Adaptive and Maladaptive Guilt As Related to Addiction
This chapter describes three defenses against guilt: rationalization, paranoia, and excessive selflessness. In addition, adaptive guilt has value as an influence technique and it redistributes emotional distress. Adaptive guilt may pull people out of their addictive self-absorption; instead of concentrating upon how badly they feel they instead begin to think about the effects of their behaviors upon others. Adaptive guilt, then, is something to foster in treatment. The goal is to develop, redevelop, reinforce, and emphasize adaptive guilt as a necessary component of recovery. However, guilt can take the form of a massive, exquisitely uncomfortable feeling, especially in its maladaptive forms. L. O'Connor and associates also state that guilt becomes maladaptive when it is exaggerated or inhibiting or when it is generalized or repeatedly linked with shame. The defense is primarily utilized by individuals already wracked with guilt, especially those highest on maladaptive forms such as omnipotent responsibility guilt and separation guilt.