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Role of Shame and Guilt in Recovery

The early stage of recovery usually includes some overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame. Learning to cope with those feelings of guilt and shame becomes crucial to ensure your recovery is not derailed because of these crushing emotions. Most addicts feel guilt and shame, which tend to go together but are two very distinct emotions. Understanding that difference is important in learning how to cope with each emotion.

Guilt is a feeling of remorse or regret for an action or behavior. It is the emotion you feel regarding doing something that you know was wrong. Whether you are an addict or not, we all feel guilt at one time or another for something we have done. Guilt makes people want to take responsibility and make things right. That can sound like a positive, and it can be for most people; however, for an addict, that feeling of guilt can become overwhelming as they look back at all the bad things they did while in the depths of their addiction. Many addicts begin to feel so much guilt over their addictive behavior that they cannot accept the fact that they have done everything they could to make amends.

Shame is a more internalized emotion involving humiliation, embarrassment, heartache, and intense sadness. While guilt and remorse are there for bad actions, shame makes people feel as if they are bad people because of their actions. Good people can do bad things without that making them a bad person. People feeling shame do not believe that of themselves, they think they are horrible people and that gives them feelings of hopelessness and isolation.

Learning to cope with the feelings of guilt and shame are part of the process of recovery. The counselors at Aspire Counseling Services will help you to understand how to deal with your guilt and shame. Group counseling can also help you to understand that you are not alone with these feelings which can help eliminate that feeling of isolation. Dealing with guilt and shame takes different skills for the different emotions.

Coping with guilt involves an understanding that some guilt is a good thing, but other feelings of guilt are inappropriate. Developing an understanding of these differences is the key to coping with guilt. Guilt is a normal and appropriate emotion for doing something you know is wrong. Hurting others, behavior that goes against your personal values, or continued behavior you have promised yourself would stop, could and should all lead to feelings of guilt. If you do not experience guilt for these behaviors that is signs of psychological deficiencies, such as antisocial personality disorder.

Allowing guilt to consume you when you have already admitted to the bad behavior and attempted to make it right can impact your recovery. If it is something you can no longer control, then you need to put it behind you. To keep your recovery on track, you must change the behaviors that make you feel guilty. Stopping those destructive behaviors will stop new guilt feelings from developing and help you to cope with the old guilt by realizing you have truly changed by stopping those actions.

Forgiveness is the key to dealing with shame. Once you learn to stop punishing yourself for your past actions, and to forgive yourself and others, you will be able to overcome your feelings of guilt and shame. Developing the understanding that just because you did some bad things does not make you a bad person, and that you can change your behavior, will resolve your feelings of shame. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. The goal is to hold yourself accountable for your actions, but don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes, we all do!

The counseling experts at Aspire Counseling Services can help you to focus on a positive future and put the guilt and shame over your past behind you. Call today to get started on your road to recovery and freedom from guilt and shame.

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