What Is The Difference Between Guilt And Shame?

You’ve done something terrible to someone you care deeply about. At first, you feel guilt. You know you have done something wrong which has hurt someone you would never want to hurt. You are mostly, if not entirely, responsible for what has happened. The responsibility of causing pain toward others causes you guilt. You feel a pang in your gut, a stress on your sense of self, and unrelenting feelings of remorse. Some people will experience what comes next and some will not.

A few hours or a few days after this terrible event has taken place, you feel a new kind of pang in your stomach, only this one is much deeper. The emotional stress feels like it is eating you alive. You can’t stop thinking about what you did. Now, the focus is no longer on the other person and the pain you have caused someone outside of you. Instead, the focus is entirely on yourself in a self-deprecating way. What kind of a person are you? How could you do that to someone? What will others think if they find out? How could you be that way? Why didn’t you do something different? What if they never forgive you? Why would you ever forgive yourself?

As days go by, these voices get louder and louder, causing us to doubt ourselves, punish ourselves, hurt ourselves, and at the most extreme, hate ourselves. The self-hatred can become too much to bear. We can’t stand to live with ourselves as the kind of people we must be to have not just done something so terrible, but to be such terrible people. This is no longer guilt- this is shame. We feel shameful about our actions, shameful about our decisions, and shameful for who we are as a person. The shame burns in us more deeply than the guilt did because we feel like we can’t apologize for who we are; because, our shame makes us feel like we are the utmost deplorable person to possibly exist.

Guilt and shame often go hand in hand, but are in fact two distinct experiences. Survivors of trauma commonly feel guilt and experience deep shame for events which have happened to them, coping behaviors they have developed, and how those coping behaviors affect others. Problematically, guilt and shame perpetuate cycles of addiction, abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, and more. Treating and resolving trauma oftentimes means treating and resolving guilt as well as shame.

Stop the cycle of merry-go-round treatment and find the solution you’re looking for in trauma treatment. Through effective residential treatment, Khiron House helps you find the path you need toward health and wellness in recovery. For information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).