Guilt, Shame And All That Jazz

It would take volumes of books to address where guilt and shame comes from, how it is triggered and what to do about it. In a nutshell, both of these emotions do not make you feel good about self or foster a happy disposition.

Succinctly put;

“Guilt says I’ve done something wrong; shame says there is something wrong with me.

Guilt says I’ve made a mistake; shame says I am a mistake.

Guilt says what I did was not good; shame says I am no good.”

Bradshaw, John (1988).

Then there is remorse – which is the feeling attached to having hurt someone or done something which hurts us, therefore we don’t feel good. We were not born with shame or guilt, it is something that is instilled into us or onto us through life’s journey. During our childhood, it is probable when we did something ‘wrong’ we were smacked or punished and made to feel bad about who we are. That’s the start of a cycle where we start to feel shame about our needs, desires and wants.

Shame is feeling wrong for having desire that is not in alignment with someone else’s viewpoint usually our parents. We may all remember instances when as children we had desires that did not make our parents happy, and to control those desires they shamed us in order to suppress the desire.

For example, a child has a desire that would cost the parents a lot of money. The parent’s frustration of not having enough money to honor that desire results in them shaming the child for having the desire in the first place.

Guilt is anger. Anger that we don’t think we have a right to have. Guilt is an emotion associated with being remorseful. Guilt can be an incredibly powerful emotion with very little tangible reason as to why it should be. Because we believe we are not allowed to have anger we turn it into the emotion of guilt. In order to understand anger you need to learn to understand your guilt otherwise you don’t deal with issues that cause it to rise in the first place. Guilt is also one of the prime sources of manipulation, so in the context of having sex with someone isn’t that an interesting thing to do to yourself. Why feel guilty afterward?

Throughout our lifetime we are instilled with a code of conduct from our parents, school teachers and society and mostly we as people adhere to that code. It would seem that where there is a conflict between our needs, our wants and our desires in relation to that code of conduct, this is where the foundation for guilt begins, by being made to feel bad about having those wants or desires in the first place.

Gossip magazines try to shame everyone – especially those in the public arena, by bringing about shame, even for loving someone! And the politicians get a real good serve of shame dumped on them even for being the ordinary humans they are.

Both guilt & shame are linked to the way society, family or school teachers try to control us. At the end of the day no matter whether we have been made to feel shame and guilt growing up or not, it is probable we will have experienced those feelings through some incident we have experienced. We can even have those feelings because we survived an accident and some else did not.

Guilt and shame often stems from these old unresolved memories. We can choose better feeling thoughts, we can think of people or experiences or places that bring a smile to our hearts and faces and lifts our spirits.

Life is not necessarily about right and wrong. Life is experienced and our thoughts play an enormous part of feeling ‘right or wrong’ and in the judging of others. Our thoughts can change our lives for the better – we have the choice in any given moment to change our way of thinking of any situation, to reach for a better thought, rather than remain in negativity, blame, judgment and condemnation.

Guilt and Shame are complex subjects. However pause for a moment, take a breath and realize,

It is OK to give yourself permission to feel good.

It is OK to give yourself permission to have sex without the guilt or shame setting in afterward.

It is OK to have sex with someone and simply feel good. Feel good that you had the interaction, feel good about the connection, feel good about the heightened emotions experienced at the time.

Who that ‘other’ is, whether they fit into your life permanently (or not) is not what is important. What is important, is that you respect and honor yourself, the decisions you make, and do not detract from what feels good for you and makes you happy.

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