I’ve learned a lot on my journey through mental health and addiction, and one of the more invaluable lessons is that of perspective. My brain’s proclivity is to think that my perspective is not just the only perspective, but the right perspective. And the unification of perception with fact can be harmful in the least, and fatal at its worst. The biggest moments of healing for me occur when I’m able to entertain an alternate perspective on a situation, or a past transgression, before immediately catastrophizing the outcome of the situation, or condemning myself or others for the transgression.
Guilt and shame can be useful tools for learning how to augment my future behaviour so to avoid being stuck repeating the same mistakes over and over again, but far too often I find myself using their power to beat me down into a state of hopeless worthlessness. Recently, I was able to reveal what I consider my most egregious sins to another person, and hear their perspective, just then did I really understand how much cognitive distortion was at play within myself. This might seem like a big step for some people to take, telling someone the worst things you’ve done, but for me there was liberation in the vulnerability. Someone said to me recently, “the healing is in the feeling.”
Instead of running from fear, or really hiding as a result of fear, I’m learning to listen to someone else and understand that what I did or what happened to me might have certainly been wrong, but there is no reason to carry that around forever. I might feel as though I need to take certain things to the grave, but I ultimately realized that in attempting to do just that, the date in which I would end up in a grave would be far sooner than it needs to be.
There’s a great book about love by Anthony de Mello in which he states that it’s not malice people sin because of, it’s ignorance. When I think back on my past and some of the horrible things I did I think to myself, “would I do that today?” and every time the answer is no, which in my estimation, is evidence and proof of growth and change. And that’s all I can really ask for. A good mentality for me is to maintain the thought that if people could have done better, they would have done better. And applying that thought to myself isn’t to absolve me of my responsibility, of course not, I’m responsible for what I’ve done, good and bad, but it’s too alleviate the crushing weight of guilt, shame, and embarrassment that traps me in the cycle of continuing to do the things I no longer want to do. You can’t think your way out of a burning building, asking for help, seeking a new perspective, and being open to change, are the keys elements of mental health recovery for me today. Ignorance isn’t stupidity; in fact, it’s the road to wisdom.
- Jack A. Bingham
Author of Obsessive-Compulsive Dramatic: My Fight Against OCD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Addiction