LWC Podcast Episode #3: How Northern NM’s Historical Trauma Killed My Grandmother and Created the Region’s Heroin Problem

Welcome to the Lamb in wolf’s clothing podcast. My name is Juan Blea; I’m a writer and addiction counselor from Santa Fe, NM. In this episode I will be discussing how the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo killed my great-great grandma and created the conditions from which Northern NM’s heroin problem emerged and what we can do about this historical wrecking machine.

Guadalupe Hidalgo isn’t a person, it’s actually the place in Mexico where the US’s war with Mexico ended with the signing of peace treaty named after that location. Now, while this treaty ended the war, it did so by giving Tx, NM, AZ, and California to the US and allowed the United States to colonize that entire area. But, it wasn’t simply a matter of land, it was also a matter of the people living there who almost overnight, went from being Mexican citizens to territorial assets of the US. For the life of me, I can’t imagine what that was like; however, when I was in grad school, I took a Psychology of the Family class through which I learned about genograms, which are basically a family tree that shows any dysfunction the family members faced. What I saw within my own family was a pattern of depression and alcoholism that reached back for generations.

One of my ancestors really struck me though, and to this day, I still search for the truth about how and why she died, but without much luck. Family legend has it that she hung herself; however, the few documents that I have been able to unearth seem to indicate that my great-great grandfather may have killed her. He spent time, in the months before she died within the state mental hospital for what their records indicate was “exhaustion.” It appears that exhaustion was a precursor to what we know as PTSD and I suspect, strongly, that he had something to do with my great-great grandmother’s death. But in studying her death and the circumstances surrounding her death, I see that the treaty of Guadalupe hidalgo was more to blame than my grandfather because, my grandparents, like many other people in Northern New Mexico lost their land to a US initiated lawsuit and had to move and learn to function in a system that used English, while they all spoke Spanish…

Fast forwarding from those days of early statehood when hundreds of people lost their land to lawsuits and their language to a new system of government and what we’re left with is a whole group of people who had to develop a whole new identity in order to assimilate within the US cultural experience. While many families were able to become Americanized, many were not. Those that could not, seemingly live as though they were in fact traumatized, even though they haven’t really experienced any trauma directly. What’s more, almost every person I’ve worked with who’s addicted to heroin can meet criteria for either PTSD or Generalized Anxiety disorder, or both. And so, from my research into my grandmother’s death and my current work with people addicted to heroin, I am convinced that social and genetic programming in this region has created a community containing “embedded” traumas. This community seeks relief from this embedded trauma through an unconscious drive towards unhealthy behaviors, including heroin abuse. Also, this social and genetic programming has led to generational poverty, which contributes to the region’s struggle with opiate addiction.

And so, I believe with all that I am that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with all its consequential losses of land, language, culture and identity have allowed the perfect storm to emerge:

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In her book, Chiva: A Village Takes on the Global Heroin Epidemic, Chellis Glendinning describes the path heroin took to get to Espanola and so I’ll leave it my listeners to read that book, but the reality is that the Perfect Storm exists in Northern New Mexico and has led to a real problem with Opiate Addiction and we need to first wake up to this reality and then we all need to come together within our greater community to disrupt this perfect storm.

How?

I tend to look through the lens of empowerment to find answers and one concept that I teach over and over again comes from attribution theory and is called locus of control. Simply put, locus of control describes the way a person approaches life. According to attribution theory, people believe either that they make things happen and rely on their own actions (in which case they are internally locused), or they believe that things happen to them and rely on luck or some other external mechanism to get things done (and they are said to be externally locused). Because people lost so much to the treaty of Guadalupe hidalgo, I believe that whole communities became externally locused and passed on limiting beliefs to subsequent generations. Basically, people came to believe that there isn’t anything they can do to affect their lives, as they were just living their lives and lost everything. What’s worse is they developed GAD and/or PTSD and then passed those genes on. And so those limiting beliefs were passed on socially and became genetically entrenched..

So then, the short answer is that we must collectively build a sense of individual capability in our children, students, patients, or clients. It takes time, but there is hope.

Addiction treatment requires an addict to become aware of the situation in which he finds himself. In order to develop that awareness, we should not oppose the symptomatic behaviors within the addiction, but we should in fact seek to understand those behaviors. I recommend a program that includes reflective journaling in order to provide a mechanism through which a person can see his or her situation in his or her own terms and understanding. To do so, a person must name the situation; reflect upon its meaning, and then act to change the situation.

For example, when it comes to addiction, I propose that the addict: (1), first name the limiting situation or thought, then (2) he or she needs to reflect deeply upon its meaning and come up with a plan to eliminate the limiting thought and/or situation; and then (3), the addict must execute the plan step by step. Treatment providers through various modalities can obviously guide this process, but it’s a matter of developing the belief in personal capability. The battle against heroin may seem to be an external war, but in order to win, it has to be fought internally.

Admittedly, it takes time to build that sense of capability — and as an aside, art/music/creative writing are all great avenues of building that sense of capability – but when an entire region has lost its sense of place, then we all must act to rebuild that identity. I’ll continue to research and share ways and means of rebuilding and creating a healthy identity for my community. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and its subsequent and generational psychological occupation of this area will be eliminated some day.

That concludes this episode and I hope you found it valuable. Please do share your thoughts through my blog, jblea1016.com or you can email me at jblea1016@hotmail.com and please don’t forget to check out my award-winning book, 49 Tips and Insights for Understanding Addiction.

LWC Podcast Episode #2: How to help someone with an Addiction

Episode 2 is here!  In this episode, I provide my best advice to anyone who wants to help an addict.  I discuss: 1) The 3 most important things to educate yourself about; 2) Talking openly with a loved about his or her relationship with a substance; and, 3) Gathering treatment resources to have available for someone who’s ready for healthy recovery!

Enjoy! and please let me know of any comments/questions/suggestions!

The Lamb in Wolf’s Clothing Podcast: Episode 1 — A Prologue

This prologue episode introduces the podcast and in doing so, discusses:

  • Religion vs. Spirituality, especially within Addiction Treatment
  • The malevolent spirituality of heroin addiction
  • How conscious creativity can disrupt addiction’s processes

Enjoy and let me know of any topics future episodes should cover!

The link between heroin addiction and demonic possession is…

jblea1016.com

Upon a review of session notes with those addicted to heroin, two (2) phrases continually appear: 1) Heroin is often referred to as the “Devil’s Drug” and using heroin is often referred to as, “Chasing the Dragon.” To me, these recurring phrases indicate that there appears to be an instinctive understanding about the relationship between heroin addiction and demonic spirits. What isn’t clear, and has eluded me is why this understanding exists and also, if there is in fact something specific to heroin addiction that allows a malevolent spirituality to emerge. What’s more, in my own experience, I have been involved with a case in which I sensed something evil within a person who was “detoxing” from heroin. Without any doubt, I believe that the case involved someone who was “possessed” by a malevolent entity. Therefore, based upon my questions and experiences, I have been seeking any reason why there…

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Let emotions signal your needs

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Typically, I leave my house at 6:15 AM for work. Most mornings, I’m rushed and hustle about my home at an almost frenetic pace; gotta beat the traffic, gotta be there on time. While I drive, my mind races over every detail of things I’ve done and things that have been done to me. Sometimes, thoughts of the “injustices” that I’ve experienced flood my mind with adrenaline: I’m ready to fight those enemies who have hurt me and would do so again, preemptively, at the very thought of my name. I imagine myself seeking and taking revenge and…

But, wait, I’m a “good person” and I shouldn’t be thinking of things like revenge. I should love my enemies and pray that they see the errors of their ways. I should love everyone and not feel negative feelings towards anyone, really. If I’m a good person then I shouldn’t want to get even with anyone.

Then again, maybe I’m not a “good person.” Maybe I’m a “bad person,” in which case, wanting revenge against my enemies is ok. Bad people do things like get mad and want to get even with people. Revenge lives in the land of the bad person, after all and bad people harbor negative emotions…

Yet, in stewing over what I feel, both good and bad, I notice the sun rising. It was an overcast day, the sky should have been cascading from the night’s darkness into the blue that comforts with its normalcy. Instead, though, the sun peeked between the mountains and the clouds and turned the sky red; the color of both anger and of love.

And I screamed at the sky, “What’s wrong with you? Are you not aware that you’re supposed to be blue? This red unsettles me; you should be turning sky blue?”

Still though, the sun rose and unsettled my mind with its natural response to clouds and sun and mountains: It turned red in spite of what I thought it should do. Did that make it a “bad” sky?

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Not to me it didn’t. To me, it was a marvel how a natural sky could wash this world with such intense color and light. There was no intervention in the display; it was the perfect combination of light and shade and moisture that made the red a shade that’s probably impossible to match with even the finest paints. I felt blessed to live and breathe under that miracle sky.

As the red faded, I returned to the thoughts of the day. The “good” and “bad” thoughts didn’t seem as such anymore. All I could think was that I’m just a person; sometimes I’m positive, sometimes I’m negative. I have feelings, both good and bad, that are probably natural responses to circumstances I face. I feel with intensity; it’s who I am. I can wash a room with strong emotions; I feel as a human being should feel.

Maybe that’s the thing we should all understand: Inside of each of us is a storm of emotions that we sometimes judge and stop ourselves. The thing is, the energy the emotions create doesn’t just go away. We have emotions so that we can come to understand the circumstances we face in this life; sometimes those emotions are positive and sometimes they’re negative, but most of the time, they are a natural and normal response to what we face. We aren’t good or bad people because we feel certain ways; we are all just people trying to make sense of our worlds and telling ourselves that we should or shouldn’t feel any way makes about as much sense as me yelling at the sky.

Ghosts should be minded and NOT feared

We are afraid of the boogeyman, even though i believe we don’t really know who or what he is.  One of the most comical scenes in any movie is when Michael Myers surprises his next victim by wearing a sheet with eyes cut out.  He wore glasses on the outside of the sheet in an attempt to fool his victim into thinking he was her boyfriend.  But what that scene really did was show how we really don’t know of what we are afraid.  Our visions of what we should fear drive us and, while people may not admit to being afraid of ghosts, it is exactly our ghosts that limit us and keep us hoping against hope that some force will emerge in our lives and “save us” from the boogeyman.  But even Michael Myers knew that those primal fears are irrational and even a bit funny.

Ghosts aren’t to be feared, really.  They do their thing, really, and for the most part leave the physical world alone. However, people like me learn to read their messages and then are stuck with having to do something with the information.  Since I tell stories, when I do find a ghost (rather, when a ghost finds me), i have to tell his or her story. I’ve known about this for a really long time, but I haven’t been all that willing to admit that i have this mission.  I’ve come to understand that we all have that ability, it’s just that we ignore and dismiss anything that doesn’t fit into our world view.  This is true, especially when it comes to things of a spiritual nature.  We are often herded into religious frames of reference that can have value, but more often than not exist to control us and make us even more afraid.  Sure, people like Jesus of Nazareth did all they could to teach humanity how the supernatural world works, but then we take his message and box it into what WE think it should be.  Therefore we wander the physical realm like ignorant robots spewing things from our mouths that weren’t our own thoughts in the first place.

I’m not out to be believed. I gave up on that years ago.  If I’ve learned anything over the years of following my writing path it’s that people seek to reinforce their own opinions, regardless of their origin and don’t do much to escape or fold in new learnings such that they own the space between their ears.  The majority of people with whom I’ve come into contact are stuck in an endless loop of reinforcement that they don’t want broken.

So why do I continue to chase windmills as though they’re dragons?  Because I will leave the physical world someday and there needs to be a record of this path of mine such that future generations might actually find the record and realize that past, present, and future are all integrated into one single flow within the supernatural realm and perhaps my descendants, direct or indirect will actually see that someone knew about this integrated time.  In the physical world, time dominates almost all of humanity’s actions, but in the supernatural realm, it doesn’t even exists, which is why when ghosts give us messages, we don’t believe them: Since time doesn’t exists in their world, they approach they physical realm out of context and without context, messages seem like random coincidences that have no reality.

Understanding our feelings will lead to freedom from them

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Teaching about Aztlan isn’t easy.  Neither is teaching writing.  People tend to associate writing with mean teachers who couldn’t be pleased and so they tense up at just the thought.  Plus. most people haven’t heard anything about the Chicano Movement or its concepts and so I have to teach about the historical Aztlan and then I have to teach about Aztlan as the source of power inside all of us. I called him the Bear-Man.

So, because of the challenges, certain classes and students have stuck in my head.  One particular class really challenged me to frame my thoughts.  One very large man simply didn’t want to learn about Aztlan nor did he want to write.  One day, he really challenged me. It was the last time this class would meet and I was almost certain he wouldn’t get anything out of my class.

“Ok, Teach,” he started his assault. …

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4 requirements for successful Recovery

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Recovery isn’t about flipping a switch or waving a magic wand. There are certain elements that must either be in place or be developed before recovery can happen. As much as we want addicts to just simply stop using whatever substance to which they’re addicted, recovery just doesn’t work like that.

Therefore, someone is recovery requires four (4) things:

  1. A support system that’s educated on the relationship between anxiety and compulsion and how each maintains the addictive cycle. This education should include the pharmacology of the respective substance (or substances) of abuse, as someone addicted to cocaine requires different treatment tools than someone addicted to opiates.
  2. Recognition of the spiritual needs of the person in recovery. This does not mean pushing one religion or another onto someone; really, all it means is that each person should find a way to engage with something bigger than him or her self…

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Our divine energy can manifest greatness!

I don’t understand why people simply don’t understand that divine energy flows within them, through them, and with every other living entity on this planet.  This divine energy can manifest greatness, if we’d only learn to recognize and use it.  But we are stubborn animals who simply choose not to see this immense gift.

I try to teach this concept in various ways and means, but I sometimes can’t help but wonder if I’m getting my point across.  Sometimes it seems as though I’m sowing seeds on dead sand.  But then, someone shares a story with me about how they’ve actually used their divine energy and I’m reawakened to my mission.

It wasn’t a grand use; it was rather simple. This person wanted a new job, but feared that his former employer would sabotage his efforts, as he had in the past.  It seemed that he and his former boss parted on less than friendly terms and his boss would provide a horrible reference which would derail his job hunting.  This person couldn’t hide his experience, as it provided the bulk of his accomplishments.

So, when he learned that he was a finalist for his new job, he instantly wanted to call his boss and beg him to stop giving him a bad reference.  He wanted to lash out and scream and even threaten his former boss.  But instead of doing anything to send out negative energy, he prayed for his former boss.  He prayed in thanksgiving for the opportunity to have learned from his former boss and he spent an hour visualizing himself working at his new job.  He did all this and suspended his fear and anger…

Not only did he land the new job, but he was told that the reason he was offered the job was because of the strength of his former boss’s reference.  In sending out positive and divine energy, he was able to manifest that energy into something real and tangible.

It works if we use it.  But first, we have to believe that divine flows through us and through all living things.  We need to trust it and in doing so, we can manifest our greatest version of ourselves!

Is there such a thing as Writer’s Anonymous?

There wasn’t a lot left – a couple of drops, really. But it called to me and awakened something inside of me. Not really lust, not really gluttony, but more of a memory than anything else. It was a drop of liquid that held a vision of a whole other life; a life spent spiraling and searching for an ethereal reality that couldn’t exist. Still, that vision of life was there, dancing in those few drops: A version of a life I thought I wanted.

It was a romantic idea, really. Hemingway did it; Steinbeck did it. I could go on but the image of the tortured writer spending endless and countless days scribbling thousands of unintelligible words into tattered and worn notebooks until he had another Old Man and the Sea or another Grapes of Wrath was a vision of a perfect life to me. Only I wasn’t like those glorified scribblers. If I spent an afternoon hunched over a bar sipping tequila, my pen might move from time to time, but then, the next day, I’d review my previous day’s work and see that it may as well have been written in Aramaic. There was no way to know what the hell I wrote. Maybe I wasn’t really writing anything; maybe I was just moving a pen in various lines across notebook pages.

But damn, I wanted to be a tortured writer on the hunt for the perfect set of words that would become my legacy. I wanted so badly to be just like those writers who lived their lives on the edge of reality and lunacy. It was a lust greater than any man could have. I figured that living on that edge would make my writing life somehow more real.

So when I saw those couple of drops of tequila lingering in a mostly empty shot glass, I saw that distorted reflection of who I thought I wanted to be and realized that the edge of sanity I sought wasn’t all that great a place to live. Alcohol may bring lunacy, but it doesn’t help with writing. I saw in those drops that attempting a writing life, in and of itself, creates lunacy; it simply isn’t easy parsing through millions of thoughts with a net that only holds a hundred or so at a time. It’s like fishing for plankton with a net suited for landing giant catfish. But what the hell, I keep at it, which is the lunacy and irrationality of the writer.

I remember this one time, after spending hours at a little dive, I scribbled enough words to fill more than 20 pages of a notebook. At some point, I placed the notebook down somewhere and went to take a leak. When I was done, I searched the joint for my damn notebook – but it disappeared. It was gone and I wasn’t even drunk. I threw back, MAYBE, two or three shots over the course of an entire afternoon, but somehow, that notebook went threw some notebook-rapture-vortex and entered into another dimension of sight and sound. Wherever it went, though, I wasn’t there. I was more than angry about losing that notebook; I drove home in complete grief over the loss.

This thing called a writing life is a bad habit, alcohol or no alcohol. I can’t quit – hell, I’m not even sure I want to leave it. Writing transports me – in my own parlance: I am a compulsive writer. Maybe I should start a “writer’s anonymous” group. “Hi,” I’d say at the start of my testimony. “My name is Juan and I am a goddamned writer.”

The group would chorus back to me, “Hi Juan!”

The problem was never the alcohol. The problem, if there’s one, is that I write because I have no other choice. When I’m sitting in my rocking chair wondering if the grandkids will ever visit me, I’m certain that if I can still hold a stupid pen, I’ll write a poem or a verse about how much old age sucks. I’m certain that I’ll still be fishing for plankton in my mind, even if I’m senile, I’ll be grasping at some great collection of words that I won’t fully capture.

Or maybe I won’t. Maybe my WA 12 step group will cure of my writing addiction. I don’t drink or drug. Don’t gamble much. Writing is my only remaining vice. I wonder if my writing glass will ever be down to 2 drops. On second thought, no I don’t. My name is Juan and I am a goddamned writer.

You can learn a lot from fishing (4 photos 1 video)

On a recent warm day filled with early morning meetings, I had my fill of nonsense and wanted to get as far out of cell range as I could and headed for the Pecos River.  I can’t say I was too hopeful of catching anything; recent runoff has been strong and the water levels haven’t been conducive to good fishing.  But catching fish wasn’t really the point of this outing. What I wanted to clear my head and simply hit my internal “reset” button.

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I found a nice little spot where the water was slow and deep and on my very first cast I pulled out a nice rainbow trout.  The problem was that I barely hooked it and in securing the fish, I lurched onto my rod and broke it in half.  It seemed like a perfect way to end a week filled with addiction stuff and suffering.  However, I wasn’t ready to turn around and go home.

I remembered that I had duct tape and a ball point pen in my car.  So, I opened the pen and removed the ink tube and cut a 3 inch piece. I then placed the ink tube into the rod and then connected the broken pieces (effectively, the ink tube was a dowel that held the rod together from the inside).  I then taped the rod together with the duct tape and resumed fishing.

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At first, I was hesitant.  Although my repair job seemed to hold together, I wasn’t exactly sure it would hold up under the weight and resistance of an actual trout.  My first cast with the broken rod was a delicate affair: I actually held the top d of the rod with one hand and kept my other hand on the base of the rod.  But I really couldn’t feel anything.  It seemed that my hand placement diminished the rod’s sensitivity, plus I was focused on the rod and not the line.  So, I reeled in the the hook and casted normally and help the rod normally and WHAM! a huge bite.

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Not only did the repair job hold, it seemed to make the rod more sensitive with the extra flexibility.  Within 30 minutes, I had caught my limit and came home.  I cleared my head and caught enough trout for a nice dinner.

The thing of it all is that I’m always telling people that it’s not really about what happens in life, it’s more about how we respond to what happens.  Had I simply accepted the broken rod, I probably would’ve been in a worse mood and felt like a doofus.  Instead of accepting it, i fixed the rod as best I could and ended up catching a stringer full of fish and forgetting the bad juju I absorbed throughout the week. While I realize that it’s a much smaller scale, I do think it bears sharing with clients that they can accept life’s issues OR they can use them as a means of something from which they can learn. I don’t know what will come of what I learned, but i do know that I learned that I can catch fix with a broken rod.  The Pecos River has met its match…..

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What is a Warrior Angel?

jblea1016.com

There aren’t a whole bunch of people who will engage an addiction, but those that do have a strength of spirit that only a warrior possesses.  That strength derives from deep and real love that acts as a fuel and protective coat for the next time the addicted one heads back on the streets.  Recovery is like that: Periods of calm before the next relapse.  But, the love carries warrior angels through every negative outcome and still fights the addiction with all they can.  Even if the addicted can’t see the love, warrior angels are there, ready to give every last drop of their soul-energy to eliminate the drug of abuse.

I’ve encountered all kinds of people who suffer from an addiction.  There are those kinds that that suffer with an undiagnosed and untreated illness for which they self-medicate (for example, someone who abuses cocaine may suffer from ADHD).  There…

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Take Jack for example: An honest Recovery story

How do we honestly assess our failings and move forward with dignity?

To be clear, there is no easy way to take a hard look at ourselves and accept our failings and weaknesses. Looking at the “bad” things we’ve done and not internalizing the shame that can results from the reflection is not an easy proposition. But, in order to move towards a healthier place, it’s imperative that we not only look at our behavior, be we also need to reflect upon the circumstances in which we behaved.

Take “Jack,” a forty something Hispanic male who recently entered into recovery from an addiction to alcohol. When Jack entered treatment, he knew he wanted to be rid of his addiction, but the shadows from a divorce and from his subsequent alienation from his children hung over him and caused him to be a very shameful person. Jack is a talented and capable person; before his addiction took over his life, Jack earned a decent living as an auto mechanic. However, the more he slid into alcoholism, the less he was able to work. After the loss of his family, Jack pretty much gave up on holding a job all together. A DUI conviction forced Jack into treatment. Jack wore his shame like a suit or armor.

While I do approach treatment from a strengths perspective, I also recognize that if we do not assess our actions, we can are prone to repeat harmful and unhealthy behaviors. This is not to say that we should wallow in our past mistakes; we shouldn’t. However, we need to see that our actions tend to be the result of inaccurately processing our external circumstances. For Jack, he thought that having a beer after a hard day’s work was rewarding. He failed to value his family who begged him not to drink so much and as often as he did.

Jack was lucky in that he qualified for Vivitrol treatment. The Vivitrol helped with his cravings (may have been placebo effect, but who cares) and he was able to significantly scale back his drinking. As he did, he was able to see that he was mirroring behaviors he saw in his father. Jack felt that it was “ok” to drink in spite of his family’s concern because his father acted as he wished without regard for his own family. It wasn’t that Jack was a jerk; it was more that he thought he was acting in accordance with how a father was supposed to act.

As his thinking became clearer, Jack was able to mourn the loss of his marriage and find solace in the fact that his children were being cared for by someone who was strong enough to act on their best behalf. While he saw that his drinking led to significant loss, he also saw that he did not value his family or his work enough to make appropriate changes towards health. Once he corrected his erroneous thinking he began to act responsibly towards the people and activities that he really valued.

Jack’s been sober for almost five years now. He never mended fences with his ex, but he was able to salvage his relationship with his children. He found dignity in looking at his failings because he was able to recognize the context in which he failed was a result of his own upbringing. I think that this recognition neutralized his behavior; though Jack did feel guilty, he was no longer was ashamed of himself

Therefore, I think the way to look at our past failings is to understand them in context and then correct processing that led to the failures. Then once we understand the context and have corrected our thinking, we can then live with full knowledge that we have the power to change our behavior in context.