Shame vs. Guilt

shame vs guilt

While you may use shame and guilt to describe your feelings interchangeably, there’s a big difference between the two. Guilt can help you understand how your actions impact others, but shame is an inward-facing emotion that reflects how you feel about yourself. During Recovery, guilt can help you move forward while shame keeps you stuck in the past.

7 Summit Pathways can help you recognize the difference between shame and guilt in Recovery and help you move forward to live a life you love.

What Is Shame?

The dictionary definition of shame is a painful feeling that comes from knowing you or someone else did something wrong. Although it sounds a lot like guilt, it’s more about a feeling of how we appear to others and ourselves. It doesn’t always depend on doing something improper, though.

Think about meeting up with a friend who wants to apologize for something hurtful they said to you. However, you say something mean back intending it to be hurtful to get back at that person. You may feel guilty for what you said, but you could also feel ashamed that you’re the type of person who would do that. The guilt you feel stems from hurting your friend, but your shame is rooted in your actions.

What Is Guilt?

Guilt stems from our actions, even actions you may only think about. The dictionary defines it as a feeling of responsibility or remorse for something you did, such as a crime or other wrongdoing. You have to recognize the person you’ve wronged as someone important or someone you care about to feel guilt. Therefore, sometimes feeling guilty shows emotional progress, but focusing on your guilt too long can eventually lead to shame.

The Difference Between Shame and Guilt in Recovery

Discussing shame vs. guilt in Recovery is an important aspect of success. Dwelling on feelings of shame can lead to self-punishment and destructive behaviors. Shame is correlated with addiction, depression, suicide, violence and more, while guilt is inversely correlated with all those things. While you may want to punish yourself and everyone else as you deal with your shame, it’s not productive to Recovery.

On the other hand, guilt can help heal during Recovery. Feelings of guilt are a sign that you’re going through a healthy Recovery process and allows you to take ownership of your behaviors and reverse them. You need to dwell on feelings of guilt in Recovery, listen to them, then reverse them. Once you take responsibility for the mistakes you’ve made, apologizing and correcting those mistakes, you’re well on your way to repairing a life once dominated by addiction.

7 Summit Pathways Can Help

At 7 Summit Pathways, we help patients work through feelings of guilt so that they can also release feelings of shame. By focusing on the seven dimensions of wellness during Recovery, we take an individualized approach that helps you figure out what is guilt and what is shame on your own life. Contact us today to learn more or schedule an appointment.

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