Shame vs Guilt

Another gem from my trauma therapist – the difference between shame and guilt. Shame is the feeling that you are bad. Guilt is the feeling that your actions are bad. A normal amount of both is necessary to live in world with others. They keep a person (most of us 😉 ) from scratching their butt in public and make sure they hold the door for someone a reasonable distance behind them. It’s when shame and guilt are at consistent abnormal levels that they are a problem.

Mine is the latter. I feel responsible for nearly everything and like I have control of almost nothing. It’s pretty terrible. But this isn’t about me or guilt. It’s about shame. I heard something on a podcast (Terrible, Thanks for Asking) about shame and in particular about alcoholism. The guest said that shame prevents a person from taking responsibility. That made absolute sense to me.

Whereas my anxiety and guilt often paralyze me into procrastination or downright avoidance because the amount options and fear of judgement are too overwhelming, shame prevents a person from seeing their actions as a problem. They are the problem. It’s easy for that person to slip into denial because they literally cannot see their actions as being wrong – they are blind in that way. All they can see is how bad they are. So they drink. Or use drugs. Or throw themselves unhealthily into some activity. Or make a comfy blanket of that denial and sink further and further into it unable to see the world around them.

For comic book fans: Bruce Wayne (Batman) feels shame, Barry Allen (The Flash) feels guilt.

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