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People who beat themselves up over stuff and...how to stop


maize
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I'm not a worry-and-beat-myself-up over failures and imperfections person; I rarely feel guilt and almost never feel shame.

 

But I've got some folks in my life who do and I want to a) understand better, and b) find out if there is anything I can do to help them overcome the negative aspects of this (feelings of worthlessness, depression, etc.)

I've started reading some of Brené Brown's stuff, which addresses some of these issues. I'd just like to hear the perspective of others who have struggled with these issues.

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I'm not a worry-and-beat-myself-up over failures and imperfections person; I rarely feel guilt and almost never feel shame.

 

But I've got some folks in my life who do and I want to a) understand better, and b) find out if there is anything I can do to help them overcome the negative aspects of this (feelings of worthlessness, depression, etc.)

I've started reading some of Brené Brown's stuff, which addresses some of these issues. I'd just like to hear the perspective of others who have struggled with these issues.

 

The bolded is fascinating as I don't know of a single person IRL who doesn't struggle with shame/guilt. Maybe its because morality, shame and guilt are the cornerstones of religion and almost everyone I know belongs to one religion or the other*. No escaping shame/guilt*.

 

wrt the second bolded - PM'ed you.

 

ETA: * Refers to origin or cause of shame and guilt.

Off to check Brene Browns work.

Edited by Ebunny
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At some point I realised if I could go back in time, I'd have made the same mistakes because that was the best I was able to do with the information and skills I had.

 

So I guess your people need to learn to be realistic about what "their best" means; something which fluctuates with the weather and all sorts of seemingly insignificant other factors. One's ideal best is rarely a practical possibility.

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At some point I realised if I could go back in time, I'd have made the same mistakes because that was the best I was able to do with the information and skills I had.

 

So I guess your people need to learn to be realistic about what "their best" means; something which fluctuates with the weather and all sorts of seemingly insignificant other factors. One's ideal best is rarely a practical possibility.

Absolutely this is a helpful way to look at past mistakes.

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Shame and Guilt can mean different things - they can be appropriate or crippling.

 

Crippling Shame replays the incident(s) over and over in the person's head and "points a finger" and the person has difficulty acknowledging that something did not go right / (s)he made a bad decision, etc. but it is in the past and now it is time to move forward with the newly acquired knowledge. Crippling shame often also carries the undercurrent of "worthless," "unlovable."

 

Appropriate shame and guilt would be acknowledging I have done something I should not have. I am ashamed and feel guilty (which I am) but I acknowledge we all make bad decisions and now I will move forward. If I need to make amends, I will do so. In this case shame and guilt are constructive and pave the way to better decisions.

 

Sometimes, people hold on to shame and guilt because they feel it is what they know and it's easier than to process it and move forward.

 

I hope this makes any sense. It's late. If you want me to clarify some of these points, please PM me.

Edited by Liz CA
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I just finished watched the vulnerability TED Talk and haven't read the book.  One thing that struck me is that I am willing to be vulnerable with certain people based on feeling safe.  If I don't feel safe with you there is no way I am going to open up and be vulnerable.  The problem is for me it takes getting to know someone beyond the normal everyday pleasantries and so many people are so busy that it either takes a long time to get to that point or it never happens.

 

All of us have been hurt in the past by people or being vulnerable wouldn't be so hard.

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I notice how small and limited shame keeps me. It takes a lot effort to move through it.

 

I think shame is tied up in our survival instinct but it's not so useful in modern life. Keeps us toeing the line in small communities when we're all reliant on each other for survival and avoids us standing out. If we're too busy feeling terrible about ourselves we're not likely to question things. I think it might be why it's so much part of religion, it's hardwired into us, easy to play off to make people comply. Maybe those who aren't plagued by shame would have been more likely to be leaders. I think it's a problem now not only because it makes us feel terrible but because to make any progress you have to be able to advocate for yourself and that's hard when you are burdened with shame.

 

I definitely found just working on a few things helps. You sort of realise how much of the behaviour is habit. I've forgotten so many of the triggering things that some of them are easier to replace.

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 I don't feel shame so much as guilt over past mistakes.  Maybe it's the same thing...  

 

I think similarly to Rosie - would I have made the same mistakes anyway?  

 

The other thing I think about is - how do I know things would have turned out differently anyway?  10 years ago my husband and I made a huge life change.  It hasn't worked out the way we'd expected and I have spent too much time thinking how stupid we were to do it, even though at the time it made sense, we thought things through, etc.   When things are not going well, it's easy to think "oh, if we'd never done this, these bad things wouldn't have happened." Well, maybe, and maybe not.  There's no way to know what would have been along the path not taken.  

 

I disagree with those who say shame and guilt are inherent in all religion.  If anything my religion helps me to let go of my guilty feelings.  (Not at 3 am though, when I wake up thinking about things I wish I could change.  Still working on that.)

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I'm not a worry-and-beat-myself-up over failures and imperfections person; I rarely feel guilt and almost never feel shame.

 

But I've got some folks in my life who do and I want to a) understand better, and b) find out if there is anything I can do to help them overcome the negative aspects of this (feelings of worthlessness, depression, etc.)

I've started reading some of Brené Brown's stuff, which addresses some of these issues. I'd just like to hear the perspective of others who have struggled with these issues.

 

I am a worry and beat myself up type.  I am in awe that you can let that roll off.  Probably the only way I've learned to combat that is I rarely take any risks.  Which isn't always awesome, but I avoid major disappointments most of the time.

 

I don't think I could really change though.  It's just how I am.

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The bolded is fascinating as I don't know of a single person IRL who doesn't struggle with shame/guilt. Maybe its because morality, shame and guilt are the cornerstones of religion and almost everyone I know belongs to one religion or the other*. No escaping shame/guilt*.

 

wrt the second bolded - PM'ed you.

 

ETA: * Refers to origin or cause of shame and guilt.

Off to check Brene Browns work.

Shame and guilt are not the cornerstones of all religions.

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The bolded is fascinating as I don't know of a single person IRL who doesn't struggle with shame/guilt. Maybe its because morality, shame and guilt are the cornerstones of religion and almost everyone I know belongs to one religion or the other*. No escaping shame/guilt*.

 

wrt the second bolded - PM'ed you.

 

ETA: * Refers to origin or cause of shame and guilt.

Off to check Brene Browns work.

 

FWIW, I feel shame and guilt and am an atheist.  It has nothing to do with religion for me.

 

It's probably a fairly common human thing.  If someone says they never feel shame, I would say that makes them extremely unusual.  I am not sure if maize is talking about that extreme though.  I assumed she was talking about someone who feels extremely bad when stuff doesn't work out or one who expects perfection out of themselves. 

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Yeah, I don't believe it has anything to do with religion either.

 

Personally, I'm the poster child for shame and guilt and I think it's a chemical or wiring issue. 

 

I'm not always like this.  I've had times in my mature life when I was carefree as a child.  "My best is good enough" was easy for me to believe.  Also, even when I do struggle with this, it's at certain times of the day and especially when I'm lying down in the morning, wanting but not wanting to get out of bed.  I have learned that there are others who experience this at that time also.  Makes me think there's a physical connection.

 

I do the "notice thought, confront thought, replace thought" thing.  It is only a partial bandaid though.

 

Getting things done is the best medicine for this problem, but unfortunately the bad feelings are demotivating and tempt me to procrastinate.  I give into that temptation and make things worse.  I own this as a choice I make, and I'm not sure why I don't stop this.  (Actually, that's why I'm on this site right now.)

 

How can others help?  Just being understanding and not piling on.  My business partner / best friend is a piler-onner.  She thinks she can talk you out of your funk by telling you that yes, you kinda suck and you really should stop that.  :p  Being able to talk to someone who wouldn't do that would be nice, I guess.  But who?  Most of the people in my family are depressed or sick.  I don't want to make their problems worse by dumping mine on them.  The rest of them are too young or too "out there" to be an ear for me.

 

ETA:  I should add that in my case, the "shame/guilt" is mostly about work - I should have been done with xyz already, I shouldn't have let abc happen ....  Occasionally it's something that didn't go right with my kids today.  It's not big stuff that happened in the past.  (Not that I have a lot of skeletons in my closet, but I've made my fair share of mistakes.)

 

ETAA:  Also I can't blame anyone for my feelings.  I am alone most of the day and I don't usually have other people telling me off or telling me how to be.  In fact, I tend to feel relief when a problem comes to light and another person tells me off for it.  It seems less stressful for someone else to tell me off and then I can say "you are right" and move on.  My own brain doesn't let me move on so readily.

Edited by SKL
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I think shame runs through a lot of group settings and it's probably magnified by groups that want people to comply with certain ideas/ ways of living. They don't cause shame to exist but prey on our ability to feel it. Encouraging people to feel shame is also there in advertising and marketing of products. I don't think there'd be much of a beauty industry without it being possible to cause people to feel shame. I do think we all feel it to some extent but it's just not crippling for everyone.

Edited by lailasmum
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Not sure what there is to get.  It's like why do some people have short tempers?  Why are some people worriers?  Why are others more outgoing and talkative?  It's an aspect of some people. 

 

I'd say my mother caused it, but did she cause it or pass down the traits to me?  Probably passed down the traits. 

 

 

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In my limited experience with my limited circle of specific religious and ultra religious, the right- wrong behaviour/actions, good-evil tenets really mess with minds.

I'm not attacking any religion per se, just an attempt to understand the origination of feelings of guilt/shame in a person. Didn't mean to derail the thread..

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Not sure what there is to get.  It's like why do some people have short tempers?  Why are some people worriers?  Why are others more outgoing and talkative?  It's an aspect of some people. 

 

I'd say my mother caused it, but did she cause it or pass down the traits to me?  Probably passed down the traits. 

 

Yeah, thinking about it, I inherited my dad's tendency to wake up feeling like a shit in the morning, and my mom's difficulty with getting going in the morning.  No wonder it takes me until early afternoon to really be productive at work most days.  Which would be fine if I didn't have kids who need me after school and who require me to wake up by 7am.  :P  Now that I think about it, my tranquil years were when I was free to be a "night owl" and did my best work at like 2am.

 

Maybe things will get better when my kids stop needing me to wake up for them in the morning ... or maybe things will be worse then.  I do suspect part of it is ageing, so I can't reverse that part.

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I don't generally feel shame or guilt either.  I attribute it to my upbringing, and parents who were good at moving on and adopting the attitude of "Well, we'll just do a better job next time around."  Actually, my dh is very good at moving on too.  Not ignoring something he handled poorly or could have done better, but learning from it and then moving on with a positive attitude. 

 

Naturally, I've had some experiences that I have felt guilt over though!  I try and tell myself that we're all human, and nobody's perfect.  If it's a really big decision I had to make that turned out bad, I try and tell myself that I made the best decision that I knew how to make at that time.  I try not to beat myself up about it.  

 

If anything, my faith/religion is what helps me move beyond shame or guilt.  It helps put things into perspective.

 

ETA:  Oops, I didn't really answer your question very well about how to help others.  At least with my own children, it's more of an attitude thing I guess.  I'll acknowledge with them that the thing (that they feel guilty about) happened, suggest anything they could learn from it if it seems appropriate, and then move on.  Sometimes it's more of a decision to move on.  (It doesn't really have to do with when you feel like moving on.)  Set a new or different goal or start a new project or whatever that helps put your focus on something positive, and that encourages your thoughts to be busy with something else.  At least that's what we try and do.  :)

Edited by J-rap
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In my limited experience with my limited circle of specific religious and ultra religious, the right- wrong behaviour/actions, good-evil tenets really mess with minds.

I'm not attacking any religion per se, just an attempt to understand the origination of feelings of guilt/shame in a person. Didn't mean to derail the thread..

 

I think religion can be used by some people to shrug off guilt feelings though.  "I did a, b, and c this week, therefore I'm good."  I think how religion affects a person is going to depend on the person's inborn personality.

 

I've studied all the major religions, and I can't agree that they teach shame / guilt per se.  I can say the Christian religion (taught properly) can be a big guilt/shame reducer, because of the concept of forgiveness/redemption.  Basically Jesus took on all our bad karma (historical and future) when he died on the cross.  Should be a relief, and for many people it is.  But if you're wired to hold onto guilt/shame, then you're going to react differently.

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Not sure what there is to get. It's like why do some people have short tempers? Why are some people worriers? Why are others more outgoing and talkative? It's an aspect of some people.

 

I'd say my mother caused it, but did she cause it or pass down the traits to me? Probably passed down the traits.

By "get it" I mean just understanding what is happening in their brains, and maybe how and why.

 

It was a light bulb moment for me when someone explained that when some people make a mistake or perceive themselves to have made a mistake they experience not only regret (wish I hadn't...) or guilt (gosh I feel really bad that I did/didn't...) but shame--I am a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad person because I...

 

And that they feel this way frequently.

 

It wasn't something I had ever really envisioned or understood. I still struggle with the understanding bit because it is so far outside my own experience of life.

 

It is however a reality for several of my family members so I want to understand better.

 

I think there is a big genetic component. I'm a lot like my own mom. She has expressed that she rarely feels bad about shortcomings and mistakes because she mostly has a sense of "I'm doing the best I can" and accepts that she and her efforts are not and cannot be perfect. She and I also have a naturally positive mood most of the time, which may actually be the key component. I've sometimes thought that whatever the neurotransmitter profile is that tends towards depression I must have the opposite.

Edited by maize
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By "get it" I mean just understanding what is happening in their brains, and maybe how and why.

 

It was a light bulb moment for me when someone explained that when some people make a mistake or perceive themselves to have made a mistake they experience not only regret (wish I hadn't...) or guilt (gosh I feel really bad that I did/didn't...) but shame--I am a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad person because I...

 

And that they feel this way frequently.

 

It wasn't something I had ever really envisioned or understood. I still struggle with the understanding but because it is so far outside my own experience of life.

 

It is however a reality for several of my family members so I want to understand better.

 

I think there is a big genetic component. I'm a lot like my own mom. She has expressed that she rarely feels bad about shortcomings and mistakes because she mostly has a sense of "I'm doing the best I can" and accepts that she and her efforts are not and cannot be perfect. She and I also have a naturally positive mood most of the time, which may actually be the key component. I've sometimes thought that whatever the neurotransmitter profile is that tends towards depression I must have the opposite.

 

No clue.  I feel this way over a lot of stuff.  Even stuff that I know logically does not matter at all. Like if I get one wrong on a test it nearly kills me.  Which is stupid, but yep. 

 

Now my poor younger kid he is the same darn way!  It's terrible.  He was trying to heat up some food the other day and he spilled some on the table and became so upset that he made a mess that he was nearly crying.  I don't ever say a word over stuff like that!  So it's not that.  So I was trying to think of a way to make him feel a bit better.  So I said you don't have to be perfect, it's ok to spill stuff.  Not only did that not help he said thanks for highlighting he's not perfect.  LOL.  Oh man!  So I explained where I was going with that comment. 

 

I'm the same way.  I've mellowed a bit with age, but no it's just the way I am.

 

 

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I also think I speak pretty positively to my kids.  I am not into shaming.  I prefer the "everybody makes mistakes" / "next time we'll do it better" approach.  Since my kids are not biologically related to me, I think their reactions as adults will depend on what they inherited from their parents, but I do try to teach them productive ways to look at mistakes.  I guess we'll see how it goes.  :)

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Even when I get sick.  I figured I must have done something stupid/careless.  Again, logically I may know that's not true, but that's how I feel. 

 

 

So when people here claim we have control over our health, that just sends me over the edge.  It's not always true!  Kinda like suggesting we have control over death.  We don't.  It's bull.

 

 

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I think there is a cycle that certain personality types can get stuck in that becomes sort of an ingrained response over time regardless of circumstance and perhaps part of it comes from perfectionist tendencies (not for everyone, just a percentage).  They try something, it doesn't work out the way they thought, or they followed a path they thought might not be the best but they did it anyway, then they feel like they not only didn't do it right, but they FAILED with a capital F and that means they didn't just fail they ARE FAILURES.  And the feeling of failure and shame and guilt all kind of collide and bounce off of each other.  That inner dialogue can be very powerful and may have nothing to do with the reality of the situation.  Little things begin to get blown out of proportion.  They can't walk away from the past mistakes and the present mistakes seem like proof that they were right about the past mistakes, that they really are FAILURES.  And it is entirely their fault.  

 

I don't know how to combat that nasty inner dialogue that can become so destructive.  I agree with up thread, shame and guilt don't have to be destructive.  They can be helpful.  However, for a lot of people there is no healing, only that vicious cycle inner dialogue that compounds with the years.

 

I guess maybe like with milder cases of OCD, trying to work daily and consistently and systematically on a positive, forward thinking inner dialogue through external supports might help...

 

Maybe the Great Courses course on Mindfulness would help...

Edited by OneStepAtATime
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And the other thing that doesn't work is rest.  All that empty time to think about what a shit I am.  :P  An idle mind is the devil's playground ... well that is the devil (or whatever non-religious stand-in) telling us we suck.  :)

 

And objectively, I think most of us know we aren't horrible people.  But.

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And the other thing that doesn't work is rest.  All that empty time to think about what a shit I am.  :p  An idle mind is the devil's playground ... well that is the devil (or whatever non-religious stand-in) telling us we suck.  :)

 

And objectively, I think most of us know we aren't horrible people.  But.

 

Yes, and being told I need to go into therapy just highlights what I already think.  That's I'm not GOOD at something.  Or I have a problem and I need to fix myself to be acceptable to other people.

 

Which that may not be the intention AT ALL, but this is how I feel about the suggestion.  I prefer really to be just left alone on this one. 

 

Distractions work well for me.  I just keep throwing myself into stuff and get lost in the moments of doing.  Those are the "free" mental moments for me.

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I don't know what the answer is. I don't blame myself when things are out of whack unless it's my fault. And I don't let others blame me either, if that's in my control.

 

There's someone in my life that always wants to attribute Everything to someone. I think having a healthy part of your thought process reserved for " stuff happens nbd" is the ticket. In this regard, I think religion is a boon, actually. If there's soooome kind of mystery to the universe, I'm under no obligation to figure every last thing out.

 

Iow I feel like some people get locked into the thought pattern that corners them I to needing to form an opinion about everything.... So their minds are overtaxed on things that are really well out of their control. Then when they're inevitably wrong sometimes it's not "I was wrong about that one" it's I!WAS!WRONG! AND I SHOULD HAVE BEEN RIGHT.

 

How to turn that burner on low, I have no idea.

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I do.

 

I have come a long way reminding myself over and over again what the worst thing is that will happen, and I try not to think about whatever I did that bothers me.

 

Doing this is ingrained in our personalities. I think we are born this way, I remember being small, like 3 yrs old, and not wanting to speak to the really neat teen girl that came to our house to do things. I think she was a mother's helper of sorts. Anyway, I just adored her. But one day, I fell asleep while she was there. That was it. I refused to ever see her again because I was so embarrassed. No idea why. I just remember how I was feeling and that I kept hiding. I was so embarrassed and so sad. 

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Even when I get sick.  I figured I must have done something stupid/careless.  Again, logically I may know that's not true, but that's how I feel.

Well, you should have moved to a different line at Walmart the other day when the guy behind you started coughing like he was going to hack up a lung. But no, you didn't move, so it serves you right that you got sick!

 

Been there, done that, too.

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I just finished watched the vulnerability TED Talk and haven't read the book.  One thing that struck me is that I am willing to be vulnerable with certain people based on feeling safe.  If I don't feel safe with you there is no way I am going to open up and be vulnerable.  The problem is for me it takes getting to know someone beyond the normal everyday pleasantries and so many people are so busy that it either takes a long time to get to that point or it never happens.

 

All of us have been hurt in the past by people or being vulnerable wouldn't be so hard.

 

And this is how it should be IMHO. It would be rather dangerous at times or at least foolish to spill our guts to just anybody. This is the concept of "Safe People."

 

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OP, the best description I can provide is that I believe that if something goes wrong, it's because I messed up, even if that's illogical. (For what it's worth, a lot of what I'm describing is becoming past tense due to really good therapy). If I get sick, it's because I didn't exercise enough or take the right vitamins. If my (challenging) second child is in one of his behavioral cycles, I'm berating myself constantly for STILL not knowing how to help him, or for not realizing he had food allergies until he was 9 months old. If I bounce a check (once, ever), I punish myself for months because I should have known better. If my husband is mad, I berate myself for not preventing the thing that set him off. If husband says he'll do a task and doesn't, I berste myself for trusting my partner and not just doing it myself. I feel actual shame that I didn't do the thing he said he'd do. This is my lifelong pattern.

 

This behavior is ingrained in my personality. Some of it might be nature, but most, I think, is nurture. I was raised by parents who shamed me constantly, told me I should have known better, disliked me for being a girl (only my father/brothers did that, not my mom), thought I was stupid because I was a girl, and regularly blamed me for anything that was wrong.

Abusive, mentally ill father is in a bad mood? BooksandBoys must have upset him. Mom is sad? BooksandBoys should have made her feel better, prevented the sadness. Brother is in a bad mood about school, he'll just tell BooksabdBoys that if she were less of a geek (proud INTJ here!), he wouldn't have teachers breathing down his neck. Everything was my fault. :-) I was also involved in a church that blamed women for tempting men (yep, even when we were children), taught us that all that is good in us is god and all that is bad in us is our own failing. So, if you became proficient at singing, that's because god blessed you. If you struggle with math, it's because god is punishing you for not being faithful enough. Nothing good is because you did the work. Everything bad is because you are horrible. K

It was toxic.

 

Then, I married a DH (who I love and our marriage is greatly improved after a few very hard years) who is a blamer when he makes mistakes (learned that from his mother). I was "his" perfect wife (always willingly taking the blame and feeling such shame for things I had nothing to do with) until recently. He's feeling a bit confused. 😜

 

I've had some amazing therapy to work on these ingrained patterns years ago, but I only learned to apply them to my family of origin in the first round of therapy. My recent EMDR to address my (real, see recent thread) PTSD has taken on the rest of my ingrained belief that I am at fault for every little thing that goes wrong. I'm seeing shocking improvement in my ability to not take responsibility for every little thing. To not feel shame when I'm late (I'm rarely late, but the agony when it happened was horrific). To not feel shame when my husband forgets something and feels anger at himself (and projects at me) because I think that somehow, I should have known how to prevent that mistake that had nothing to do with me. I'm growing.

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And the other thing that doesn't work is rest.  All that empty time to think about what a shit I am.  :p  An idle mind is the devil's playground ... well that is the devil (or whatever non-religious stand-in) telling us we suck.  :)

 

And objectively, I think most of us know we aren't horrible people.  But.

 

It could perhaps also be a struggle to integrate good and bad. In all of us there are good and bad tendencies. You said in another post, you tend to procrastinate. I do the same thing. There are other things I should be doing right now than typing here. I set myself a time limit. When my time is up, I will leave here and do what needs to be done.

I acknowledge that I am lazy at times and like to give in to that. I also acknowledge that I am capable at my work and I can work diligently. The two can and do co-exist in me. I do have to hammer down some of the lazy tendencies now and then so they don't overtake my life but I give myself a little down time as well where it's okay to be loafing for a bit because I know I will concentrate on work in a little while.

 

I've seen your to-do list in Jean's thread and you have a full day. We night owls are sometimes viewed as slackers because we are not standing on the mat at 5am. If you have someone in your life who is representative of that viewpoint, disregard their opinions because you know that you can get valuable work done at any hour.

 

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My personal favorite explanation of some types of unhelpful thinking styles.  Before I started therapy, I'd guess that 95% of my thoughts fit one or more of those patterns.  Learning about those styles helped me recognize when I was in a rut.

 

Oops, DD just woke up from her nap, so I'll try to remember to come back later and share some other things that helped me.

 

 

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