Category Archives: Process Addictions

Thought for the day — 11/20/2018

“Putting one foot in a bucket of ice water and the
other in boiling water is not balanced living.”

~ Joe C. “Beyond Belief”, 11/20

Thoughts On Guilt v. Shame

I’ve heard it said that guilt is a useless emotion. I disagree.

If I stub my toe, it hurts. That brings my attention to possible damage to my body. If it’s more than superficial damage the pain hangs around, reminding me to take it easy and allow it to heal. The same is true of a headache, which could be a symptom of tension, high blood pressure, or even a brain tumor. A headache that’s severe or doesn’t go away in a relatively short time is cause for further investigation. And so forth.

I think of guilt as another form of pain. Guilt reminds me that I’ve “stubbed my toe” spiritually. By some commission or omission I have failed to live up to an obligation, duty, or my own moral and ethical standards. Just as physical pain is a warning to look to the health of my body, so is guilt a warning about my behavior: something needs to be fixed, a duty discharged, an amends made. Like pain, it remains until I do something to allow it to heal.

Shame, on the other hand,  is without doubt undesirable. It’s a spiritual bruise, perhaps a scar. Rather than influencing us to right a wrong, shame tells us that we are a wrong. It causes us to behave unskillfully, as well. In a very real sense, we can say that guilt keeps us honest; shame keeps us dishonest, with ourselves and others. In attempting to make ourselves feel better, we may fail to react to the pain of justifiable guilt in useful ways. If we stuff the guilt instead of fixing the problem, it is likely to turn into more shame.

I think it’s useful for our spiritual development and repair to keep this distinction firmly in mind. People like us addicts, who come from a place of shame, are likely to find it hard to to react usefully to guilt, because we were taught to believe that guilt makes us less worthy. The reality is exactly the opposite. As we learn to admit our mistakes, wrongs, and other transgressions, we move farther from shame, collecting reasons to feel better about ourselves. In time, lesson builds on lesson and we begin to think of ourselves as worthy, rather than “wrong.”

That’s far easier said than done, but it’s a path necessary to the self-esteem that we addicts crave.

 

Thoughts about Steps 8 and 9


In the 8th and 9th Steps we learn to see and examine our deeds without hiding behind our excuses.

Am I (or was I) really ready for those steps? Did I complete them from that perspective? Do I need to take another look?

Personal Responsibility

“I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept
the consequences of every deed, word and thought throughout our lifetime.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004)


Anyone who sits through a few meetings will hear someone blaming their addiction (or other people) for their behavior. “My addict did this,” or “It was just my addict talking,” or “If it weren’t for my addiction, I….” or “If she hadn’t…” or “If they didn’t…” (insert appropriate whine).

Our attitudes are often the same regarding those whose social behavior fails to meet our standards. Perhaps we believe they have mistreated us or a loved one. Perhaps we believe they should know better, based on our underestanding of our reality. And do we get pissed off when they fail to apologize or make restitution in some way? Of course we do! We demand that they accept the responsibility for their actions (judged by our standards, mind you), and that they try to make things right.

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