How guilt differs from shame and how to prevent it from engulfing you

We understand where shame and guilt come from and how they can be useful. How not to let emotions fill you up, how to draw rational conclusions and continue to act.

What is shame

Psychologist Lyudmila Petranovskaya said that a person has basic feelings: joy, anger, fear, disgust and sadness – remember the characters of the famous cartoon “Puzzle” . These emotions are common to all limbic animals. Their job is to take care of us. Fear helps to avoid dangerous situations. Aggression is to guard one’s resources, disgust is not corrupt and stay away from potentially contagious.

Over time, social superstructures appeared on top of the basic feelings. Shame grew out of disgust. According to Petranovskaya, parents start using this mechanism when the child is about two years old. He is taught to use the potty, not to walk naked in front of strangers, to wash himself. When a kid does something wrong, they say to him: “Ugh, how embarrassing!” The emotion of shame appears in a person in response to the disgust of significant adults. She makes them behave in the way that is accepted in society.

Shaming a child is an effective and quick tool. And parents are tempted to use it to control their children’s behavior in more than just hygiene. It is a shame not to know something, to get bad grades, not to enter a university. So the person becomes sensitive to shame.

How is guilt different from shame?

Shame is a public feeling, while guilt is private. Roughly speaking, a person is not ashamed of picking his nose, but of the fact that his friends noticed how he does it. Guilt does not depend on the reaction of others. This is the inner feeling after making a mistake.

Lyudmila Petranovskaya explains that the feeling of guilt first appears after four to six years. At this age, the child begins to build cause-and-effect relationships. Since children are self-centered, they consider themselves the cause of everything that happens. And therefore they can feel guilty because of any unpleasant events in the family: divorce of parents, illnesses. With age, a person understands that not everything in the world is in his power.

A healthy sense of guilt is even helpful . It becomes a kind of compass that helps to correct their actions. But excessive or unjustified guilt gets in the way. A person plunges into this toxic emotion, loses the ability to draw conclusions and influence the situation.

How to Ecologically Live Guilt

Make sure that the feeling of guilt is proportional to the deed.

Try to be clear about what exactly you are guilty of. Whether what happened depended on your actions. Under what conditions did you make your decisions? Did you have a choice. These questions will help you understand the extent of the error and draw conclusions.

Resist your inner critic

It happens that the feeling of guilt turns into mental chewing gum. A person constantly replays his offense in his head. He sinks deeper and deeper into self-flagellation. Psychotherapist Victoria Dubinskaya says that it looks like poisoning. A person merges with guilt, ceases to feel other feelings.

The exercise “Two chairs” can help to get out of self-flagellation. You need to put two chairs and imagine that you are sitting on one, and your inner critic is on the other. Sit in one chair and let the critic make all the claims and accusations. When they run out, move to another chair and argue with the critic. This will help separate the critical voice from your personality and look at the situation from different angles.

Clearly define your area of responsibility

According to political scientist Ekaterina Shulman, responsibility is the awareness of one’s capabilities. Those obligations that an adult voluntarily assumes. It makes no sense to feel guilty about events that did not depend on you. This can drive into a stupor. “Clearly delineating your circle of responsibility is a cure for inaction and paralysis of the will,” Shulman says .

Try to figure out what is up to you and what is not. What can you change now. And act within the circle of your responsibility.

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