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  • Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    by Leigh Newman

    Can't wait! 

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    Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit
    by Krista Tippett
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    The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves
    by Dan Ariely
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    by Harriet Lerner
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    Anti/Epitaph

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    Love this album! So happy when I saw BrainPicker post this on her site! 

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    starring Rufus Sewell

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  • Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    starring Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz, Lia Williams, Stephanie Cole, Ian McNeice
gifting
Monday
Jan142013

shame v. guilt 

 

 

Based on my research and the research of other shame researchers, I believe that there is a profound difference between shame and guilt. I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful - it's holding something we've done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging - something we've experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. 

I don't believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.

From Daring Greatly

I believe the differences between shame and guilt are critical in informing everything from the way we parent and engage in relationships, to the way we give feedback at work and school. 

From Daring Greatly

A couple of weeks ago Steve McCready (a friend on Twitter) sent me a link to a fascinating blog post from researcher Dan Ariely. I love Dan's work and highly recommend his book, The (Honest) Truth about Dishonestly. 

In a set of experiments, the researchers investigate a very subtle difference in language and labeling. They don't look at it through the shame/guilt lens so we may be evaluating different constructs, but I think it's very interesting (although counter to what I've found and believe).  

"In a series of three experiments, participants were given a chance to claim unearned money at the expense of the researchers.  There were two conditions in each experiment, and the only difference between them was in the wording of the instructions. In the first condition participants were told that researchers were interested in “how common cheating is on college campuses,” while in the second, they wondered “how common cheaters are on college campuses.

This is a subtle but, as it turned out, significant difference. Participants in the “cheating” condition claimed significantly more cash than those in the “cheater” condition, who, similar to when we tempted people who had sworn on the bible, did not cheat at all. This was true in both face-to-face and online interactions, indicating that relative anonymity cannot displace the implications of self-identifying as a cheater.  People may allow themselves to cheat sometimes, but not if it involves identifying themselves as Cheaters."

I believe that if we want meaningful, lasting change we need to get clear on the differences between shame and guilt and call for an end to shame as tool for change. That also means moving away from labeling. 

What do y'all think? What's been your experience? Could Dan's research tell us how to motivate better behavior while the findings about shame and guilt point to the danger of labeling in the process of changing behavior? Lots of good questions! I heart my job (and my grad students who push me).

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    I have lived much of my life either pretending to be bigger & better than I really am, or hiding in the corner being too scared to step forward and engage in conversation – thinking ‘who would want to listen to me?’ Of course this doesn’t apply to any of you, ...

Reader Comments (66)

Interesting post. I'm trying to work on a dissertation on the nature of guilt and shame, and reading things like this gets me motivated to keep working. It's a fascinating topic, and maybe even useful outside of mere academic interest.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCorey
I think the effect of the language we use to speak to ourselves is massive. It has deeper consequences than most of us are aware and surprisingly, the brain does not even process self sarcasm or joking well at all. It quite literally takes what we say to ourselves and responds as though the truth were spoken. I remember reading many years ago, how powerful a girl's words were when she looked in the mirror and spoke to herself. The 'you are so fat' or 'you are so ugly' words or something along those lines exhibited the exact same brain response whether they were said in jest or in truth. I wish I could remember the exact science behind it but it really impressed upon me and I have been playing with that response ever since. It's true. When you take the time to speak truths to yourself, 'yourself' responds in kind, like an authentic friend. When you beat on yourself you can cause emotional wounds. When you say, "I am bad", that is what is processed. The words "I Am" seem particularly powerful and how you identify yourself to yourself carries enormous weight. Thank-you for this post and that reminder.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarla Smith
True. A nice distinction.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMary Elizabeth
This is very intriguing. Don't the results prove that shame (being called a "cheater") or fear of being shamed actually prevents dishonest behavior? Perhaps it has to do with specific subject of cheating, because as we know, saying "Don't be a slut." or "Don't be the fat kid" or "Don't be the druggie" is ineffective in behavior deterrence and/or behavior change.

I know that this was meant to point out how subtle differences in language can make huge impacts. However, in a way, it goes against what I believe about shame and guilt.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAllison Marek
I've recently met your work, in the Sounds True audio 'The Power of Vulnerability', which led me to 'Daring Greatly', and this distinction which you so clearly describe seemed so important to me. I'm glad to see you've singled it out for a post!

Beginning to understand the subtleties, and the difference, has already helped me understand some more of my own becoming, and has helped me move on through. I suspect it will continue to support me moving on through, too.

Thank you so much for the work you are doing. xxxj
01.14.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjaihn
Allison - it does and it doesn't. I think what's interesting to me is the power of the label.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrene
So glad you posted this. I agree with the importance of the distinction and really like seeing a study that makes the case. A small, probably irrelevant side note, I felt uneasy reading the summary, immediately imagining parents who might distort this finding as justification for labeling their child a cheater, i.e., if I call my child a cheater they'll be less likely to cheat. Completely bass-ackward interpretation, yes. Can you tell I work with dysfunctional parents and spend too much time hearing faulty reasoning?
01.14.2013 | Unregistered Commentersandy
Sandy: Yeah, that's totally bass-ackwards! There's some good psychological studies showing that children whose mothers use guilt-induction end up much better off (morally speaking, anyway) than mothers who use shame-induction, or so-called love withdrawal.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCorey
Just received Brene Brown's new book for Christmas. It's fantastic!
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTed Davis
Wow, lots to think about here. Thanks, Brene.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCecily
I also find Dan Ariely's research fascinating. His research has found that people don’t cheat as much as they possibly could but cheat just enough that they can still feel good about themselves (staying out of the shame zone).

Ariely states, “We human beings are torn by a fundamental conflict – our deeply ingrained propensity to lie to ourselves and to others, and the desire to think of ourselves as good and honest people. So we justify our dishonesty by telling ourselves stories about why our actions are acceptable and sometimes even admirable. Indeed, we’re pretty skilled at pulling the wool over our own eyes.”
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Slattengren
Corey - glad you're studying it! As you can see, there's a lot more to learn. If you haven't read Shame & Guilt - it includes a powerful review of the literature. They definitely come down on the shame=destructive, guilt=constructive side of the debate.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrene
You have defined guilt here, how would you define shame?
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSrikanth
Srikanth - good question! I went back and added it to the post. Thanks for pointing that out.
01.14.2013 | Registered CommenterBrené Brown
Wait… we are forgetting. Shame DOES change behavior. That's why people use it! It's just that the change isn't lasting and the damage caused by shame outweighs any benefits. So yeah, shame got the students through a research study involving a staged moral dilemma. However, I wonder if we followed those students and tracked their cheating behaviors throughout their academic careers if there would be any difference in their cheating behaviors when compared to the other group of students. I would guess not.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAllison Marek
Labeling hurts and brands (like putting a branding iron to hide). "The fat kid, the wall-flower" - stuff that stays with you forever. And when a parent brands or accuses, it becomes an obstacle. "I didn't, but was accused, so why not?" Dad said, "can't never did anything." OK, that's not shame or guilt, but it built a determination. I can! My parents let me know when I could have tried harder (guilt).
Shame, shame, shame! I remember pushing my little brother's stroller at the mall when I was 16. The obvious looks of disapproval told a story (they thought he was my child). People can be harsh. I agree that shame is not positive. My husband was ashamed that they didn't have indoor plumbing - but that's not the same as shame. Shame is being told that you're not good enough -- and no one should have to hear that! Guilt is when we watched TV instead of study - then didn't do so well on a test.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPamNana
Realizing now that "guilt-trips" from parents and siblings are actually "shame-trips". Or at least "shame-triggers" for me. This has been eye-opening in my relationships with them. Good changes are taking place. :)

Thank you for your work and research! :)
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha
Hey there, love your stuff!
I think that there is much value in differentiating between shame and guilt.
But I think both serve an adaptive purpose and both can be extremely debilitating.
Plus, if enough guilt is employed we end up with shame anyway.
I certainly agree that empathy acts more efficiently than shame as a social regulator.
Maybe shame is required as part of the social fabric as the only way to really heal it is to empathize. I wonder if without it, would empathy for those less empathic provide less of an incentive? Just to be clear, I am not advocating shaming as a way of doing anything, I am just reflecting on if shame is in itself the problem or if it's the act of shaming - the habbitual manipulation of our intrinsic awareness of our place within a whole.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterZohar
This is, for me, the heart of all your work and writing. The writings in this post and your distiction between shame and guilt are the core of what I have learned from you." Thank you" doesn't really suffice.
01.14.2013 | Unregistered Commentermichelle harris
This is, for me, the heart of all your work and writing. The writings in this post and your distiction between shame and guilt are the core of what I have learned from you." Thank you" doesn't really suffice.
01.15.2013 | Unregistered Commentermichelle harris
I began thinking about it and so many times when I feel shame in my life it turns into guilt.

I was abused as a child and that made me feel shame. However, I felt guilt for not responding to it in a positive way. Guilt is what made me realize I needed to change something to also get rid of the shame.

I bought Daring Greatly recently and it is my next book to read- I am excited!
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAutumn
Brene, Thank you so much for your work! I live in Birmingham and was in your audience last Thursday. As a fan of your books, it was a thrill for me to hear you live. Your writing first fell into my hands last Fall. At the time, I was in the midst of trying to sort out (and recover from) a massive shame attack that happened to me at work. The attacker, as I will call him, is a business client and regularly uses shame as a tool. I have observed him using shame as a tool with others and have even comforted some in his wake. I suppose that I should not have been so surprised that now he had used it on me! In that moment, the sting of the shaming and labeling went so deep that I actually questioned my own worthiness. It seems silly in hindsight, but that shame is a powerful thing. Your words were a huge help in my "recovery." Thank you for this gift.

Since this shame episode, I find myself really wondering about the wholehearted. In your research, did your wholehearted interviewees talk about their spiritual Faith? Knowing we are flawed and yet still worthy of love...did God come up as the source of that worthiness? I understand that spirituality is not a typical conversation point in academic circles, but I would love to hear your thoughts and observations on this.

As a follow-up to your visit last week, we are having a panel discussion at St. Lukes this Wednesday night. I have been asked to speak and would greatly appreciate any insight you can share. Thank you!
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatie Morrow
I have also been struggling with shame and guilt and your books and talks have been and still are a great inspiration to me. Thank you so much. I just read Katie Morrow's question about wholeheartedness and spiritual faith. I read the book Coming home by Henri Nouwen (about Rembrandt's painting The Prodigal Son) and in this book he explains the importance of reconnecting with what he calls 'the first love' i.e. Knowing that you are a child of God, that you are worthy of love and belonging unconditionally, even before you were born. From that assumption it is easier to accept the love from human beings which is by definition limited or even absent. I hope it will inspire you
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllen
When I got 'Daring Greatly' (which, honest to pete, I always want to call 'Defying Gravity') for Christmas, I exclaimed loudly "I LOVE SHAME RESEARCH" and then proceeded to tell everyone in the room the difference between guilt and shame by using the "I did" and "I am" example. For years, at Christmas and every other holiday, I would wind up sobbing, hiding, or both, from the pressure and anxiety that shame caused me, feeling unworthy of the gifts and the celebrations. The day I understood shame was the day I got to start correcting it. Your work matters SO much :) If I didn't already love my profession so darn much (see the defying gravity note above for a hint on what that profession is) I would surely be studying to work somehow in this field.
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKerry
I found particularly interesting the piece of research about 'cheaters and cheating behaviour' and how people may occasionally cheat but wouldn't be comfortable with being labelled cheaters. I recently read an article about parenting and the dangers of labelling children. Labels are limiting in that they may set a child for failure or put a lot of pressure on her by having to satisfy great expectations of 'positive' labels. It's important, especially for kids that they can behave good at times and lazy at others and so on. We all may for instance cheat sometimes but that doesn't make us cheaters and we have the power to change our behaviour and to strive to be the best of ourselves.
On another line of thought, excuse me if I over elaborate a bit. If we start owning labels then we have to own them all ! We are complex human beings and I believe that the line between good and bad lies inside every human being not dividing us. We are less likely to start pointing the finger at others when we see the times that we have acted 'unkindly' too.
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRosa
Brene-I just found your work a few weeks ago and I totally love it. Yes-I think its really essential to differentiate between shame and guilt-for everyone's sake and wholeness. My grandmother has a saying has come off the shelf since I had a little boy in 2011-you cannot break his spirit just his will. We use this reminder whenever he is having a temper tantrum-there are things he wants to do that he just cannot do (will) but the fight and fire is something I cherish about him (spirit). I feel its a similar thing with guilt and shame-we are told not to feel guilty when in fact guilt can be really constructive-and we are shamed in a million insidious ways without having a name to put on the experience-or the scars it leaves behind.
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBri Saussy
I am new to the revelation that shame has been my main chauffeur throughout my life. My highly dysfunctioning upbringing wrecked havoc on a family of 8 kids and the minefield we had to tiptoe through is so evident in every single one of us as 50 and older adults: drugs, alcohol, anger, mistrust, broken relationships, anti social behavior......you name, we it got!

My goal for 2013 is to rid my self of this albatross and move into the life I was meant to have......

Thank you Brene!!!!
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMerry
To me that's not counter to what you write about shame and guilt.
The experiment seems to say to participants either "if you cheat today, you are a cheater", or "if you cheat today, you cheated this one time", which makes it conditional and gives people a choice *before* they act, and seems easy to see which is easier for people to accept about themselves.

That's different from saying to someone "you are a cheater" vs "you cheated", *after* the action. In the first case, you may as well cheat again, cos you're a "cheater" anyway and it doesn't change anything. In the second, you still have the choice if you want to cheat again or not.

Anyway, just my 2 cents worth, I'm definitely no expert.
Thank you for your work, am a huge fan, has had a big, positive impact on my life.
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterFaye
This is very interesting to me, but not at all surprising. I've been told many times that I "get too caught up in semantics!" I disagree. Like you, I believe words are extremely powerful and using the "right" ones is better. The very best example I can use to show how important this is to me is this- When I finally decided to quit drinking, I did not take myself to a meeting where I would forevermore have to label myself as an alcoholic, but rather to a meeting where I was given permission to label myself as a competent woman. I wasn't powerless. I am a women with a life-threatening problem that once had me. I did not need to be humbled. I needed to be empowered.

Yes. The words and labels we use can be life-changing. It's important to pay attention to them.
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAngela
Not long ago I realized I've been putting labels to myself! Now I pay more attention to that and I remind myself to stop. Brene, I love your blog and your work! Thanks for what you do!
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaria
I get it, raised Catholic, now at a Lutheran University though..I don't like the inability to feel responsibility for yourself. I get a lot of "In Christ" at the end of thier emails..yet they won't take out the garbage..show up for work..and they think Jesus takes care of them with their 2k$ laptops, cars, apt., etc...They see them selves as merciful for Mexican mission trips..poverty is in the inner city next to them...who are not Republican which is their religion also...I am being taught how to use Art education to further thier or this PHD's personal stance...each person thier own priest...compassionate conservative = I will withhold information to those I need to control, I am merciful.....sickness
01.15.2013 | Unregistered Commenter?
I think the difference comes from two distinctions.

To be labeled a "cheater" would imply that is the person's primary or quite-often status. (Much like the permanent pervasiveness of "I am bad" in your book excerpt). And cheating behavior is typically hidden from public view. So I think that one's impression of people who are always (or almost always) dishonest would be a small number indeed.

And, when I see the word "cheater", my first impression is of someone who is sexually unfaithful... not necessarily someone who steals money.
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLynn Selwa
I purchased the audiobook for Daring Greatly in early December, and have since purchased a copy of the book. I'm in my 30's never married, and was in a fairly new and promising relationship with great girl. She knew of the book and had started it a few times, and felt I should give it a read. She thought I was emotionally blocked. There isn't much content on men, but what you have exposed is absolutely spot on. I grew up being good at most things, academics, sports, music, I always excelled. I was quarterback in middle school and made mistake, after mistake in practice. Eventually I got so frustrated I started crying, of course my nickname became crybaby. It took a couple years and a solid growth spirt to get rid of that nickname, but it has taken the courage of someone asking me to dare greatly and almost twenty years to actually realize how closed off to the world I have been. I'm not sure if the current relationship will survive my journey of attempting to dare greatly, but it's been amazing for someone to challenge me to do so. The distinction between guilt and shame is a good one. I don't have children, and almost skipped that section of the book, but I think it provides amazing lessons for all. I particularly liked your son telling you that your dog was not a bad dog, he was a good dog that made a bad decision.
I'm slowly removing shields, and I have different shields in different situations, but just being aware of that has made a huge difference.
Thanks!
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGillis
Really great discussion going on here. I especially like what Rosa pointed out about the pitfalls of even positive labels. In my experience, labels, especially as applied to people, are rarely ever useful. They turn people into their actions instead of the living, breathing, dynamic human beings that they are. It's taken me years to begin to realize I have inherent value beyond what I do or do not do.

Also love what Bri pointed out about how we're so often told not to feel guilty, when it's actually the more helpful emotion, whereas shame spreads around like wildfire unnoticed.
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer H
Shaming can come in multiple packages. Language and labels sure, but also in more subtle and debilitating ways as well. Shaming happens when parents withhold praise and nurturing, or constantly correct instead of teach. It can happen as well when "good girl" behavior is equated with being polite and compliant, even in the face of compromising oneself. Another way to shame someone is to not allow them to experience their feelings - as in "You don't really feel that way." Which implies that you are a bad person for feeling anger, sadness, __________ fill in the blank with whatever unacceptable feeling your parents have labeled.
It may be obvious that I'm quite familiar with many of these. In the last three years I have been doing the hard work of shedding this way of thinking and the crippling feeling of being truly and fatally flawed.
When you think of yourself in those terms all hope of ever being enough dies, and you expend copious amounts of energy in the hustle for worthiness. The pleasing and performing nightmare carnival ride. It feels so liberating to get the hell off that ride!
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJackie
Words are really important. I had not associated guilt with a deed and shame with a person but I see what you mean. I have the same word problem with the idea of work/life balance. That is so touchy. One small thing and everything is unbalanced. I like to think of trying to achieve a life in harmony.
Thank you Brene'

More and more I'm understanding that, as a kid, much of my shame came from attempting to express myself in my own unique way and somehow getting slapped down or pushed to conform in the process.

It's a pretty common experience, yet as an adult I find it is still the #1 thing that hinders my self-expression. I sit with this part of myself every day and remind myself to dare greatly.

So appreciating all that you do. Your writings and videos have been the balm I've needed ( and LOVED your interview on the Good Life Project http://www.goodlifeproject.com/brene-brown-vulnerable/ ).

Hugs and LOVE,

Robin
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
Working with my children through a difficult transition to a new school has made me think about the way the word "bully" is bandied about. It attempts to define a person rather than a pattern of behaviours. I'm sure it's *meant* to be shaming in order thwart poor behavior - but that just seems wrong-headed, offering nothing constructive to address the misuse of power (however attained). How can we better teach and talk about this in our schools (workplaces, neighborhoods, etc.)
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterWRS
Brene,

Important distinctions:

'Guilt' is what I did. (Example: I ate the cookie);

'Shame' is who I am. (Example: I am a man who eats cookies even though I need to lose weight).

Shame can always be expressed in the format "I am a man who ... " (eats cookies).

Accessing all five (5) basic feelings (Glad, Mad, Sad, Scared & Ashamed - with Guilt being what I did, and Shame being who I am) is a necessary part of Emotional Literacy. I define being Emotionally Literate as meaning that at any given moment I can look inward and know I am feeling all five, regardless of which one is on top.

Further, Jung postulated that in response to - and to make sense of - events in our childhood (Wounds, such as having an 'Abandoning Mother'), we each came up with beliefs about ourselves (Shadow Stories, such as 'I am unlovable'). These beliefs helped us survive our childhoods, but unfortunately we tend to carry them into our adult lives and they sabotage us now. Unless I am willing to examine where my Shaming Beliefs originated (example: I am a man who is unlovable), I am doomed to endlessly sabotage myself and my relationships.

Removing the concept of 'shame' from our inner vocabulary can only stifle introspection and prevent an individual's progress.

Note that 'Why' and 'Should' are always 'Shaming Words': "WHY did you do that? What you SHOULD do is ... ". Cleanly owning that I am feeling shame is one thing; shaming myself or others is another matter entirely.

It is said "No one can shame me; I can only shame myself."
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMurray A.
I think this distinction is so important because I think you can become caught up in one of the two feelings and turn it into a vicious cycle between the two. This is a concept I have been learning about myself as I go through my own spiritual awakening. I know that for me, I have the need to please immensely; this forces me to end up in several situations where I feel guilty for not doing something that I think I should. So, I say to myself, "I did something bad by not doing X", but through self talk and magnifying my guilt, I change that language to "I am bad for not doing X". So not only do I label myself as a bad person but I now have taken feelings of guilt and turned them into feelings of shame which further transform into anger and resentment. It's a dangerous cycle that anyone who feels shame can get themselves into by not clearly being able to distinguish between the two.

I am learning to know the difference by not only reminding myself of the definitions but also by practicing self compassion and changing the language I use to reconcile my feelings of guilt so that I don't inadvertently label myself into something I'm not. And I can honestly say, that as I learn how to separate the two, I feel more free to make mistakes, embrace my imperfections, and live authentically.
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPriya
Hello Dr. Brown,

I'm wondering whether you have read Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw? In the book he makes a distinction between Healthy Shame-I've made a mistake and Toxic Shame-I'm flawed as a person. Might be interesting to combine with your insights?

Just being vulnerable and adding my 2 cents : )
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Great post. As I discussed this with my husband, he commented that we actually tend to feel these two feelings - shame and guilt - in separate places physically. Guilt seems to be felt more in our guts and shame in our hearts. (embarrassment in our faces!)

I am a parent of 4 boys and I am very careful to use phrases like, " that was not the best choice you made there" or "you're behaving in a lazy way" so as to separate from saying " you are bad" Or "you are lazy". But how do you help a child who seems to take whatever the guilt is about and turns it into the self-talk of " I am bad because...." I am not worthy because...." ? How do you stop that tape?
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMadeleine
I guess I feel that this discussion references the core of all the maladies in the world. This may sound exaggerated but it speaks of the subtle language that creates the cascading emotional/belief motion of unworthiness that on it's own has nothing to stop it vs the pause that allows remorse to intervene on behalf of the whole. It is a feeling really, a core feeling-belief, and the label of the feeling-belief, and the opportunity to use language as it is meant to be used: consciously discerning. It is the core function of the words that is the difference.

Shame leaves no room for love. Guilt is allowed or fostered by love.

There is so much I would like to explore about this. I grew up feeling a lot of shame, I guess I could say I lived my life through shame, and I feel as if I've been 'opaque' most of my life. And interestingly enough what I have most wanted through intentional work and circles I've engaged in is authenticity of self and clarity in understanding what is really happening around me.
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLili
I guess I feel that this discussion references the core of all the maladies in the world. This may sound exaggerated but it speaks of the subtle language that creates the cascading emotional/belief motion of unworthiness that on it's own has nothing to stop it vs the pause that allows remorse to intervene on behalf of the whole. It is a feeling really, a core feeling-belief, and the label of the feeling-belief, and the opportunity to use language as it is meant to be used: consciously discerning. It is the core function of the words that is the difference.

Shame leaves no room for love. Guilt is allowed or fostered by love.

There is so much I would like to explore about this. I grew up feeling a lot of shame, I guess I could say I lived my life through the lens of shame, and I feel as if I've been 'opaque' most of my life. And interestingly enough what I have most wanted through intentional work and circles I've engaged in is authenticity of self and clarity in understanding what is really happening around me.
01.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLili
thank you, thank you...for reminding us of who we are - good, worthy, truthful, loveable, capable, valuable.
01.16.2013 | Unregistered Commentercarissa
I agree that shame and guilt are very different and should be separated. We are dealing with some unexpected challenges with our teenage son right now. He became an entirely different person, almost overnight, throwing out all his previous values and goals. It is heart-breaking and I find myself feeling shame often, wondering where I could have done better as a mom. After many great books and podcasts, I'm on a more positive road to letting his choices be his responsibility and knowing that I don't need to feel shame (at least not as much), but it's a hard one. The times I feel guilt are when I lose my temper and say something stupid that I shouldn't have. That's when I go in later and apologize to him.

Shame is much deeper and is very hard to make go away, especially if we've been saying those messages in our heads for years. I experience shame much more than guilt. Guilt seems like a temporary issue that can be dealt with. Making a sincere apology can dramatically reduce or eliminate guilt in some cases. Shame is in the heart and head and really feels heavy when we're struggling with something. I think shame contributes to depression.

Great post, thanks for getting me thinking about these.
01.16.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiana
I love how your work makes me think!
Keep "hearting" what you do. It helps us all.
01.16.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSandra Perkins
Others may have said this already, but one thing I wonder about is the truth that lying, for instance, does not make a person a liar. But, we may be less inclined to lie if we believe we will be perceived as a liar if we do lie. So, it makes some sense that the risk of being perceived as a liar may prevent someone from lying. This actually helped my 9 year old son curb his habit of expanding the truth -- I could tell him that he is not a liar because he tells a lie, but I helped him understand that if he chooses to lie he may be seen as a liar and he will lose trust.
01.16.2013 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
Last Sunday I used one of the letter comments from "I Thought It was Just Me" in a sermon I preached. I am listening to it on audio for the second time. I am amazed at how much shame is thrown about in the comments we make. While often it may not be intended to shame someone, but it can. Words are powerful and the images they paint does touch hearts and minds. It is good to define these words because the distinctions do matter. While I may act hypocritically because I don't do everything exactly as I say (the whole aspirational values verses the practiced values discussion) but the true hypocrit is the one who really hides well behind the mask and mistakes never seep out. But this is not the definition understood by some. And the common use of the words may blur the true definition, especially with words that have a connection like shame and guilt. They are not the same. They are distinct words but because they are related some can't see what distinguishes them. You work and insight has helped me understand and clarify one from the other. Now I can see where the anxiety comes from when certain things are said to me or about me. For that I am truly grateful. Blessings & Peace, John
01.16.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
About an hour after reading this article, this thought came to me: being ashamed is a matter of the ego en guilt comes out of your heart. I mean guilt in the sense of 'I should show respect for others' and 'I don't feel good for not calling my friend while she needed my help'. Things like respect, empathy are in the human kind, you're born with them. When you have an open heart, those things will come up naturally. That's what I believe.

Shame is learned and is a part of your ego. The ego wants to control things, have power. It isn't wat comes out of our hearts. The ego is very practical, it helps you making intellectual and practical decisions. But I believe that in our society and time, the ego is way to big in our lives, minds. The ego shouts, while your heart is whispering.
01.16.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

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