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SHAME & GUILT

"How could I face my family, or my friends? After having such a seemingly perfect marriage for so long, all of my business was in the open.  My husband had been having an affair, and it seemed like I was the last person to find out.  Mitchel helped me face the shame, and confront the issues with my loved ones."

First let’s point out that there is a difference between shame and guilt.  Shame is a feeling of disgrace, pain, regret or embarrassment.  More specifically, shame is a violation of social values or standards, and usually comes into effect when the violation is discovered by others.  Guilt is an emotion that occurs when a person realizes or believes that they have done something wrong, and is similar to remorse.  Guilt is being aware that one has done something that conflicts with their morals, standards, beliefs, or has adversely affected someone else.  

The difference between the two is that shame is a more outward type of disgrace, while guilt is an internal conflict based on a behavior.  Shame comes in different types. (1) Genuine shame; which is a true feeling of disgrace, dishonor or condemnation, (2) False shame; which is condemnation or self-inflicted shame (3) Toxic shame; is internalized shame or shame that is a result of trauma, most often during childhood, examples are things such as abuse, incest, molestation or being taught that certain behaviors are wrong. (4) Vicarious shame; which is feeling shame for someone else, and (5) Secret shame; where the individual is so ashamed that the shame must be kept a secret.  Shame will keep you confined to your compulsive or addictive behaviors, and makes you feel that you are less than, incomplete, or not worthy.  Shame also can cause low self-esteem.  Guilt is very similar to this in the sense that it is an internalized struggle with one’s self based on an action or behavior, for which the individual carries a strong sense of blame for something they feel is wrong.  

Shame is feeling humiliation, while guilt is taking responsibility for something, because of the humiliation.  An easier way to understand this is that guilt means “I did something wrong or bad” and shame is “I am wrong or bad”.  With the help of a professional one eventually moves from “I am bad” to “I did something bad, but I am not a bad person”.