Blame Is a Dead End: Learn to Forgive Yourself

Learn to Forgive Yourself

Even the most confident person has experienced feelings of guilt at some point. While researchers indicate that, in the right context, guilt can help you take proper action, learning how to forgive yourself, especially while navigating a healthy recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, is often a work in progress. How can you get better at it? Here’s what experts recommend. 

The Importance of Forgiveness

Good Therapy notes that there are two types of self-forgiveness: 

  • Interpersonal—which is forgiving yourself for harm done to others
  • Intrapersonal—this involves pardoning self-inflicted harm

All too often, especially in addiction rehabilitation, we’re consumed by feelings of shame, blame, and guilt, which then intensify negative self-talk and maladaptive behavior. We find it challenging to separate the person from the action, believing ourselves to be “bad” and unworthy. So self-forgiveness is one of the many avenues of growth we have to achieve to build a fulfilling life of recovery.  

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” While many of us try diligently to forgive people—often because we love them—we have a much more challenging time forgiving ourselves. 

A 2018 study featuring participants in recovery from alcohol use disorder (AUD) examined this concept. The results, which we provide verbatim, indicate that: 

  • Participants were more forgiving of others than of themselves.
  • Both types of forgiveness (of others and of self) increased over 30 months, a time period when drinking significantly decreased.
  • Forgiveness of self increased more rapidly than forgiveness of others.
  • While increases in each type of forgiveness predicted increases in the other type, the effect of forgiveness of others on forgiveness of self was twice as strong as the reverse effect.

Researchers also concluded that forgiveness in one arena will increase the capacity for forgiveness in other arenas. In other words, as you work to forgive others, you’ll also become better at forgiving yourself, and vice versa. 

How to Learn to Forgive Yourself

This process doesn’t happen overnight but is worth pursuing all the same. You might rely on guidance from a spiritual counselor or your faith, a trusted therapist, or lessons learned in a 12-Step program to slowly uncover the reasons for how you feel and what you can do to restore a sense of worth and dignity. Here are some ideas. 

  • Try not to frame everything as “this” or “that.” Hard rules about “good” and “bad” or “positive” and “negative” are what experts refer to as a form of cognitive bias. This thinking makes it more complicated to isolate the action. 
  • Acknowledge and accept your emotions. Substances are often the mask we hide behind to deal with difficult feelings. By using techniques such as mindfulness and present-moment observation, you’ll dwell less on the past and begin to see circumstances more clearly. 
  • Silence your inner critic. Instead of letting shame, blame, and negative self-talk take over and cloud your ability to see a situation more clearly, try these methods to quiet the internal critic that keeps you from forgiving yourself. 
  • Address a mistake head-on with an action plan. We all stumble occasionally in our quest to be human. If you truly caused harm to yourself or others, bring it out into the open to recognize it, apologize for it—yes, even to yourself—and make amends.
  • Avoid rumination and magnification. Constantly dwelling on an issue or allowing a negative thought process to build it up larger than it needs to also stand in the way of our ability to forgive ourselves. If your mind slips into this cycle, divert it by using breathing techniques, going for a walk, or getting out into nature. 
  • Change the narrative. If someone you cared about struggled with forgiving themselves or blamed themselves all the time, what would you say to them? Sometimes allowing a shift in perspective like this makes it easier to show ourselves compassion.    

Discover a Better Way at Willingway

Willingway’s treatment philosophy is based on the belief that substance and alcohol misuse is a primary illness that affects mind, body, and soul. At our Georgia and Florida addiction rehabilitation locations, we customize evidence-based treatment plans to meet individuals where they are at the moment, and provide therapeutic solutions to help determine where they intend to go. Ask us how by calling today.