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  • Writer's pictureChrysanthi Sophia Karampetsi

Engineering Your Own Recovery Beyond Shame and Guilt

“You need to continuously water and feed the flowers and uproot the weeds to keep your garden healthy…”

What do you do if one of your plants is not going so well? Do you neglect it or do you change the way you provide water and food to it or do you treat the disease? Well, depending on how important is this plant to you, you will action accordingly…

Some of our unhealthy tendencies may have taken root partly due to childhood and early adulthood experiences. Others may have some biological underpinnings or some may have arisen from a trauma. When it comes to emotional problems, people tend to feel ashamed as they usually believe that their symptoms are a sign that they are weak, flawed or defective.

People who feel ashamed due to their emotional state, are less likely to seek help, because they worry that others may judge them harshly for having a psychological problem, such as depression, anxiety or an addiction or that they are not competent enough to deal with their own issues. Some people also worry that others might be horrified by hearing thoughts and actions related to a mental state and will reject them. Others might be too ashamed to even admit to themselves that they have a problem and they will start blaming external events or other people so they will not make any personal effort to whack down their problems. Unfortunately, opening up about shameful topics and experiences is not an easy thing to do, as shame is something most people try very hard to avoid feeling, owning, acknowledging, or addressing. The natural reaction to shame is to hide it.

Shame and guilt are two self-conscious and generally unhealthy negative emotions that are particularly notorious for blocking positive change and taking action. They can lead us to put ourselves down further and make us more depressed. Holding our problems due to these two emotions and our feelings about our problems from others will make things worse over time. Talking about our obsessions, depression, addiction or other problems gives us the chance to share our fear and discomfort with someone else who may actually be far more understanding than we imagine. It helps to shift a highly toxic emotion into something that can be viewed more neutrally. Opening up might make you realize that your symptoms and thoughts might be more common and that you have nothing to be ashamed of. Putting off seeking professional help when is needed, it only prolongs the discomfort and gives the space to the problem to advance to the stage where relationships, employment or daily functioning are suffering. Contrary to what people believe, seeking help requires considerable personal effort, diligence, patience and determination. Someone needs a lot of strength to take responsibility of overcoming emotional disturbances and be compassionate with oneself in the process of healing. Being kind to yourself when you are working hard to get better while in parallel making yourself uncomfortable, it is a tedious process. Pilling on the self-criticism is much easier than being you own best friend, who encourages you during exposures and behavioral experiments.

Along the way to get rid of shame and guilt and ask for help we might encounter obstacles that will makes us abandon our goal to get better. Fear of change on what’ll happen if we take the steps to change, having low-frustration tolerance when things are getting tough, waiting for the miracle to happen, being convinced that our moods are governed by forces beyond our control, or simply we cannot really imagine doing anything else or even the fear that if we get better we will lose those people who were taking care of us are the most common obstacles to our recovery journey. Even though challenging, these setbacks are a normal part of development and does not equal a return to square one. They are there to remind us that we need to adjust things and reboot to begin to make progress toward our goals again.

Human beings have emotional and psychological problems just as readily as physical problems. We do not have to be ashamed of our psychological problems any more than we should be ashamed of an allergy and a heart condition.

“I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow and if you wish to make anything grow, you must understand it, and understand it in a very real sense”.

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