by Dr. Robert Rosenthal
Rev. Tony Pontiello and Rev. Roxie Benson in Las Vegas
But back to your presentation. An increasingly common psychiatric disorder is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), that is, the conviction that something is wrong with the appearance of one’s body: nose, penis, breasts, set of eyes or lips – you name it. Women are more prone than men due to cultural standards of beauty that are nearly impossible to live up to. BDD is a disorder of the shame family. Shame leads us to feel inferior, defective, inadequate, rejected – and we’ve all experienced it in one form or another. No one is immune. Even dogs and cats demonstrate shame behavior.
Interestingly, shame is rarely mentioned in ACIM, in marked contrast to guilt. I wrote about the reasons for this recently in MDC’s Holy Encounter and I’m attaching that article here. I hope you’ll find it to be a useful perspective. One of the things I learned in training and mentioned in the article is that the “cure” for shame is exposure: ideally gradual exposure and always in a safe setting: like alcoholics sharing their life stories in A.A. If we expose whatever was deemed shameful in an unsafe setting, it only gets reinforced.
So ... when I watched your talk/ performance, I saw you letting go of the past through exposure of what had once brought on shame in what you considered to be a safe setting. Not that most people would have seen it that way, in front a big crowd. But this was your conference, your baby, your show, with those who know and love you seated throughout the audience. And this did take place in Las Vegas, after all – the queen of shameless towns, as you noted, with strippers doing their thing only a short distance away. The result? The shame that is inherent in bodies got exposed for what it is and reversed when you displayed it so brazenly, but in the context of a helpful talk on transcending bodies and division. Sure, it provoked shame in some audience members. But overall, mission accomplished.