Part of our masculine programming is stoicism; we don’t often reveal resentment, shame and self judgment. We are ashamed of the ways we acted in past relationships, and we harshly judge ourselves for not achieving the goals we think we should have. We carry resentments for bad decisions, and deem ourselves as unworthy to be successful. When this shame and resentment go unnoticed over a length of time, it can wreak havoc inside of us.

Shame and resentment is probably one of the most, if not the most, uncomfortable and debilitating feelings we can carry.

One of our biggest challenges is in “recognizing” that shame, guilt and resentment are at play within us. Often, unresolved feelings that have been repressed and unprocessed can show up as unhealthy habits. Habits can show up more overtly — like abuse of drugs or alcohol — or in seemingly more covert habits, such as consistently showing up late for work, which results in an old story of being fired from every job we’ve had.

Unhealthy habits can show up in so many ways; an angry outburst that sometimes results in violence against women or children. It can show up as shutting down, saying “no” to everyone or trying to please everyone, not keeping our word, or blaming others. Being unconscious, unaware, or ignorant of habits is the single biggest challenge we face.

We must have enough courage to invite others to lovingly and gently point out our unhealthy habits or we must be willing to have radical self-honesty.

A man becomes uptight when his wife points out where he didn’t keep his word. Rather than using his awareness to notice that his shame has been activated, he goes silent, shuts down. Internally he blames her for being rude or bitchy. His habit of not speaking up for himself or sharing how he is feeling is automatic, rather than really feeling into the shame that is present.

Over long (or sometimes short) periods of time this can derail a relationship. I have seen this happen with men: a succession of relationships that all end the same way. Unhealthy habits can be very subtle, we must be committed to self-awareness and self- inquiry to support our personal evolution.

What can we do about this?

One powerful tool on our healing journey is the practice of releasing and forgiving.

Releasing shame and resentment starts with self-forgiveness. Forgiveness is an “inside job,” and what’s so cool is that we can do this without anyone knowing that it is happening.

First off, it is important to cultivate a “mood” of self-forgiveness. What I mean by this is, really feeling into the wound of the self-judgment or shame. Remember the event that caused the pain or wound, be present with whatever emotion arises, be it sad, mad or shame. Once you are in the feeling, put your hand on your heart and verbally say “I forgive myself for any harm I caused myself or others” .  Repeat this, if need be do it a dozen times. Notice your body relaxing, notice an inner gentleness toward yourself. If you are not feeling a softening, take 5 long deep breaths and repeat the forgiveness.

I have seen men work with forgiveness and not have a strong reaction at first. It can take time to sink into the subtle release of shame or guilt, to soften into self love . Remember that forgiving ourselves — or others — can take practice.

In my experience it’s not as easy as just saying out loud “I need to let this go”(as I have tried that as well, many times). Remember, it does require a deepening into the pain of the shame or guilt. Feeling the pain, remembering the thing that caused the shame or resentment. Ignoring is not the answer.

Another thing that I have experienced as effective and powerful is sharing my truth in the presence of other men. First, we must gain awareness and be able to notice what shame is present within us, then we share that with others in a safe and trusted container. There are clinical studies showing the stress reducing effects of journaling; this is in essence like a verbal journal. Getting it off of our chests.

 When we consciously choose to release old stories, shame and judgment with self-forgiveness in a safe container of men, the effect is magnified.

I have seen men experience major breakthroughs and relief from this simple and profound practice. If you do not feel supported by a community of conscious men, you can do this practice on your own through writing in a journal. But, getting support from other men on the personal growth is my number one recommendation.

Releasing and forgiveness is a like a detox — an emotional detox that leaves us feeling refreshed, lighter and rejuvenated.

Lastly, for guys that think this is too strange or it feels to uncomfortable to do, I suggest you just try it anyway. If your mind is busy with inner comments like “this is silly, this can’t do anything” make a conscious choice not to believe the thought.

Releasing and self-forgiveness can bring much needed relief. When your heart softens and you forgive yourself and others it frees up a lot of energy that you can devote to your personal growth, your family, your career and success.