Guilt and Shame: The Affects that Resist the Talking Cure.

What is guilt and shame? Do you suffer from excessive guilt or shame? Do they interfere with your daily functioning or self-image? Are they interfering with your therapy in the form of resistance to a cure?

This article may be worth looking at if you are unsure of the answers to these questions. Whether conscious or unconscious, these emotions may cause problems in your day-to-day functioning. Guilt and shame can also play out in therapy as a major motivator of resistance and are active in the form of defending against feelings. Blocked feelings lead to various problems such as depression, addictions, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, destructive behaviors, headaches, digestive problems, back pain, fatigue and obsessional thinking, to name a few. Anxiety can also enter into a client’s defendedness against the therapeutic process because of a fear of what the analysis may uncover.

Very often people defend against authentic content in therapy because it makes them feel anxious, guilt or shame. These feelings are known as the affects that motivate defenses which can create resistance in the therapeutic process. Part of the goal of treatment is to analyze the guilt and shame as they can be among the feelings to mitigate. One goal is to analyze and understand how they are playing out and got to be there in the first place.

What is Guilt?

Simply put, guilt is often experienced as “I am a bad person.” Some guilt can be positive in that it keeps one on the straight and narrow. Others have guilt that eats away at them and they rarely have a moment of peace. It is unhealthy when one establishes unreasonably high standards for themselves which can result in feeling guilty with the failure to maintain these standards. Why do some people let guilt tear them apart inside? Personality is partly to blame. Timid, insecure people may be victims of excessive guilt with constant second guessing of themselves and their actions. This type of guilt is based in low self-esteem and can also involve a form of distorted self-importance where one assumes that anything that happens is their responsibility.

What is Shame?

Shame can be experienced as “I do not measure up to the norm.” Having some shame is basic to the human condition. Shame can be seen as either the discomfort felt when one does not live up to the expectations of others, the remorse and embarrassment experienced when one perceives that they let others down. A second definition of shame has to do with self-disapproval which can be very powerful and destructive.  Shameful experiences tend to make one feel alone and outside society. One needs to raise their consciousness and deal with their shame. For those interested in the lingo, guilt resides in the superego and shame in the ego.

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