Understanding Guilt and Shame
Feelings of guilt and shame sometimes paralyze people. If this is something you’re struggling with you might believe that you’re bad or unloveable. You might isolate yourself because you don’t want to bother others. Or, you might being using alcohol or drugs or other self-destructive actions to punish yourself. Overwhelming shame can be one of the darkest feelings people experience.
Shame often accompanies sadness and anger. It can be a component of mental health diagnoses including Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder [OCD], and Dissociative Disorders, including Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID]. Shame can participate in relationship problems, difficulty setting and achieving goals, and general dissatisfaction with one’s life.
Treating Guilt and Shame
Because shame involves a need to keep something about yourself a secret it can be hard to bring these issues to therapy, but talking about what you’re ashamed of is a powerful way to defuse it. Putting what you’re ashamed of in front of your therapist and experiencing that your therapist still likes you is wonderfully healing. This is the first step in the process when I help people with guilt and shame.
The second step is to sort out what pieces of the shame reflect things that are really true about yourself and need to be cleaned up and which pieces belong to other people and are worth discarding. This is hard work to do, but it is absolutely transformative.