Recovery comes with the ‘ugly’
I’ve done this job in chemical dependency counseling for over 30 years, and I liken it to a Clint Eastwood movie called, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
Two of the treatment issues that were always difficult to resolve with clients were resentments and forgiveness, and even more so in the present society. In two months, I’ll be 80 years old. I’ve lived through the civil rights marches and equal rights for everyone of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.
My years in teaching and coaching were more than winning basketball games or teaching kids to develop better skills in reading. They were based on inter-personal relationships with white kids, black kids, Puerto Rican kids, Native American kids and so forth. Our motto at Fredonia State College was “Let each become all they are capable of being.” This philosophy got me through over 30 years of teaching, coaching and counseling. Unfortunately I feel we have gone backwards today in regards to human rights, prejudice and general demandingness of many in this society. I’m not going to dwell on these issues in this article only to say that resentments and lack of forgiveness, sponsors prejudice and hatred of others in race, education, business and unfortunately in counseling. Resentments are defined as “a repeatedly experienced discomfort stemming from an insult to one’s dignity.”
In dealing with clients over the years that have suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse, the common theme has been that the assault on their dignity has been done by someone of significance in their life. Comments like, “this shouldn’t have happened to me,” or “what happened is unfair,” or “I refuse to accept what happened,” or “this is what should have happened, because I say so.”
As one can read into the thinking patterns of rage and depression, the core beliefs or rigid thinking patterns are based upon demandingness, low frustration tolerance, awfulizing and rating of self-worth, theirs and others. Behaviors are rated, not people. Sexual abuse on a child by a parent is an irrational behavior of a sick person that was trusted, and insulted the dignity of a child who trusted them to nurture and take care of them. I’ll come back to this later.
Clients hang on to resentments to bring them to their final judgment and lay them in front of God, to say, “just in case you have forgotten over the years.”
People in the disease of chemical dependency are not afforded a luxury of rage and resentments. The fact that many people in counseling do not get better is due to their refusal to take the steps necessary to resolve the resentment or resentments, and also on the present thought of “client-based treatment.” Client-based treatment is simple. If a client doesn’t want to deal with an issue, they simply are allowed not to deal with it based on treatment thoughts I won’t go into because as REBT instructor, they are irrational to me.
In resolving resentments the REBT way, I’ve told clients, “it’s going to take time, patience and persistence.” The emotions of resentments include anger, rage and depression. These feelings are colored red and the thoughts are bitter. The understanding of what has been done to them border on the positive and the negative. I’ve told clients, “to resolve this issue of abuse, you must be willing to move with your thinking toward positive understanding.” In other words, if a person rejects the insult to their dignity honestly, then it may be good. But if a person is open only to positive input and rejects negative input, even if it’s valid, then one’s personal growth can be distorted by false high self-worth. In other words, not feeling the pain of the insult and thinking that now I have an intellectual understanding of the irrational behavior and that’s all I need, is like saying, “I know now why I drink and drug and that should keep me sober, so I don’t need to go to AA or NA because it’s painful.”
Thus, we hang on to resentments again for purposes of final judgments and make it part of our dignity that has been defiled. In writing this article, I had to think back and figure how many major resentments I’ve dealt with and how I resolved them. Many of the thinking patterns in this article were used without me knowing it, because at that time I had never heard of REBT until the ’90s.
As a sidelight, about the little kitten that we found in our driveway with umbilical cord still in him who had been abandoned and was turned over to the Lakeshore Humane Society in Dunkirk. We have adopted “Milo” and he’s a joy and a little “spitfire.” Our hats are off to a wonderful organization, saving the lives of God’s little creatures. Please remember them in your pledges.
Next – forgiveness.
Mike Tramuta has been a CASAC counselor for more than 30 years. Call 983-1592 for more information.