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Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Difference Between Guilt and Shame

The Difference Between Guilt and Shame



The Difference Between Guilt and Shame


In reference to the disease of addiction, guilt and shame are used interchangeably, yet, they are actually completely different concepts.  The emotional experience we have about certain behaviors can spark feelings of both.  The main difference between guilt and shame is who the emotion is directed at.  For example, shame refers to feeling badly about yourself because you behaved foolishly, while guilt may be caused by remorse of an action taken against another person.  

Both guilt and shame can be complicated, and aren’t necessarily mutually inclusive.  Often times, certain people with personality disorders may have deep shame about themselves, but are incapable of developing feelings of guilt regarding others.  Contrastly, guilt and shame sometimes appear together, and may actually play off each other.  An addict may need to buy more drugs to avoid painful withdrawals so he steals money from a family member, resulting in guilt.  When he feels guilty about using the hard earned money to buy drugs, he may feel monumentally shameful about who he has become.

To better distinguish between the two, it may help to look at guilt as a short-term emotion.  Although many might think so, guilt actually isn’t a bad thing.  It helps us learn to avoid specific actions or situations in the future.  You might act a certain way toward another person, which makes you later feel guilty about it, so you make a mental note not to do it again.  Feelings of guilt aren’t meant to last and usually making amends for your behavior can help release them.

Shame always tries to piggyback on guilt and tell you you’re not worthy of forgiveness.  Self-mutilating feelings of shame is the bowl in which your disease of addiction feeds from.  If you did wrong to another, your guilt would make you remorseful for the mistake you made, but shame makes you believe you are the mistake.  It can be extremely degrading once you have slipped into shame.  Feeling shameful about yourself perpetuates your addiction, which increases the shame.  It is a never ending cycle, which can be quite dangerous and hard to escape.  The only way to release shame is to be honest with yourself and those around you.  


The answer to recovery is Simple. Our multi-tiered program is designed to help your loved one find success on a new path in life through school, work, and meaningful volunteering. Structured for progress, clients at Simple Recovery transition seamlessly through each phase of their recovery.

Call us today for information: 877-426-9117

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