Shame versus Tough Love

Artwork by Bryce Widom

Artwork by Bryce Widom

In my last post, I spoke of a new insight. Using more discipline to support my ongoing surrender.

Many of you asked, “yeah, but how do you not shame yourself or should yourself into doing stuff ‘cause that doesn’t work?”

Let me start by saying this is a very delicate dance. It requires me to know myself very deeply internally. It requires keen presence and awareness.

In 8th grade I was being ungrateful, entitled and in general, a spoiled brat around the subject of friends. This went on for many months. At one point, my Dad lost it and shamed the shit out of me and screamed at me for being an entitled brat. I don’t remember the words, but it set me straight, period. I was different from that day forward.

Looking back it was his “tough love” (yes, with plenty of shame and blame) that set me straight. He cared enough to get in my face and break through my bullshit. Sure, he could have done it way more skillfully, but at the time, it didn’t matter. The message got through. He also rarely broke out that voice, with that tone, in that way. So, it was a rare side of my dad and one I perked up to and listened to even though I cried and cried.

Over the years, whenever I had goals or objectives, I would start shaming myself into doing them. I could never sustain them because a part of me doesn’t like to be told what to do, nor do I like shaming or “shoulds.”

On the one hand, too much shame has us clamp down further and resist, especially if we are feeling insecure, unworthy or depressed about ourselves and our life. On the other hand, used once in a blue moon, our stern, fierce tone/voice from deep care has the power to cut through our resistance.

When I look back to 8th grade, I needed a serious dose of “tough love” which is something like “Get your fucking head I the game bro! No more distracting yourself.”  It was very helpful in the big picture.

 The Inner Samurai

I recently had one of the most intense trials in my life during an all night ayahuasca ceremony. The only thing that got me through was my tough love with myself. I call this part of me my inner samurai.

He’s there to hold the line with me. He’s there to kick my ass. He gives a shit and loves me so much that he is not willing to stand by and let me waffle my life away.

He’s the guy that parents my kids with vulnerable yet ruthless love. My son knows where the boundaries are, period. Because my inner samurai is in charge, not my son.  Not only that, my inner samurai is there to be fiercely loving to the hurt little boy in me that can try to sneak into the driver seat and run my life. He doesn’t let that happen anymore.  My inner samurai also has a soft side where can be a large teddy bear that holds my hurt boy for hours upon end.

I’m starting to see life as a martial art. I am the martial artist and if I see everything as practice or “training,” then there’s very little room to fuck around. I want to be clear, open, and precise in my life. This requires tremendous discipline. When I’m not in the mood, I’m going to train anyway.

And, my inner samurai now has full reign to crack the loving whip on me if I start to check out or collapse. He cares, deeply. He knows that the only way I’m going to give my gifts in the world while being married and parenting two little ones, is if he is ferociously loving with me.

I am finally finding a “middle way” to confront my own inner slacker and the part of me that checks out and would rather run away from my life. I know the difference in me when I’m shaming myself, which has yet to happen since this insight occurred.

How do I know? When I am shaming myself, my resistance increases, an inner power struggles ensues, and the resistance always wins.

In real life, when teenage boys rebel they are asking for a boundary, a strong figure (ideally a male) to set a limit, but from a place of LOVE, not fear. Granted fear might be in there, but if it is largely coming from love, I’m learning as a parent, that it’s okay to raise my voice sometimes. My son needs me to be there. He needs me to be in my body, present, ready to respond.

If my son is walking in the street and a car is coming, I’m not going to be nice and skillful. I’m going to yell or even scream. Fear is in there yes, but below that is an ocean of the deepest love imaginable. I will do anything for him. So why should my relationship to myself be any different?

Lastly, if and when we raise our voice at our kids or ourselves, we can always “clean it up” later if we have the skills and work on ourselves on a regular basis.

Tough love is playing a key force in my life right now. Mostly with myself. I’m not willing to piss away the days anymore. I don’t have time. When it’s time to work, I’m working. This frees me up to surrender being with my family when it’s kid/family time. Paradoxically, it is also supporting me to be less serious and have more fun!

As an example, this post took 45 minutes to write and not once did I check facebook or my email (both leaky distractions to getting shit done).

It’s a razor’s edge between tough love and shame. I’m committed to loving myself in the most ruthless way possible. I like the results.

*note: my blog currently has a bug so the visual aspect is not as tight as i’d like it to be.



  • Jesse Johnson

    Reply Reply September 1, 2011

    Jayson, thanks for helping to wake me up. Sometimes, I struggle to find purpose in my own Inner Samurai. I have been reconnecting with it and my work is about to benefit. No more hiding.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply September 2, 2011

      No problem brother! yes, no more hiding!

  • Jeff Navarro

    Reply Reply September 2, 2011

    Thanks, Jayson…as usual, your transparency clarifies for me some of my own patterns and struggles.  After reading this, I now have to admit, I find myself shaming myself into line too much.  The inner samurai, what a perfect metaphor! “He gives a shit and loves me so much that he is not willing to stand by and let me waffle my life away”…I’m going to print that out and put it where I can see it every day.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply September 2, 2011

      Awesome Jeff. glad to be of service. yes, our inner shamer can be sneaky.

  • Sleeping Realities

    Reply Reply September 2, 2011

    This IS a delicate dance, one of those yin/yang kind of things.  Sometimes the same exact actions between two people (an adult yelling at a kid, to use your example) are worlds apart, depending on the relationship between those people.  As an 8th-grader, I’m assuming you knew at the deepest level that your dad loved you and his yelling was coming from his love for you rather than some kind of image/ego trip.
    Myself, I’m definitely still in the slacker mode.  I’ve never been very good at being disciplined without slipping over the edge into rigidity and arrogance.  I avoid THOSE qualities so much, I don’t even want to approach that edge again.  But I’m just saying that to let myself off the hook, right?  It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.  I’m an adult; I can find shades of gray.  This article was a good reminder to start being more mindful of this discipline/freedom dance. Thanks!

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply September 3, 2011

      Yes, shades of gray, i like that. Makes sense to me. I was so rigid with myself in the past that it only brought on more resistance. So, yes, the other pole is letting yourself off the hook IMO. rock on.

  • Marco

    Reply Reply September 3, 2011

    This article came at a really good time for me….  Yesterday evening, I was feeling insecure because of some minor woman troubles. My inner little boy decided to climb in the driver’s seat and feel better by looking at porn. I recalled your words, and my inner samurai put his hand on my shoulder, and said “You’re checking out, man! This isn’t what a hero would do…you don’t really want this.” I shut off the computer and did a few enjoyable (but long procrastinated) things toward some personal goals, then worked on some music. Man, did I feel better about myself when I lay my head down that night! Thanks Jayson!

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply September 3, 2011

      Marco, love the vulnerability here. Thanks for being so real with yourself and being willing to stay in the driver’s seat. Excellent!

  • Booster Blake

    Reply Reply October 18, 2011

    Love this.  And the whole site.  It’s inspiring to see the heaps of medicine that you’re bringing to the world.  I notice myself comparing and finding my measure in short supply.  It’s a sucky feeling but it’s coming from a good place, an “ocean of the deepest love imaginable”.  Thanks bro.  

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply October 21, 2011

      Thanks bro! wow. receiving…..

  • Kelly

    Reply Reply November 3, 2011

    This was a great article. Have you ever heard of Wright?

    Their Gay Men’s Personal Development coaching class really help me out!!


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