Motivation, Not Punishment

If you feel bad about anything at all and blame it on someone else, what can you then do to make yourself feel better?

Not a thing. The act of blame renders you powerless, which is the internal source of all the frustration, anger, and resentment that go with blame. More important, blame strips painful emotions of their primary function, which is to motivate corrective behavior. As we saw in the previous chapter, pain — physical and psychological — is part of an alarm network that evolved to keep you safe and well. The function of guilt, shame, and anxiety is not to punish you. Their primary function is to motivate behavior that heals, corrects, or improves.

For example, guilt is about violating your values; the motivation of guilt is to act according to your values. Acting according to your deeper values is the only thing that resolves guilt. Shame is about failure and inadequacy; the motivation is to reevaluate, reconceptualize, and redouble efforts to achieve success, or if the failure is in attachment, to be more loving or compassionate. Those are the only things that will resolve shame. Anxiety is a dread of something bad occurring that will exceed or deplete resources; the motivation is to learn more about what might happen and develop plans to cope with it. Blame, denial, and avoidance might give momentary relief of guilt, shame, and anxiety but will soon worsen them by blocking their natural motivations.

— Dr. Steven Stosny, Soar Above, p. 39

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