Power of Guilt and Shame

Guilt and shame are both emotions of self-evaluation; however, that is wherethe similarities end. The difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the differences between “I am bad” (shame) and “I did something bad” (guilt). Shame is about who we are and guilt is about our behaviors. If I feel guilty for cheating on a test, my self-talk might sound something like “I should not have done that. That was really stupid. 

Guilt and Shame often, when we try to shame others or ourselves into changing a behaviour, we do so without understanding the differences between shame and guilt. This is important because guilt can often be a positive motivator of change, while shame typically leads to worse behaviour or paralysis. Here are few subtle difference between guilt and shame :

GUILT (Healthy Guilt)

  • Healthy guilt is a feeling of psychological discomfort about something we’ve done that is objectively wrong.
  • Helpful guilt is caused by actions or behaviours that break objective definitions of right and wrong.
  • We can experience guilt as early as age 3-6, (developmentally, guilt is a more mature emotion than shame).
  • We act in a way that breaks objective standards of moral behaviour.
  • Potentially positive. Healthy guilt allows us to seek forgiveness and correct a wrong. It can lead to healing.
  • Healthy guilt resolves as we repair the damage we caused.
  • Face the behaviour that hurt self and others.
  • Take responsibility for the harm done.
  • Seek forgiveness from the person affected.
  • Change destructive behaviour and attitudes that created the harm.
  • Reclaim wholeness and heal relationship with the person affected.

GUILT (Unhealthy Guilt)

  • Unhelpful guilt is a feeling of psychological discomfort about something we’ve done against our irrationally high standards.
  • Unhelpful guilt is caused by actions or behaviours that break irrationally high standards.
  • We can experience guilt as early as age 3-6.
  • We act in a way that breaks irrational standards of behaviour developed early in childhood to please an adult.
  • Potentially negative. Unhealthy guilt leads us to emphasise self punishment over behaviour change, trapping us in guilt.
  • Unhealthy guilt remains until we correct irrational beliefs.
  • Separate and resolve healthy guilt to uncover unhealthy guilt.
  • Practice self compassion and work to understand that everyone possesses a combination of strengths and weaknesses.
  • Seek connection with others, joining a self help group can offer support.

SHAME

  • Shame is an intensely painful feeling of being fundamentally flawed.
  • Shame is caused by an innate sense of being worthless or inherently defective.
  • We can experience shame as early as 15 months. Thats why shame is more deeply wired in our brain and is more difficult to reverse.
  • We see ourselves as unworthy and deeply flawed.
  • Potentially negative. Shame causes us to fear that we will be rejected, so it tempts us to disconnect from others and avoid what causes us shame.
  • It could even start us down a path of deeper mental health problems like depression and substance abuse.
  • It could even start us down a path of deeper mental health problems like depression and substance abuse.
  • Shame is internalised and deeply connected to our sense of who are which makes it more difficult to resolve.
  • Exercise self compassion to shift feelings of shame and move awareness away from self criticism or proof of inadequacy.
  • Pursue relationships. Nurture connections and a sense of belonging with others.

Reference : https://www.nicabm.com/guilt-vs-shame/

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Shahzad Khalid says:

    Superb!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Garima says:

      Glad you liked it.

      Like

      1. Shahzad Khalid says:

        Yeah.. U r superb… Can u give me tips how to improve writing skill and presentation… Plzzzz

        Like

  2. I find the article very interesting. I always felt guilt because of my relationship with my mother and her behaviour, then entering an unhealthy relationaship I also developed the feeling of shame. After distancing myself from both relations, I feel finally healthy. But it has taken a long time… and it was painful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Garima says:

      The fact that you overcame it is very important. But if shame is such a burden, what are we supposed to do about it? The answer is developing ‘shame resilience’, and it is empathy that is the ‘real antidote to shame’. What does she mean? ‘If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.’ So we can’t really get over shame without other people. We can’t keep shutting it out by keeping ourselves busy (or distracted). We can’t wish it away by denying our feelings. What we really need to do is seek connection with someone who is going to lend us an empathic ear, someone who is able to listen to us and endeavour to understand our fears, anxieties and uncertainties. The implication, as I see it, is that our emotional health requires socially positioning ourselves within a community of empathy. This is not to say that every friend we have has to be an empathic genius. But rather we should be wary of being without empathic support. If you drew a map of your social support network, how many people could really offer you the gift of deep empathy? Of course, the flip side is that if we want people to display empathy towards us, this is most likely to happen when we display our vulnerability to them. Without exposing ourselves, making that human connection we need to combat shame is nearly impossible.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Garima, I also thought a lot about it and analysed it and what you are mentioning is so true, if one thinks about it. Thank you for taking the time and analysing topics like this one. It is really helpful.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Garima says:

        👍🏼👍🏼

        Like

  3. Roland Legge says:

    Excellent article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Garima says:

      Glad you liked it.

      Like

  4. shame.. thats a hard one to deal with. great post! thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Garima says:

      Empathy reduces shame, whereas sympathy exacerbates it. There is a huge difference between feeling with someone and feeling for someone. Shame causes a person to believe they’re alone. Through empathy, we cause them to realize that they are not alone, which is why it is the antidote to shame.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. gypsysoulsun says:

    great post! shame is a real soul killer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Garima says:

      It is, but empathy can move mountains.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Garima says:

        Glad you agree !!

        Like

  6. Anshika Shukla says:

    Thank you for this article . We all certainly need to understand the behaviour of little children as well cause as you mentioned both healthy and unhealthy emotions of guilt and that of shame spring up at a really young age , which we often tend to forget and at times ignore . Thanks a lot for the fruitful post

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Garima says:

      Yes Anshika. “Research shows that socially and emotionally, children begin to show shame when doing something wrong closer to 18 months of age,” says American Academy of Pediatrics.

      Liked by 1 person

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