Sunday, June 26, 2016

Dealing with Feelings of Guilt

When we go through something traumatic (which is usually the case when our close one chooses to escape reality through drugs and alcohol or other destructive behaviors), we often try to understand the reason or correct the error. Guilt means that we are in debt to someone; that we have done something wrong and that we want to change and take responsibility for what we have done. However, since we don't “own” the problem (the addiction), we can't correct it. But this doesn't stop us from trying to solve the problem in all possible, and impossible, ways. When our attempts fail, we blame ourselves. We create thoughts like: "I should have done something else ... "," I did not do enough"," I should have been kinder ... ", and so on.  

I attended a really interesting lecture held by therapist Anders Jansson. He described the different kinds of feelings of guilt:

1) True guilt.  
This is when you know you did something wrong, for example stealing something. The feeling of guilt is needed in this situation, since we need to ask ourselves what we've done and to not do it again. Guilt teaches us that we shouldn't repeat certain actions. What makes us feel guilt has proven to differ between different countries, cultures and ages.

2) Learned and “untrue” guilt. 
We learn to feel this guilt in early childhood, and continue bearing it into adulthood. You learn to feel guilty even though you haven't done something wrong. An example is that of a mother who gets a migraine and need to take lot of pills because her child doesn't eat up his/her dinner. She becomes angry and the pills makes her completely drowsy. The child feels guilty, thinking that it was he/she who made the mother take pills. When growing up, the person continues to blame him/herself, usually when someone else is sad, angry or upset.

3) True guilt by treating ourselves badly. 
For example, when a person with alcohol problems tries to wash away his/her negative feelings with more alcohol. The body and the brain says it's wrong. The person may feel even more guilty which only leads to more drinking, just to numb the feelings. Another example is when we as relatives are lagging behind with paying the bills or turning down seeing friends since we don't want to tell anyone how we really feel. We don't take care of our own needs. Our body and brain knows it, which makes us feel even more guilty. If we, upon this, make the connection that it is toward someone else we feel guilty, we try to compensate this by taking care of the other person's needs rather than our own.

A question you can ask yourself is: Do I have the power to influence the situation and do I have responsibility for it? If I have neither the power to influence it or the responsibility to do so, there's not much I can do, right? 

For example, a child growing up with a father with a drinking problem. At every party he gets very drunk and unpleasant, stumbling around and breaking things. Do the child have the power to influence this situation? No. Do the child have a responsible for the situation? No. But the child still experience guilt and shame.

Feelings of guilt can also be created when our close one's with addiction choose to take the drug after we've tried talking to them, or when we've avoided talking to them. There may also be feelings of guilt if the person has been sober for a long time and then relapses. We may think that: "It is my fault, I should never have said that". "If only I had been with him more often this would not have happened”. “If only I had been kinder". In a way, there are things to learn in this situation. Our ways of communication always have a kind of impact, both positive or negative, in all our relationships. Our communication towards others affects how we feel later on. But it's never your fault if a person relapses. All people have a choice. There are those who suffered severe experiences in life, such as death, accidents, sexual assault, rape or natural disasters, but who still choose other strategies than taking drugs in order to cope. Others choose alcohol, drugs, pills, games, shopping or sex to escape their experiences. It is not uncommon that they blame their close ones, who are easy targets when it comes to taking on their own guilt. The relatives are told that they have done wrong and the cause of the persons poor mental state is therefore their fault. They may be accused for all kinds of things. In my work I've heard things such as: "you didn't cut the lawn often enough”, “I didn't get a dog as a child”, “you've been an absent parent". Sometimes there might be truth to the accusations, and sometimes not. However, whatever it is, it's still the person's own choice to take the drug or not. The most tragic part is that most people who develop an addiction start in their early teenage years. In that age the frontal lobe is not fully developed, which makes it difficult to realize the consequences and risks of their actions.

If you experience a lot of guilt, try doing this exercise. Think about a situation that make you feel guilty. Write down what your intention for your actions were in the moment. Try looking at the situation from a more realistic point of view. Write down what you could do instead, if you end up in a similar situation once more. 





I gave him $ 50 for
a new pair of shoes.
He used the money to buy drugs. It's my fault that he's an addict.

I wanted to give him new shoes.
I made a misjudgment when I gave him
the money. On the other side, he's the one to choose what to do with the money. If I hadn't given him the $ 50, he would've found money for drugs in some other way.

I will not give him any money until he's stable and free from drugs.

I didn't pick up the phone when she called yesterday, since I had finally started to fall asleep. Now she's texted me that I'm never there for her, and that might be true.

I was so tired and was finally gonna get some sleep. I have the right to sleep at night. I help the person in many other ways.
Next time it
happens I will
do the same (not answer),
but I can write her a text
before I go to sleep and tell her that I will turn
off my phone, so she knows it beforehand.

Your example:

Your example:

Your example: Your example:
Your example:

Your example:

Your example: Your example:
Your example:

Your example:

Your example: Your example:

If you suffer from a lot of guilt, bring out a pencil and a note book and write down as much as possible about all the reasons why you feel guilty. Do a reality test on all your feelings of guilt. Sometimes the thoughts may freeze and you may get stuck on the guilty feelings, which will block any other realistic thoughts. Maybe we've had some our guilty thoughts for several years which makes it hard to find realistic thoughts. If that's the case, talk to a therapist or friend for help! Some thing tend to untangle when we hear others' thoughts on the situation.

Do you have any questions or thoughts
Please contact me at:
You can also follow me on my Facebook-page: Carina Bang

Take care! 

No comments : - Den ständigt växande länkkatalogen - Den ständigt växande länkkatalogen