Stewart Bedillion, MA, LPC


King Solomon said, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Solomon was simply stating something that I observe every day working with patients at Palmetto: people generally become what they believe they are. Society refers to this concept as self-image, self-worth, or self-regard. If it is true that people possess a mental image of themselves and that this image becomes the filter by which they see themselves, others, and life in general my question becomes what image does this patient have of themselves? What mental image do you have of yourself? If a person sees themselves primarily as a disappointment, shameful, worthless, not deserving of love, stupid, different, unimportant, defective, or as an individual with great worth, value, importance, and significance, one can see how these images will have a powerful impact on an individual’s life. What a person believes about him/herself to a large extent determines how one feels and therefore determines how one behaves. What does all this have to do with addiction? Plenty!

Many factors are involved in addiction. One of the core underlying factors that I have observed while working with those who are addicted is pain and shame. Once an individual sees themselves as primarily defective in their person, shameful feelings will follow. It is only a matter of time until their behavior follows as well (enter addiction). Mood altering substances
become a solution, in people’s minds, to numb one’s pain, escape the hurt, feel in control, confident, powerful, sociable, and a host of other similar

How does one’s self-image develop? Social, psychological, situational, and behavioral factors all can and do play a part in how a person perceives
themselves. All of us received certain messages about ourselves through our family, school, and the culture at large (social factors). Not only are we
influenced by social factors but we also formed our own personal beliefs as we began to grow and develop (psychological or cognitive factors). In addition, what we believed and how we reacted to certain negative events in our lives can have a powerful effect in shaping our sense of self (situational factors).

As the Spiritual Counselor at Palmetto one of my goals is to help patients change a negative self-image into a positive one through cognitive restructuring.

Many times, our patients have developed deeply disturbing messages about themselves during trauma. Mental and emotional healing can come
through allowing the patient to return to the disturbing memory, identifying the irrational or false belief (s) and processing this through Theophostic prayer and or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).

In using the above approaches, as necessary, I have seen some wonderful results. Many times, it is after emotional healing takes place a person can then more effectively restructure their thinking from negative thoughts about themselves to positive ones. There is hope!