#4 in the series 21 Life Hacks You Need When Loving a Crazy
The six learning levels
You didn’t do it! You didn’t make your honey mentally ill. I’m not saying that you are a breeze to live with, but we are working on that, right?
What I am saying is that no matter what you think you did or didn’t do, it’s not your fault. That is presuming you didn’t lock your child in a cage and feed him chicken food through the formative years. If my presumption is correct, you can stop bludgeoning yourself right this minute.
The thing is you know this. For whatever reason, your reality challenged relative has a medical condition that just happens to present as a mental illness. You didn’t blame yourself when your honey caught a cold or had the flu, did you? Same thing.
If you feel that someone needs to continue to carry the banner of shame, do not despair, there is plenty of it on this particular topic. When searching shame and mental illness on the web, I got more than two million hits.Where is all this shame coming from? Shame and mental illness seem to go together like dumb and dumber, so much so that there is a phenomenon called courtesy stigma or “shame by association” for family members of the mentally ill because you don’t have enough to deal with.
Mental illness is stigmatized, and you, my friend, by association have the negative impact of that stigma. Parents get fingered for being the cause of the illness while spouses and siblings need to step up the policing of their relative so that they adhere to their treatments or so the judgment goes—like any of us have that much control! Give me a break!
Shame as an emotion is an after-effect of guilt and a public emotion in that if no one knows of wrongdoing or an association with a mentally ill person there tends to be little to no shame. Society has moved ahead a bit since the Brontë sisters. We don’t keep our crazies locked up in an attic, so our associations are public. When we are identified with our ill relative, society assigns us the causation for our shame. This phenomenon is confusing; after all, we know in our heart of hearts that we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow we are feeling a whole lot of shame.
You can’t be confused for long before you start feeling confined and that’s a blast, right? Anger and rage crop up after a little confinement. When we spend too much time battling the limits of confinement we completely collapse into depression.
At the point of confusion, you have another choice. Here you can make an active choice. You can think carefully before accepting the false guilt of courtesy stigma. With careful consideration, it will become clear that there is no reason to feel shame. That decision will move you right up what my buddy Dr. Jim Samuels calls his *Six Levels of Learning to capable. When you have acquired enough clarity, shame starts to vanish leaving you feeling capable of handling your life without the burden of false guilt and shame. As your capability expands so does your confidence. When you are confident, you are in a place, to help your honey and the world at large. You might even be able to straighten out the thinking that could conceive of something as perverse as courtesy shame.
* Six Levels of Learning (based on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Learning)
Three stages of Successful Learning
Clear, Capable, Confident
Critical Choice – conflict or consider