The gift of the movie Shame is the clear and brutal exposition of a path deeply hidden yet commonly taken, the path of sexual addiction.
At its heart, sexual addiction shares with all addictions the expropriation of an instinct, in this case the sexual instinct. Other addictions, such as food and chemical dependency, are more associated with the hunger instinct. Addiction numbs, soothes and keeps at bay the underlying challenges of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, integration, and true intimacy.
The sexual instinct, fully wrestled with and realized in maturity, brings in its wake bonding, union, love and new life. In addiction the sexual instinct is choked into compulsive release, offering little more than deepening alienation under the ever-present shadow of death.
The storyline of the movie gives us little history, but enough to know that life lived must be kept at bay, frozen and unprocessed. Human contact—seemingly at its most intimate in the sexual act—must be completely devoid of connection and feeling. Sex is completely severed from even a hint of love. The slightest hint of feeling renders the phallus flaccid, plunged into yet deeper shame.
And with shame comes the opportunity to be with the pain, to find the tearful circuits to emotional release, to begin to melt the frozen islands of fragmented self. But, as with all paths, sometimes the shock and pain of knowing the truth, and feeling it fully, sends us back into addictive behaviors and release, the wheel of groundhog days. Though this repetitive cycle appears to offer little resolution, in actuality, it allows us to engage in a truly instinctual/spiritual process, as we return to accrue more energy in the form of frustration and discontent, energy that one day will help us awaken and realize that we no longer need to stay on that wheel. We are fully prepared then to step beyond the path of shame into deeper connection and fulfillment.
The movie leaves us hanging, in an unresolved land with some painful truths revealed and many still deeply hidden. It leaves us uncomfortable, confronted with accepting the fact that we all face addiction of some sort in our lives, as well as some sort of shame.
Though addiction comes in many guises, at its core it nonetheless asks us to face the same things within ourselves as the protagonist in Shame is asked to face within himself: the uncomfortable truth.
Can we enter that land of truth? What do we stay addicted to that keeps us from not only facing our deepest pain but from going deeper into where it is instinctually guiding us? Can we allow ourselves to accept that in facing our truths we really will step onto a path of change? Can we bear the tension of that journey of change that seeks to lead us to true union?
Lift the veil of shame and see what’s beneath it. The ultimate realization is that we’re all on the same path; we’re all beings on our way to dying. Choosing addictions equals choosing attachments. How long do we really need to hold onto them? How long do we need to keep at bay the real truths of who we are, the truths of our lives lived and the truth of our lives yet to be lived? Can we stay open to our fullest potential—fulfillment in a life we can’t hold onto anyway? Because we do have to die.
The real question is: How do we want to live?
And the real crux of sex and love is: Can we allow ourselves to fully open to love in a life that will one day end? Can we join the spirit of love and fully merge with another human being? Can we love someone who may leave us and someone who surely is going to die? If love is spirit and sex is matter—which is transitory—can we allow ourselves to drop all addictions and attachments, and all our shame too, and truly merge the two?
Full union of spirit and matter is letting love in. There is no shame in that.
Chuck, with love and thanks for some expert editing by Jan.