On The Borderline/ Mental Health

Learning to accept myself: Guilt and Shame

As I said in my previous post, I’m going to be working on guilt & shame, which are subjects that drive me crazy, I punish myself regularly with these emotions and I seem to take responsibility for everyone else actions in a ‘it must be me, it usually is’ or ‘it’s me who pushes people to act like they do’ ‘it’s all my fault’ which leads to more self hate, punishment and sometimes self harm or self destruct.

I would say it take’s over a lot of my life on a daily basis, it affects how I treat people and how I treat myself. I often feel guilt over things completely out of my control and yet it stays with me for hours, sometimes days, at a time.  I have found a really useful explanation for people who are experiencing BPD and feelings of guilt which I have added below. Reading this kind of puts it into perspective for me, sometimes it just takes that one explanation or someone elses view to have that light-bulb moment when things make more sense. Until I understand myself, I cannot begin to accept and learn to cope, so I am starting by doing my research into these feelings and why they play such a huge part of my life and create so much self-loathing.

It is normal to sometimes have feelings of guilt because mistakes are made, and shame sometimes because behaviours and character traits may be in need of correction. But in cases of BPD, feelings of guilt and shame tend to take on a type of permanence rather than transience. In other words, it can be very hard for a person with BPD to let go of past experiences and mistakes, and likewise to stop feeling guilty and ashamed for things that didn’t go well.

A person with BPD can get into the habit of reflecting on past mistakes made while attempting to deal with situations, including how he has hurt self or others (such as having big blowups or impulsively acting out) – resulting in guilty feelings. He may also make a habit of noticing the repetitious nature of his mistakes and remembering the judgements made by others about his behaviour – resulting in shame feelings.  Habit sometimes turns into preoccupation with past mistakes so that guilt and shame feelings are re-experienced over and over again. It becomes a problem because the guilt and shame are never put into their proper perspective or considered for their relevance to the present moment.

Some of the reasons for this  are that a person with BPD doesn’t want to have more bad moments, hurt anyone, or continue feeling the awful guilt and shame. But of course, the guilt and shame are re-experienced anyways because of the recollection of events.

The way a person with BPD experiences guilt and shame is different because of the way he has been conditioned to think about himself, his experiences with others, and his place in the world. He has learned that things tend to go wrong for him and that people tend to blame and judge him for the way he reacts/overreacts. He has been in trouble, corrected and criticised so much that he tends to believe that the world is against him. He doesn’t yet know why it works this way, but he is making many assumptions (having bad thoughts about self).

The manner and extent to which a person with BPD experiences guilt and shame feelings is therefore exaggerated and inappropriate because he does not yet understand himself or his illness. Likewise, he doesn’t understand his developmental vulnerabilities or the significance of his childhood. He doesn’t yet know that he can’t manage his disorder without the necessary knowledge and skills. He believes he “should have known better” and that there is no excuse for his errors. He sets his own trap for repeat feelings of guilt and shame.

Then there is the tendency to react to his self-induced guilt and shame, adding further fuel to the fire, as others become baffled and annoyed by his faulty logic and respond by invalidating his feelings. He is upset and in trouble once more as others don’t understand where his reactions are coming from. These kinds of experiences add yet another “piece of evidence” to his belief that he is always at fault, always annoys, always hurts, or is always a burden on others.

Indeed it is a sad thing, but a person with BPD will habitually torture himself by inducing guilt and shame feelings through his own thinking style, even when it isn’t necessary. He can’t let things go. When things happen, he will personalise the situation and automatically assume he is at fault because he has been “at fault” so many times in the past. He can’t stop personalising. He will react to his own emotions and set off reactions in others, and therefore repeat the cycle over and over again. He can’t stop reacting.

When feelings like guilt and shame are felt unnecessarily (when it doesn’t really make sense to feel that way given the circumstances), this is when the feelings could properly be labelled as “misplaced”.

 

This is one of the keys to overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder… learning to become mindful of misplaced guilt and shame, learning to let it go, and learning to replace the misplaced guilt and shame with something more fitting to the situation.

 

Source; written by Peter Miller at http://www.breakawaymhe.com

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