Shame can be defined as a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. A painful emotion caused by the belief that one is, or is perceived by others to be, inferior or unworthy of affection or respect because of one’s actions, thoughts, circumstances, or experiences.
Guilt is an emotional experience that occurs when a person believes or realizes—accurately or not—that they have compromised their own standards of conduct or have violated universal moral standards and bear significant responsibility for that violation. Guilt is closely related to the concept of remorse as well as shame.
Shame says, “I am bad,” and Guilt say, “I did a bad thing.” We have a way of screwing those two up a lot. Especially when we have done something/anything wrong. I broke my mom’s favorite vase. She gets mad at me. She says that was a bad thing to do, but in our mind it is: ” I am bad.” On top of that, there will be consequences for the behavior, but because our brain is not seeing a difference, the punishment is because I am bad.
Growing up one of the things my mother always said to me was that she loved me but there were times when she did not “LIKE” my behavior. She would explain that there was a difference between what I was doing and who I was. She wanted to make sure I understood that me, Felicia, was good, but sometimes I did bad things. It was a message that has stayed with me all my life. The problem is my brain did not get the memo.
Shame can be completely debilitating, especially when you feel that you are the problem. It takes away our judgement. OK, not all people experience shame the same way so I am only speaking from my perspective. I lose my judgement when I feel shame. Perfect example, I was told I was a bully and that I treated my husband like shit. That I always wanted everything my way and no one could cross me. Let me tell you that I felt as though someone reached into my soul and yanked it out of my body. That is not me, I am not a bully. And then it was, “Am I a bully?” “I am a bully.” Not that my behavior was like a bully, I am a bully.
Being confronted with the possibility of being a bully made me snap. The anger that accompanies the shame came out. I was trying to defend myself, but it just got worse because I was mad. I was mad that someone thought I was anything but kind to my husband. That there is no way in the world I was a bully to anyone. But ultimately, the voice in the back of my head was saying, “I am a bully.” Nooooooooooooo! It is not true.
For me the shame provokes me to head for the cliff. Some people lash out and yes I have been known to be so angry that I throw things. This is not an excuse, I am my mother’s child and when I get angry there is a energy build up in my body that feels as though it will explode so when I throw something, breakable, it is a release of the energy. And it feels good to hear something break. Back to the cliff, I am not a violent person as far as hurting other people physically. I hurt myself. So as the anger gets worse so does my mind heading for the cliff.
Let me explain the cliff. That is the point in which I have hit when there is no return. “The point of no return!” I am going to do something truly stupid to myself because now I believe that I am the problem. SHAME!
Guilt comes after the stupid because sometimes I can’t be forgiven for the stupid. Long story, but hopefully you understand the cycle of Shame and Guilt. And the difference between them. Each of these experiences, shame or guilt can push the “crazy” to the breaking point. As I stated above. The goal is to figure out where that point is and stop, breathe, and focus. Be mindful of what is truly happening and why.
Each person has their own shame or guilt experience, it is a reminder of the degree in which we are human and/or crazy. This is a subject that sneaks into all aspects of our lives and I could go on and on. However, I won’t do that. I will give you the list of aspects for you to ponder and I will most likely use this topic again.
Life categories in which Shame can be triggered: (1) Body & Appearance (2) Money & Work (3) Motherhood & Fatherhood (4) Family (5) Parenting (6) Mental & Physical Health (7) Addiction (8) Sex (9) Aging (10) Religion (11) Trauma and (12) Stereotyping & Labeling.
I am going to guess that anyone can look at those categories and see how shame and guilt can be an experience. I challenge you to look and see where you may feel shameful or guilty. To recognize where these fit into your own life. Become aware that shame or guilt could be an issue for your growth, success or happiness. I am just asking you to be aware that shame and guilt could or may be a problem.
To be continued………….
Lunatic Fringe Forever………….!!!