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Living Through the Shame and Guilt

August 31, 2017
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living through the same and guilt

Shame and guilt are such a huge force in the thinking of addicts.  The bad feelings about our past, the shame of who and what we are, and our guilt of not being the person we want to be are very powerful under the spell of our addiction disease. While we are the worst critic for our own sobriety, we also are the strongest person to help us out of this pain and judgment.  

One well-known voice who has shed insight on shame and guilt and how it can affect our daily thinking is Dr. Brené Brown. Dr. Brown is a world recognized research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, for her research on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. She has written several books on these subjects and has done Ted talks in the last several years that really are profound. These are several quotes that can hopefully inspire and encourage addicts when things look bleak.

These are shared in 3 specific groups to focus on keeping it simple, yet usable in our lives.  (These are all quotes from Dr. Brown.)

Facing Our Story

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.  (We use!)

We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.

In my research, I’ve interviewed a lot of people who never fit in, who are what you might call ‘different’: scientists, artists, thinkers. And if you drop down deep into their work and who they are, there is a tremendous amount of self-acceptance.

Shame

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.

 Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change. 

If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.  If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.

Guilt is just as powerful, but its influence is positive, while shame’s is destructive. Shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement.

Men walk this tightrope where any sign of weakness illicit shame, and so they’re afraid to make themselves vulnerable for fear of looking weak.

Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.

Healthy Action

When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible.

First and foremost, we need to be the adults we want our children to be. We should model the kindness we want to see.

I’ve learned that men and women who are living wholehearted lives really allow themselves to soften into joy and happiness. They allow themselves to experience it.

I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.

Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.

All of these quotes are from various thoughts by Brené Brown.  

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Warren Boyd
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