Shame and guilt are, both, the things I had to work very hard on when I was in treatment.
A person can go years, unnoticed, by pushing shame and guilt to the bottom of their gut. I know, I did it. Much like any other bad infection, shame and guilt can sit within us and slowly grow. We can change the bandage, but the infection remains. Eventually, it becomes so bad it has to be dealt with, and, more than likely, with the help of the professional.
Shame and guilt are both regular humane feelings. But it is when we don't process those feelings properly that we become overwhelmed.
For me, it led to addiction, depression, and anxiety. I pushed these feelings down instead of dealing with them; I pushed them down for so long I forgot how to deal with them! I didn't know how to process the emotions anymore, as my instinct went straight to pushing them away, drowning or drugging them away.
Spending 90 days in a facility with a group of about 20 men, all of us being with similar issues and self-destructive behaviors, all of us stripped of our normal coping mechanisms, and all of us facing each other with our raw emotions coming out sideways, fast, aggressive and nervous, all this put together made for a whirlwind journey of self-discovery.
Today, I have no shame. I am good. What happened to me was not my choice, my choice was to survive, which clearly I have done, and I am now proud of that, as not everyone does survive.
Today, I know how to process guilt and make the proper amends when needed.
Shame and guilt are both very normal reactions the human mind comes up with. Something so normal should never be buried away, but, instead, processed, talked about with a trusted person, felt. Whether it makes you angry or upset or, even, laughing, it is better than hiding them away like I did.
Shame -"I am wrong"......NO, YOU ARE NOT!
Guilt - "I did wrong", maybe you did. Then understand the reasons behind it, make amends when appropriate, and learn from it!
About the Author: Jeff Roberts, I am a 45 year-old husband and father of 2 girls. I work for General Motors. I have a history of childhood trauma which led me to addiction. I used alcohol and cocaine for over a decade. Three attempts at rehab, the third one being much more successful than the first two due to them being trauma-informed.
I now stay involved by trying to give hope to others.