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Overcoming Shame: Are We Guilty of a Guilty Conscience?

written by Mel Menzies July 15, 2019
Overcoming Shame: Are We Guilty of a Guilty Conscience?

What are guilt and shame? Are they the same thing? Is it good or bad to experience them, emotionally? Is their absence in someone’s life a sign of arrogance or ruthlessness?

I was reading about a man – Jeff Lucas – who described himself in his younger years as a “shame addict.” The term resonated with me and sparked a sitting-up in bed, early morning debate – though, sadly, without a cuppa to accompany it.

“That describes me years ago,” I said.

“Yes!” my husband agreed. “But what did you feel ashamed about?”

“Everything,” I replied.

Feelings of Guilt After Christmas

A few days ago, I wrote about feeling vaguely depressed since Christmas and identified several areas in which my relationship with family members had left me with a sense of having failed. Guilt and remorse were, undoubtedly, the effect on my psyche. But whilst my heart was telling me, “could have done better; should have done better,” my head knows that that’s not necessarily true.

Given the same set of unavoidable circumstances, namely, my father’s deafness, near-blindness, and dementia, my response – to his nocturnal prowling in and out of bedrooms occupied by other family members, to his getting dressed or wanting to eat in the middle of the night, to his inability to join in a conversation or game, or refusal to go for a walk – would be equally unavoidable. I know, objectively, that you can only deal with this sort of thing to the best of your ability; and with the welfare of all concerned uppermost in your mind.

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