by Cornelius D. Jones
Although shame is an emotion that is closely related to guilt, it is important to understand the difference between the two. Shame can be defined as "a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety." The easy way to distinguish between the two is to remember "We feel guilty for what we do, while we feel shame for what we are." Shame is a much stronger and more profound emotion than guilt. Shame is when we feel disappointed about something inside of us, our basic nature." Guilt is best described as "a troubled conscience" or "a feeling of culpability for offenses." To feel guilty, we must feel responsible for an action that we regret. People can also feel guilty about events which they are not responsible for. This false guilt can be equally destructive, when it goes uncheck. Feeling guilty for events which are out of our control is often unproductive and detrimental to our emotional well-being. Not all shame or guilt belongs to you so there is no need in taking ownership of it. Both shame and guilt can have intensive implications for our perceptions of self and our behavior toward other people, particularly in situations of conflict.
Unknown to most people there are different forms of shame. However, all shame is still different from guilt and all shames aren’t bad. There is toxic shame, which undermines mental health and recovery. Toxic shame is mostly driven and passed on from one generation to the next. This form of shame comes not from what we necessarily tell ourselves, but what we’ve been told about ourselves over a long period of time. Lasting recovery requires breaking the pattern by replacing toxic shame with normal guilt and healthy shame. It is important to understand that shame may result from the awareness of guilt. It's a painful feeling about how we appear to others (and to ourselves) and doesn't necessarily depend on having done anything wrong. Shamed people fear abandonment, as guilty people fear punishment. Unfortunately, the punishment often derives from the individual that feels guilty. It is like making yourself the judge, finding yourself guilty and then punishing (you) by ordering yourself to be abandoned by society for an undetermined time. Shame causes us to make sweeping generalizations: "...because I did this, everyone will know I’m not responsible and will never trust me again"[abandonment]. But guilt, a higher level, healthier interpretation, judges one's actions rather than one's intrinsic self, i.e.: Toxic shame tells us "we're going to fail to reach our goals in life". It begets more shame, causing "paralysis, faltering energy, escapism, withdrawal, including people-pleasing and hiding behind a mask, perfectionism, criticism, and rage. There are other people willing to judge us as they are prepared to doubt and tell us that we can’t or won’t make it. There is no need of us adding more toxic shame to our plates.
Then there is Healthy shame, which aids in relapse prevention by demanding that people constantly examine and challenge their reactions to situations. This form of shame is a positive aspect that simply makes us aware when we’ve hurt someone or crossed a boundary that violates a person’s dignity. It is both normal and essential to have because it comes with having a conscience. Too much shame and its accomplice better known as not enough shame (shamelessness, a symptom of disassociating from toxic shame) pressures people into acting compulsively and recklessly. The good thing about healthy shame is that it serves as a constant reminder to harm no one and attend to how one interacts with the world.
Now that you have a better comprehension of the two, it is time to unlock the chains for good. To be clear, if you continue to carry the weight of guilt and shame, they will slow you down. Which may result in you never reaching your destiny because the weight of the chains will eventually take a crippling toll on you mentally and physically.
Leaving the Chains Behind
· Owning our wrongs – Guilt and shame can become a vicious cycle when we try to hide the wrongs we have done. Step in front of the wrongs instead of standing behind them. To get out of the cycle and leave the chains behind, complete transparency is required. Culpability for the wrongs we have committed is a part of maturing and growing as a person. Admitting that you have made mistakes and done something wrong stops the cycle and frees us from our prison of guilt and shame. You can face your wrongs and take responsibility by verbalizing what you have done and preparing yourself to accept the consequences. Accepting the consequences for behavior is being accountable. People can’t embarrass you for your truths, but they can for your lies.
· Correcting the wrongs – Finding a way to make up for what you have done will help free you from guilt. Although we can’t correct every wrong that has transpired over the course our life, we can make corrections to ourselves to prevent those wrongs from happening again. You can always find something good to do for someone or do something that is good for society as a whole. Make it a practice to give back to others through your time, talents, or treasures.
· Asking for forgiveness – When someone forgives us for the wrongs we have committed, this will relieve much of our guilt and shame. However, we must be mindful that we are trying to better ourselves by asking for forgiveness. All you can do is ask for forgiveness and once you’ve done so, your part is complete.
· Forgiving ourselves – The gift of forgiveness is the ability to give ourselves permission to let go of what we have done and move towards a positive direction. Whether the person we have hurt has the desire to forgives us or not, the shame and guilt may continue until we learn to forgive ourselves. Only then can the healing process relieve any feelings of guilt or shame that remain. www.corneliusdjones.com/blog/breaking-the-chains-of-shame-guilt