"We all tend to hang out from time to time in places that others wouldn't want to be seen in, and which if anyone ever found out, would leave us highly embarrassed.
Embarrassment is enough to make one person laugh, another cry and another lock themselves away in a room for six months before daring to show their face again. Whether you be the parent in a crowded lift who puts the blame on your five-year-old girl for your fart or the six-foot-tall guy who dare not admit to having seen 'The sound of Music' ten times as a seventeen-year-old, we have all experienced such moments of monumental cringe at one time or another. And yet, we can learn 'to live with' our embarassment if we so chose; not 'like it', but 'live with it!'
There have been so many occasions in later life that might have caused me embarassment at the time, had I not practised many years earlier 'how to live with my embarrassment without it making me blush.'
When I was young I had a weak bladder and wet the bed most nights. This wasn't the nicest of experiences for my two younger sisters, as coming from a large family with fewer beds than occupants, the three of us shared a bed until I was ten. My next source of acute embarrassment came in my teens when four friends and I, as a dare, decided to streak naked across a field which was visible from the main road. We all disrobed and set off laughing loudly. An older, courting couple approached from the opposite direction and seeing them before me, my four friends hid down in the long grass, leaving me to run past them in my birthday suit.
Have you ever been in the company of an ex girl friend or wife and their new partner. There is a moment when the eyes of the two men first meet and you feel smug knowing that you were there first, he feels highly uncomfortable knowing the same while she is feeling the most embarrassed of all as she mentally pictures both of you on the lavatory.
My first wife who was very concerned with image, frequently felt embarrassed by what I might say at parties and she had this annoying habit of apologising for my words even before I'd put my foot in it.
My second wife was a much different kind of person and didn't embarrass too easily during our early years together. The very first time we shared a hotel room in Scotland where the bath room was across the landing and not inside our bedroom, circumstances conspired and we both finished up locked out of our room, completely naked and with only one towel between two of us, covering our lower halves. As we tried to gain entry back inside our room without a key, two older women approached. As they neared, I did the only thing that any gentleman could do in the circumstances and fully draped the towel around my wife as I stood there proud and said 'Good morning, ladies.' Being ladies of higher breeding and without seeming to look across at us, one simply replied politely in her Miss Marple's voice, 'And a very good morning to you two also.'
I was thirty before I came across Arnold Allan Lazarus, a South African psychologist, therapist and behaviourist who wrote dozens of books and who finished working his later years in America with groups of insecure individuals who became over-embarrassed by their failures and who were always saying and doing the wrong thing. Lazarus had this marvellous ability of teaching people how to 'accept' failure; not necessarily seek it out, but to accept it when it came along without rejecting self. He would set his group members tests and when they got the answers correct, he would mark them wrong. His clients would die with embarrassment on occasions, so he taught them to practise doing embarrassing things until they ceased to be embarrassed in their doing of them. He would give them homework exercises of walking up and down 52nd Street in rush hour wearing one red sock, one yellow sock and dressed like a goblin with a two-foot-long feather in their cap. During the following group session when he asked them what happened as they engaged in their homework exercises, most replied, 'Absolutely nothing at all. Everyone just passed us without comment' and a few even reported back, 'We made friends.'
Lazarus essentially taught his clients that they could 'immunise themselves against embarrassment' through repeated practice, and so long as they didn't copulate in public view in the front window of Macy's Store or didn't do anything else illegal, then the worse that would happen is that they'd make a few new friends and nobody would lock them up in Sing Sing Prison and throw away the key!
During my many groups that I ran in later years I always used the methods of Arnold Lazarus to reduce embarrassment. Sometimes it might involve group members learning to pull the funniest face they could to a group of strangers; on other occasions I'd teach people who could not say boo to a goose to open up their window and shout out at the top of their voice the very worst swear word they knew. Admittedly, often they'd start off with damn, but would rarely finish up with anything less than the 's....b....or...f' word.
Having said all that, probably the most embarrassing thing that can happen in one's life is 'dying.' Dying leaves you without any shame or influence and wholly dependent on someone else to dress you and take care of your finer details. The day of your funeral is the one occasion when you just know that as soon as you have left the room, they will talk about you for the rest of the day!" William Forde: February 25th, 2015.