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Blog: Blog2
  • Writer's pictureLisa L. Frady, LCSW

Guilt (real vs false), Shame

Guilt and shame are two words that we throw around in this society without truly understanding what they mean. We distort the meaning so we don't have to see where we fit in it. Shame is typically viewed as being the same as guilt. It is not. Our mental health relies on our understanding of these!

Guilt is an emotion that we experience internally when we do something hurtful toward another person. Guilt is our moral barometer.

*Guilt serves two different purposes. Guilt acts to indicate to us that our behavior is harmful and motivate us to change our harmful behavior.

*Guilt is behaviorally based; our use of harmful behavior is the problem.

*Guilt is a natural consequence; it occurs internally when we do something hurtful toward another person. No one has to do anything to MAKE us feel guilty. It happens automatically.

*Guilt is healthy; it motivates change in the way of helping us increase our levels of self-control as we choose to change our harmful behaviors.

This is what I call REAL guilt. I differential between real and FALSE guilt.

False Guilt is where we did not do anything harmful. There are 2 sources of false guilt.

1) Someone else does something harmful. We take on their responsibility for their behavior and suffer their consequences (e.g. their guilt). This comes through Minimization, Denial and Blame.

2) Guilt Trips- We throw guilt at another in order to get them to give in and do what we want them to do despite them not wanting to. Guilt trips are a form of Emotional Abuse.

Both of these sources of False Guilt are Power and Control Tactics. They both are on the Power and Control Wheel.

Shame is where we define ourselves based on what we do (our behavior). In other words, there is no separation between our behavior and our identity.

*This is where we say things like "I am bad", "I am ugly", "I am fat", "I am ____", "I am _____". This means..... I am the problem, not my behavior!!!!!!!!!!!!.

*Shame is unhealthy. It keeps us stuck in what we do. It demotivates us from changing. We can not change what we believe is our personality.

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