Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guilt: A Gift?

I remember those days of early youth when I would get busted for doing something stupid by my stepmother.  I would do immoral and ignorant things like take money out of her purse (as if she would miss it being a banker), use a certain finger to express my feelings when her back was turned and she happened to be standing in front of a mirror (I never claimed to be a genius), or eat dessert before dinner when I was told explicitly not to eat dessert before dinner.  Yes, confession is good for the soul and I feel better!  Now that I got that out, let's get on to the related topic of guilt!

Guilt is a tricky feeling.  While necessary to have, it is not fun to feel.  Ever felt guilty?  I hope so...otherwise that would label you a sociopath and then we really do need to talk (preferably with you on one side of the bars and me on the other)!  Yes, guilt is a quite normal and natural human experience.  What's the point of guilt?  Have you ever pondered that question?  It's a good thing to consider because guilt can be helpful.  

Guilt is basically a message from your internal moral compass telling you that you have violated your predetermined moral code of behavior.  Guilt is a warning light.  It's job is to tell you that you have gotten off track with a recent action(s) or word(s).  We often get hung up on the feeling of guilt and never ask the question of what is the message of guilt.  Could guilt be a gift?  It depends on how you look at it.  

If we look at guilt as a gift, we set ourselves up for a new future.  By this, I mean, choosing to see guilt as a gift means you are open to receiving the message of guilt and to then apply it to your life.  On the contrary, if we see guilt as an awful, horrible, feeling that should cause us extreme shame, embarrassment and sorrow then we're missing the greater point.  The point of guilt isn't to beat us down and destroy our self-esteem rather it is to lift us up to a higher standard of behavior that will help us flourish and not wither.  Don't get me wrong...sorrow and embarrassment have their place as a deterrent from future behavior but they should be experienced with some temperance (I no longer steal from my stepmother's wallet because at 39 that would be pretty lame.  I also no longer feel shame or embarrassment about it because I have forgiven myself). 

How do you deal with guilt?  Do you choose to learn the lesson it's trying to teach or do you wallow in self-pity or continue in the guilt-causing behavior?  Even worse, because of guilt, do you choose to use drugs and/or alcohol to soothe the guilty pangs?  Guilt is a huge cause of relapse.  That is why it is crucial to deal with it appropriately so you can benefit from it's message, amend your behavior and maintain your sobriety.  That is our task in dealing with guilt. 

The next time you experience guilt, ask yourself what is the guilt trying to tell you?  What moral code have you broken that caused the guilt?  Then ask yourself what can I do with this message to change my life for the better?  If you apply these two questions, I believe you will experience guilt in a whole new life-affirming way versus how you have been experiencing it up until now: a death blow to your self-esteem and a dismal forecast of the future.  Finally, your sobriety will remain intact and be strengthened by your experience thus giving you hope for the future!

At The Coleman Institute, we
specialize in helping people get clean clean and stay clean from alcohol and drugs.  Many of our patients struggle with guilt about their addiction.  You can relax if you struggle with guilt because we're not here to judge you.  We're here to help you become the best version of you possible.  If you or someone you love is in need of detox from opiatesalcohol, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitant to call Jennifer Pius at 1-877-77-DETOX (33869).  Help, hope and healing begin here!

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