A friend shared with me one of the most profound statements about shame: Shame is breadcrumbs that lead to more opportunities for self-acceptance and wholeness. So having shame about genital herpes is us believing that who we are isn’t enough to have someone accept the risk of herpes. This shame holds us back from believing that entire parts of ourselves are lovable. So we avoid looking at those parts of ourselves. We look the other way. Denial is the easiest way to avoid those parts that we don’t love, those parts we don’t accept. But what if those parts we are choosing not to look at is where our beauty lies?
Using shame as an emotional excavator
So what if you choose instead to use shame as a tool, an excavator, that unearths more opportunities for wholeness and self-acceptance? Put another way: What part of yourself do you get to accept instead of shame? The shame is a homing device that draws your attention to something you can either choose to avoid or get more curious about. If herpes will have you believe that you are not lovable, then you will instinctively avoid anything that might prove that to be true. To protect yourself, you will avoid all romantic opportunities that could prove to you once and for all that you’re not lovable. But by avoiding these opportunities altogether, you are also avoiding one simple fact: That you are indeed lovable.
The Warrior’s Journey.
This is starting to sound a lot like all of those ancient myths. The warrior goes on a journey to ultimately battle the fierce dragon, learns a lot about himself/herself in the process and finds that the dragon is guarding a cave full of riches. There’s a reason these metaphorical myths have survived over the centuries: They apply to each of us. We each live our lives, each being confronted by our own dragons. And once we find the courage to face our dragons, we might just find treasures of self-acceptance behind them. Herpes may seem like a fierce dragon, bent on destroying our lovability, but when you face it down, you can find all of that is simply not true. For example, maybe you’re avoiding having the herpes talk with someone you’re interested in, but you avoid it because you believe they won’t see you as the treasure you are. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, the ultimate self-sabotage. Here's the irony: Having the courage to face the possibility of not being enough actually gives us the opportunity to experience that we are.
So instead of looking away, let’s look deeper into those parts of ourselves. We might just find something rich ... and damn worth it.