by Benjamin Fry
I was reading this morning about Jane Smith and her ‘secret shame of being a binge drinking mother’ and I was struck by how often the word ‘shame’ is applied to the consequences of addictive behaviours.
When we look at trauma theory we look at the body’s inability to complete the full arc of a stress response in relation to some overwhelming event. A body that is stuck half way through this process of becoming activated and then deactivated, is like a car with an accelerator stuck to the floor. This is a biological consequence and not something we have the capacity to choose or to change just by thinking about it. It is the hard-wired effect of hundreds of millions of years of evolution.
Many people in our culture are permanently living in bodies that are this dysregulated. Different people have different strategies for coping with this uncomfortable experience. A very popular one is to misuse and abuse alcohol. Once this behaviour is understood as a response and a reaction to a hard-wired problem in the body’s nervous system, it becomes easier to stop judging behaviour as some kind of moral or ethical problem and to start understanding it as a logical consequence of untreated trauma in the body. So we can begin to replace ‘shame’ with an accurate understanding of a person’s mind-body system. It is from this accurate understanding that successful treatment becomes possible.
Benjamin Fry works across a range of services and media using personal, professional and scientific expertise to help people to a baggage-free life. A published author, and a past columnist for The Times and Psychologies magazine, Benjamin is a social activist in mental health. He founded Get Stable in 2010 to get effective treatment paid for by the state and his great passion is to bring treatment, which works, to all levels of society and across all severities of conditions.
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