The first experience a person has with fear and blame is in childhood. It is usually because of abuse or neglect within the child’s relationships with others, or even with themselves. When a child is blamed for making mistakes, it leads to feeling shame. This in turn leads to the child blaming themselves. And without some form of help, these patterns transfer to adulthood. When the adult continues to suffer abuse and neglect, the feelings of fear and blame intensify. Over time the adult learns to alleviate these feelings, or hide them, by using survival skills learned through life, such as relying on control, or manipulation. However, the pattern of fear and blame endures.
When a person experiences paralyzing feelings of panic, worthlessness or apathy, and tends to feel that there is no solution or end to the suffering, that is a shame spiral. The person starts to feel isolated and rejected, even stupid. They start pushing harder to meet other people’s expectations or engage in unhealthy behavior, or try to escape from the situation altogether, thus worsening the spiral and often resulting in some form of crisis.
The person’s fear that they may be shamed again by their loved ones or colleagues and others takes much greater control of the person’s life, than actual shame itself. No one wants to hear about their mistakes and shortcomings, indeed they are afraid to hear about them. This leads to the person becoming defensive and maybe even lying to save face, and avoid disappointing or angering others.
It is a process that takes someone from feeling blamed, to being in recovery. It’s not a one step program.
Forgiveness is the first step. It can be difficult to let go of the past. The person may feel stuck, and have a desire to punish themselves for things that happened long ago. To break out of this pattern, it is important for the person to surrender old, hurtful mechanisms of coping and surrender to a higher power and ask for help from loved ones or professionals.
A thorough moral inventory is the next step. The person needs to come to the realization that they have taken on the blame, shame and hostility of their accusers, and turned it inward. A moral inventory will seek out the positive assets within the person, pushing away the inner critic, and seeing what’s good. It is hard to reprogram the inner critic to be a positive cheerleader, but with practice the person can learn to love themselves again.
Acceptance is the final step. Everyone has faults, but merely faults don’t define a person. The person who has deeply ingrained patterns of fear and blame, is either broken down and vulnerable, or has constructed elaborate walls to guard themselves. In either case, a small slight by another could crush their defenses. Such a person needs to identify the positive within, and start believing that those traits are true. Acceptance comes from inside the person first, and only then will they be able to see and believe that others accept them too.
Hired Power provides information and resources for addiction intervention and recovery. If you are struggling to kick a drug or substance use habit, call us. Let us help you create a solid foundation for lasting recovery. 1-800-910-9299
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