody unconditionally loves infants). We come to terms with the fact that we are inter-dependent, that we need others. We can’t run from our imperfections anymore. We stop running, and accept ourselves for everything we are.
This post was inspired by how much bullshit there is here in the Bay area. The self-made new age self-helpers on their social media profiles posting nothing but pictures of themselves in warrior one with the sunset blazing perfectly through their mudra, balancing on an ocean cliff with waves breaking over them. Every day they’re smiling, every day it’s peace and love and oneness. It’s nauseating. You can smell the shit from here. It’s a gilded turd. If you really want to better the world, post about when you have a shitty day, when you’re confused, when you’re pissed. It’s humanizing… for all of us. If you’re one of these people who does this, know that your imperfection is okay. Your anger is okay. Your confusion is okay. But posting only your “good” aspects perpetuates this impossible standard of perfectionism that makes your followers want to even further exile their own imperfect parts.That’s the opposite of spiritual.
Dr. Chris Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn likes to call himself a “shame exorcist.” I love this!! I hope I can be of service to the world to some degree in this same way. Don’t keep all that “inappropriate,” “shameful,” “taboo” material inside. I believe, although sharing it can be the most terrifying, all-your-biological-instincts-are-cringing-in-fear-type thing, it is one of the greatest gifts we can offer to humanity. We don’t realize how enslaved we are to our self- censoring. Although sharing our “shit,” can seem at first like sharing something gross or ugly, it is only the shame that makes it appear ugly. Shame spawns in secrecy. The antidote to shame is sharing it. And when we share these kinds of things they usually resonate with others who are harboring similar truths. We come to find that what looked ugly (like our sexuality, for example, or our body) in the shade of shame, is actually a beautiful, rich, and vibrant consciousness of its own! We open entire dimensions of ourselves, and our access to experience of life. And we help open that for others. Our shit is not intrinsically bad. It is only the value judgment we place on it that makes it seem so. Start honoring it and giving it space in the light of your consciousness. Think about those kids in the basement in the above analogy… how they would blossom if they were given love and attention. Just like literal shit makes great fertilizer, embrace it and it will become the most fertile soil for all you wish to grow in your life.