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Dealing with Shame and Guilt

Dealing with Shame and Guilt


Feelings of guilt and shame are common among
persons who grew up in dysfunction and must be dealt with in recovery in order to heal
and grow. Guilt, which can be healthy or toxic, is feeling bad about your behaviors. Shame,
which is always toxic, is feeling bad about your worth as a person. Healthy guilt is when you feel bad because
you behaved in a way that you knew was wrong. For example, if you cheated on your wife,
who you promised to love and cherish, and then felt guilty, that would be healthy guilt
because you broke a promise you made to her. Similarly, if you left your 8-year-old son
home alone because you decided to meet someone at a bar and then felt guilty, that too would
be healthy guilt because you endangered your son who you are responsible for keeping safe.
In recovery, you would resolve such healthy guilt by making amends or apologizes to your
wife and son for betraying her and endangering him and then committing yourself to never
behaving that way again. Toxic guilt, on the other hand, is when you
blame yourself for things you were not responsible for, did not understand, or could not control.
For example, if you felt guilty for your husband’s infidelity, asking yourself repeatedly, “What
did I do wrong to make him cheat?” that would be toxic guilt because you are not the person
who cheated. So, the hurt over his infidelity would be yours, but the guilt would solely
belong to him. Shame is when you feel bad about your worth
as a person, believing that you are defective, unlovable, inadequate, or even bad. Shame
is extremely painful because it’s always with you and, thus, becomes a constant feeling
of unworthiness that can impact your moods, relationships, and career. Shame and toxic guilt usually go hand and
hand and are often the result of growing up in abuse, neglect, bullying, or dysfunction.
Abused and neglected children do not have the maturity to see things as they are – that
they are Ok but their troubled parents are not. Instead, they blame themselves for their
parents defects: “I must be doing something wrong that dad is always hitting me,” which
is pure magical thinking because children do not have the power to make an adult abusive,
and yet they feel responsible for the abuse. In addition, when children are treated like
garbage, they often come to believe they are garbage, which then becomes a pervasive sense
of shame. Thus, they are filled with toxic guilt and shame, which can remain with them
into adulthood affecting every aspect of their life. If you are susceptible to shame and toxic
guilt, you need to learn to be more nurturing toward yourself and more realistic about what
you can and can’t control, and what is and isn’t your responsibility in order to heal
your childhood wounds and become whole. If you found this video helpful, please click
the Thumbs Up button. And if you want to hear more from me, then subscribe to my channel,
Counselor Carl. I will be publishing a new video every other weekend. And if you would
like to know more about me and the online therapy services I provide, then visit my
website, Serenity Online Therapy. And finally, keep paying attention to your
life! Until next time!

Comments (6)

  1. I love all your videos, thank you.

  2. What if you're stabbing yourself or cursing at yourself when you remember all those bad things in life or things you blame yourself for? Would that count as a sort of mental illness or extreme insecurity?

  3. these ARE VERY clear knowledgeable…WELL thoughtfully DONE… thx DO you DO therapy with ins… and children/young adults

  4. Carl has given me much to learn from. I've needed this all along. thank you for sharing such wonderful sessions of amazing counseling for just about everyone!!!

  5. Your videos have helped me get through the past couple of weeks. You have a very calming presence and it really helps. Thank you.

  6. Nice video dr really helpful in distinguishing the two.

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