By Michael Rice, LISAC
One of the necessary approaches in dealing with addicts or alcoholics is to help the person release or let go of all their shame and guilt. You don’t have to be an addict or an alcoholic for this to be effective in your life. Anyone who harbors shame and guilt will not know true happiness and peace of mind until they are rid of their shameful and guilt ridden thoughts.
What is often amazing to both myself and to my clients is to discover that much of what they are keeping secretive, along with the fear of being discovered, is so trite in nature that if or when others did find out, the discoverers would either be understanding, bored, or not even care. All the stress and fears of being discovered are self-imposed. It would also appear that those who are most susceptible to shame and guilt by the manipulation of others who believe what one “should’ think or do, are the most easily taken advantage of. These individuals have a very hard time in saying “no” to others and end up doing things that they really would rather not do only to please the person making the request. They would create feelings of shame and guilt in themselves if they refused the requests of others. Afterwards, they begin to feel angry and turn their anger inwardly (depression) because they would feel guilty and shameful if they let their anger out. Continually giving up one’s own wants and needs for the sake of someone else’s wants and needs will lead to unhappiness. Once a person shows signs of continually trying to please others, others will begin to take advantage of this trait. No one can walk on you if you don’t lay down.
In A.A., members who seek recovery along with their sobriety do more than merely attend meetings. They put the twelve steps into action with the help of a sponsor. Ridding one’s self of shame and guilt is like having the weight of the world taken off one’s shoulders. It’s like being able to exhale after holding your breath for years. I have even witnessed some individuals break down in tears of joy after letting go of their shame and guilt. It is truly a sight to behold and an experience one never forgets once they release it. The process involves making amends wherever possible, forgiving one’s self, and realizing that they are humans who are prone to make mistakes and yet still be loved; feeling worthy of giving and receiving love.
One’s lack of self love is due to their perception about themselves which is laden in shame and guilt. The second genetic need for Love and Belonging is so powerful that when adequately acquired, all of the other genetic needs seem to be more easily attained. Not only does one need Love and Belonging from others but from one’s self. How can you expect others to love you if you don’t like and love yourself?
Personally, I contend that when a person finds love through someone else’s acceptance, they are actually feeling love for themselves as much as for their partner. It is the concept of, “I like me better because you love me.” Love for another person enhances our need for love of our self.
In the movie, “As Good As It Gets,” Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) begins to realize he is miserable without love and belonging? He finds himself being attracted to Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt) and on a casual date he says to her, “You make me want to be a better man.” Melvin has reached an epiphany and realizes that if he wants love and belonging, he needs to stop being such a jerk that drives others away. He’s beginning to deal with his shame and guilt. And what does this all mean? If you want things in life to be better, the first person who needs to change is one’s self.