by Joshua Hoe
Shame has a very specific and important productive purpose, it exists to help you build bulwarks up against bad behaviors. As you get closer to doing something bad, you feel increased shame, which hopefully prevents you from continuing your path toward bad behaviors.
When you have actually done something bad, shame tells you not to do it again, that you should not WANT to engage in that kind of behavior. Shame is one of many of our tools to protect ourselves from doing the wrong things (It works in concert with our other emotional tools like our flight or flight response etc.).
But, for addicts, shame cuts much deeper. For me, I spent so much of my time wallowing in shame that it seemed impossible to ever feel morally “clean” again. And that is the root of the problem, once shame stops being productive it starts becoming part of our justification cycle.
We feel so bad, and so full of shame, that the only answer seems like acting out (and through acting out temporarily feeling “good” again). Our justification voice tells us,
“You are so awful, so shameful, there is no hope for you, this is who you are.”
Self-Awareness + Questioning Your Shame
One trick I have learned to use is engaging in dialog with myself about my shame. When I notice that I am starting to “wallow” I ask myself one simple question:
Is this shame serving a productive purpose?
I am not saying it is easy to dismiss feelings of shame. I am not saying that it is easy to engage in objective and logical conversation with yourself. I am saying that with practice, it gets easier and easier to realize that you can engage in internal dialog about issues like this.
I am saying it becomes easier to recognize the shame that is productive and dismiss the type of shame that contributes to your addictive cycle.
I hope this helps you in your own struggles against shame.