Shame and guilt are common blocks to successful recovery.
We pick these up very young and carry them around with us for our entire lives without realising this was completely unnecessary, and that the shame and guilt didn’t belong to us in the first place.
They weigh us down.
We feel guilty when we have done something to make us feel ashamed; it’s usually when we do something that is against our own morals or values, or something that makes another person feel bad.
Shame is the feeling we get when we do something that disappoints someone else. We have a strong feeling of shame when we believe we aren’t good enough; we become ashamed of who we are.
The difference between guilt and shame is this, we feel guilt when we behave badly; we feel shame because we believe we are bad.
Most of us carry shame and guilt without even knowing it. We can also pick up a lot of shame and guilt that doesn’t even belong to us, particularly from family members.
In order to be free from shame we need to deal with its root causes.
We can pick up a feeling of shame in childhood that stems from unhealthy limiting beliefs that we are not good enough. We will also feel ashamed if we have been abused in some way. Abused people pick up the shame that actually belongs to the abuser and they carry it around, sometimes for a lifetime.
Recognise this. Recognise that any shame you feel because of what was done to you is not yours.
You can put it down.
We also feel ashamed when we are doing something that doesn’t fit with our image of ourselves. Perhaps we were promiscuous, or lied about money, or stole. In order not to feel ashamed any more, we have to address the behaviour and change that.
This is not about being perfect but trying to be the best version of ourselves we can be.
I often find that when clients feel guilty, this feeling is often ‘given’ to them by a parent or older sibling. Parents have an amazing ability to make us feel guilty about what we’re doing. This isn’t usually intentional, but it is often used as a form of manipulation.
In turn, we also make other people feel guilty in order to get what we want. How many times have you known you were making your friend or partner feel guilty in order to get your own way?
Guilt is a form of control. We use it to get what we want. If you are a chronic people pleaser then you are going to be very susceptible to manipulation by others because you will feel guilty if you don’t please them.
Here’s the news. You are responsible for how you feel.
So recognise the transaction of guilt between people. Recognise when you use it and when others use it on you.
Stop using it on others. It is not an honest way of communicating.
It may bring you short-term results, but at the cost of your integrity.
Recognise when others use it on you and refuse to buy into it.
Don’t pick up what is not yours. If you suspect someone will feel bad because of what they have done, don’t try to rescue them; if you do you will you rob them of a learning experience from which they may grow.
Imagine guilt as a heavy box on the floor that someone implicitly asks you to carry. How will you feel if you pick it up? Will you be able to manoeuver through the rest of your day carrying the box, or will it make life difficult and awkward? Would you be able to do all of things you would like to do? Of course not!
Leave the box where it is. It isn’t yours. Imagine how free you would be if you no longer had to carry it. Excuse yourself from the grown up game of pass the parcel.
Life will be a lot lighter if you do.