Psychological Self-Help

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(perfectionist?) or go in the direction of an untidy slob, you may come
to see yourself as the family hero (caretaker) or the family scapegoat
(black sheep), you may start heading towards "religious-prudish" or
"rebellious-crude" roles, you may shift your anger to being an
aggressive, domineering leader or to being a passive doormat, or you
may develop a false self of a highly successful achiever or a worthless
addict. Thus, Bradshaw says there may not be much difference
between the obsessive workaholic CEO and the alcoholic in the alley.
Both may be addicts suffering from toxic shame; both have created a
false self to hide some awful "hole in their soul." 
Unhealthy, destructive shame is the cause of many kinds of
addictions and compulsions. Because we feel defective, we seek
something that will make us feel better--many of these activities
become destructive compulsions in the long run. Examples: drinking
temporarily helps us forget, get courage, and feel better; working hard
diverts our attention from pain, reduces our anxiety, and produces
results; over eating relieves many unpleasant feelings and occupies
our time and mind; sex addiction provides a preoccupation,
challenges, and "fun;" over spending feels good until we get the bill,
etc. In short, there is a cycle: (1) I'm defective and unlovable, (2)
since no one could love me as I am, I must be different or I need
something--the addiction--to make me feel better, (3) Wow! This
works (getting drunk, making lots of money, fixing a great meal,
picking up a hot date, etc.), (4) paying the price (hangovers, being
divorced, getting fatter, getting AIDS, bankruptcy, mental breakdown,
etc.), and (5) I was right, I am a terrible person--back to (1) again
and start over. 
Exercises for understanding and reducing shame 
If you think about it, you can see that for an addict, the problem is
not really the "acting out" or addictive behavior. In fact, the addiction
is the addict's solution. As the alcoholic says, "my best friend is the
bottle." For the addict, the eating, spending, working, using drugs,
drinking, orgasming provides relief from the inner emptiness--the
"hole in the soul"--and escape from facing the shameful defects felt by
the 4-year-old inner child. The addict vaguely (and erroneously)
senses his/her problem is his/her being inherently, unavoidably
defective; thus, there seems to him/her to be no solution (except for
his/her "habit"). And, in line with this defeatist notion, AA teaches "I
am powerless against my addiction; I must turn to a higher power." 
Is there no solution for toxic shame or for compulsive habits or
addiction? Bradshaw says, "...there is no way to change your being by
your doing." He means that you can be highly successful--rich,
president, an Oscar winner, etc.--but the toxic shame, the inadequate
feelings, the "I'm bad" feelings, the "hole in the soul" will remain the
same. So, what will fill the hole and reduce the shame? Bradshaw is
certain it involves sharing your faults and feelings--all those things
you've had to hide--with accepting and supportive others. That is
exactly what happens in therapy, support groups, and 12-step groups.
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