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The Secret Power of Emotion: Guilt and shame

Guilt and shame are emotions that have accompanied us since early childhood.

"Shame on you, acting like that!" "Good and well-mannered girls don't behave like that." "You should be ashamed of this behavior." "I am ashamed that you are my daughter." "You're a bad girl, that's what happened because of you!" "It's all your fault! It's all your fault!"

How's that? Did childhood memories come flooding back? What is shame and guilt? Let's find out.

Guilt and shame are directly related to rejection. Guilt is non-acceptance of any acts, and here the shame is already rejection of itself. Although these concepts are extremely close, there is a difference between them. Feeling of guilt is connected, first of all, with violation of personal values and criteria, whereas feeling of shame most often refers to violation of social norms or is connected with feeling of discrepancy to them.

For example, you may be ashamed of the fact that you are unable to pay back the loan, and therefore, waiting for the next call or text message from the bank, you are tormented by an "inner worm" of your own worthlessness and inferiority.

At the same time, if you deceived your good friend about something, you are likely to feel guilt, especially if you have been taught since childhood that it is not good to lie.

These two emotions, unlike, for example, fear, are not basic. They are formed in childhood and can be classified as "social" emotions.

They appear especially strongly in those who have experienced constant parental reprimand. The most unpleasant thing is that the more the parents "press" on the child, the more he feels guilty, and not only for his actions, but also for his thoughts and desires.

When we feel ashamed of ourselves, we feel lonely and pathetic. Our identity as individuals suffers.

Through the exacerbation of the emotions of shame and guilt, a "victim consciousness" gradually develops. A worldview in which you feel guilty of everything and owed to everyone is cultivated. Isn't it a convenient position for manipulation? Guilt and shame lead to a constant devaluation of the person. They fuel the fire of inner self-criticism and inflate self-boating and self-defeating.

You know what the saddest part is? By continually yelling and instilling guilt, most parents thereby try to foster a sense of responsibility in their child. This is a good place to say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Usually parents don't think about the consequences. Few people realize that being guilty and feeling shame does not mean taking responsibility for your actions and life in the future.

Interestingly, shame and guilt also behave differently in the body. When we are ashamed, we feel heat in our face. We feel our ears and cheeks burning. Our legs become "cotton balls". Our gaze automatically drifts downward. You want to disappear, to "fall ashamed under the floor.”

When you feel guilty, you feel a "stone on your heart," and the thoughts of what was done do not give rest, come back to us again and again, annoyingly pestering.

Do we need to get rid of them?

Actually, guilt and shame are very important. They are needed to shape social behavior. They keep us from doing the wrong things.

They are the internal measure of our conscience and, if you want, our honor, and also the guarantor of the social security of society, no matter how pompous it may sound.

So what to do, you ask? I should say at once that my article concerns only manifestations of shame and guilt in healthy people. As there are various psychological disorders at which feelings of shame and guilt take unhealthy forms or simply are absent. However, this is already from the field of medicine.

For healthy people it is important to understand where guilt and shame are unreasonable and interfere with personal development, normal building of relationships, and achieving goals. If it seems like everything is normal, but in different areas a wall of shame stands in front of us, it is time to think, what happens with your self-esteem? As a result of whose actions has your value suffered?

Obsessive feelings of guilt are also worth getting rid of, and here it is likely to be a matter of not accepting your past. In this case, it is important to "remove yourself from the past" and draw conclusions, so that the situation will not repeat in the future. It is not without reason that they say that one learns from mistakes. I can add from myself that unlearned lessons turn into rakes.

How do you work with guilt and shame? What can each of you do on your own?

Step 1: Identify areas where you regularly experience guilt and shame.

There are usually 6 areas identified, but you can expand or narrow this list depending on how relevant it is to you:

- Family/personal life;

- health;

- finances;

- professional/career development. It's worth clarifying here: do you want to be an expert or hold a particular position?

- hobby / passion / creativity;

- spiritual / personal growth.

There should be two lists, one for guilt and one for shame.

Now, using the example of guilt that a mother raising a child alone is likely to feel, consider the following steps.

Step 2: Formulate an answer to the question, why do you feel guilt or shame?

Example answer: "I feel guilt because my child is going to grow up in a single-parent family and won't have a father.

Step 3: In this step, try to look a little deeper and write in each area that I actually feel guilt and shame because ...

Example answer: "I feel guilty, first of all, because I didn't meet my parents' expectations. Mom and Dad have lived together all their lives and I was instilled that family should be one for life. This makes me feel enormous guilt in front of my child, in front of them, and generally feel like a failure."

Step 4: If you get to this step, one of the most important questions awaits you. Do your shame and guilt have any real basis in fact?

Sample answer: "I had good reasons for breaking up with the father of my child. To be completely honest, we wouldn't have lived together for long anyway. So there's generally nothing to feel guilty about. I do not think that it would be better for the child to grow up among people who are indifferent to each other.

Step 5: Now it's time to admit to yourself how your life would have changed if you did not have these emotions?

Sample answer: "I would stop beating myself up and getting wound up. I would feel more confident and calm. I wouldn't have had so much energy to grind the situation out.

Step 6: The last step is summarizing.

Sample answer: "Accept the obvious thing. We would have broken up anyway. Move on with our lives. I have nothing to blame myself for. I'm a good mother. I will do enough for my child."

When dealing with guilt and shame, just like when dealing with any emotion, it is important to do all the practices in writing. Only when you formulate your thoughts on paper do you bring them to life and trigger the transformation.


Anna Matyagina

psycotherapist, certified coach ICI, MRI, AC; specialize in Jungian sand therapy, metaphorical maps, PhD in Engineering

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