Guilt and shame

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Guilt and shame

SHARE Although many people use these two words interchangeably, from a psychological perspective, they actually refer to different experiences. Guilt and shame sometimes go hand in hand; the same action may give rise to feelings of both shame and guilt, where the former reflects how we feel about ourselves and the latter involves an awareness that our actions have injured someone else.

In other words, shame relates to self, guilt to others.

Guilt vs. Shame [Infographic] - NICABM

Shame may result from the awareness of guilt but apparently is not the same thing as guilt. I find this a little confusing but an example might help. In the anecdote I related in a post from my website about envy and jealousyI once said something hurtful at a dinner party, and on some level, I intended it to be hurtful.

Afterward, I felt guilty because I could see that I had hurt my friend.


More painfully, I also felt ashamed that I was the sort of person who would behave that way. Guilt arose as a result of inflicting pain on somebody else; I felt shame in relation to myself.

Many people crippled by shame have very little capacity to feel guilt, for example. In order to feel guilt about the harm you may have done to somebody else, you must recognize him or her as a distinct individual, to begin with.

Thus a person who struggles with separation and merger issues might not feel true guilt even if he or she were to use that word to describe a feeling. The lack of empathy to be found in narcissistic personality disorder makes real guilt unlikely since guilt depends upon the ability to intuit how someone else might feel.

When shame is especially pervasive what I refer to as core or basic shameit usually precludes feelings of genuine concern and guilt from developing; the sense of being damaged is so powerful and painful that it crowds out feeling for anyone else. In such cases, idealization often comes into play: In those cases, we might take pleasure in hurting the person we envy rather than feeling guilty about it.

I discussed this dynamic in detail in my post about why we love and hate celebrities. In others words, core shame reflects early psychological damage that impedes growth; the capacity to feel guilt depends upon that psychological growth and could be seen as emotional progress.

If the early environment is "good enough," we develop a reliable sense of self that in turn enables us to view other people as separate and to feel concern for them. The seeds of this story began for me when I asked the question: My story is dark, focusing on my usual themes of shame and narcissism, and informed by work with clients who self-injure.

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Guilt and shame

Reproducible Assessments, Exercises & Educational Handouts Research suggests that when people face constant stressors and unwanted changes/5(5). While people generally use the words 'guilt' and 'shame' interchangeably, they actually refer to different experiences. Shame concerns painful feelings about oneself; guilt relates to the hurt or harm one may have caused somebody else and depends upon the ability to empathize.

Guilt and shame often occur together. Although shame and guilt may seem similar, shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, and aggression.

From Disruption to Connection

In contrast, guilt is linked to empathy and understanding other perspectives. Shame and Guilt: It might not be nice to feel ashamed and guilty, but it is functional for our mental health to have these self-conscious emotions.

Guilt and shame

Guilt/Shame. 1. What had poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? What did that poor old woman do to you, that you could treat her so mean?

Religious Guilt and Fear, Well-Being, and Fundamentalism