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Guilt_V._Shame

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					Guilt V. Shame

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721

Summary:
What is the difference between guilt and shame and why is the distinction
crucial for our emotional and spiritual health? It’s invaluable to
discern the difference between guilt and shame so that we can respond
appropriately in situations and can ask others to respond to us
appropriately and fairly also. It’s also vital that we know whether we
are feeling bad because of something we have done or because we have
simply gotten into the habit of feeling bad.

Guilt is somethin...


Keywords:
guilt, shame, advice, self-help, peace, blame


Article Body:
What is the difference between guilt and shame and why is the distinction
crucial for our emotional and spiritual health? It’s invaluable to
discern the difference between guilt and shame so that we can respond
appropriately in situations and can ask others to respond to us
appropriately and fairly also. It’s also vital that we know whether we
are feeling bad because of something we have done or because we have
simply gotten into the habit of feeling bad.

Guilt is something our conscience compels us to feel when we have acted
in a way that is not in alignment with our own moral compass. If we
believe in being honest and we lie, we will feel guilty (even if we
justify it as a “white lie” to ourselves or others). If we believe in the
Golden Rule, “Do unto others…,” we will feel guilty if we treat someone
disrespectfully or unfairly. In guilt, we feel bad about what we have
done, not who we are. We are able to distinguish between the goodness of
who we fundamentally are and the mistake we have made that requires
correction/amends/asking forgiveness.

Shame is a different experience. When we feel shame, it is not for what
we have done, not for a particular behavior, but for who we are. When in
shame, we want to hide; we feel that we don’t deserve love or respect.
Shame is often a pervasive experience that we don’t recognize within
ourselves. Shame can feel quite “normal.”

When we feel ashamed, we emit a certain aura/vibe/energy. Others who pick
up on this energy may misinterpret it and assume that we have behaved
badly, causing them to overreact or for us to believe we deserve
excessive punishment. We may not recognize the ways we carry and show our
shame and wonder why others are so hard on us. This is how others mirror
our beliefs about ourselves and why it’s so important to heal our shame.
Shame can cause us to continue to act in ways that lead us to feeling
guilty. So guilt and shame are part of a vicious cycle. How can we heal
our shame?

1. The first step in breaking the cycle is learning to discern between
guilt and shame. The following are the chief symptoms of shame. If you
can identify with even one of these points, you are likely to be living
in shame.

• Comparing ourselves to others and finding ourselves always falling
short
• Embarrassment when we receive compliments
• A general sense of unworthiness
• Distrust that others truly like us or respect us—“waiting for the other
shoe to drop” in every relationship
• Accepting excessive blame—more than a situation warrants
• Continually behaving in ways that go against our own standards of
behavior
• Feeling bad about certain thoughts, even when we have no intention of
acting on these thoughts

2. The second step is to look at your recent “wrongs” objectively. What
triggered those behaviors? What did you do about rectifying your actions?
Did you over-apologize? Did you allow someone to verbally or physically
punish you for your behavior? If you overcompensated in any way, then you
are carrying shame, not just guilt, and you are doing yourself harm.

3. The third step is to retrace your path to where the shame started.
Often, shame starts in childhood when a trusted adult shames us for
something outside of our control: our sexuality, our intelligence, the
way we spoke or dressed, a behavior we didn’t know wasn’t okay. Children
soak up shame easily.

4. See the past with your adult eyes. Would you want to shame a child for
what you feel shameful about? Let the child within you know that it was
not his/hers to carry and that you release him/her from the shame now.

For more understanding about guilt and shame and to discover how to
thrive, order Jane Straus’s book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and
Start Living Your Extraordinary Life, available at online bookstores. You
can also log onto www.stopenduring.com to read more about Jane’s
enlightening ideas, listen to interviews with her, preview one of her
seminars, or sign up for personal coaching with Jane. To enjoy her
frequent pearls of wisdom, register online for her free e-newsletter.

				
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