This is an excellent video that explains the difference between shame and guilt. The interviewee references that it’s possible that shame could be the root cause of addictions. She mentions that the person riddled with shame says to themselves; “I am bad.” Guilt on the other is the result of actually doing something bad.
Interviewer’s Question: Is it good for serious offenders such as pedophiles or criminals, is it good for them to feel some shame?
Dr. Bren’e Brown Answers:
“NO! I get that…I’m with the people that want them to feel bad. Here’s what we know, the people you’re talking about, the shame in their life is probably at the root cause of their behaviors. Shame is far more likely to cause destructive behaviors than it is to cure it. What we know is shame is highly correlated with alcohol addiction, violence, aggression and bullying. It’s not helpful to be ashamed. For this reason I think a core thing that we need to get our heads and hearts around as a culture is that shame corrodes the part of us that believes that we can change. So to shame someone into changing is like saying that “you are horrible and worthless and you are not capable of change get better.”
Guilt says I did something bad; Shame says I am bad. There is a difference between focusing on self and focusing on behavior. Guilt is when you hold onto something you’ve done or failed to do up against who you want to be, it doesn’t feel good. But What we know is that when people make amends or change behavior or apologize, authentically guilt is the motivator for that. So it is best for people to feel guilty as opposed to feeling ashamed.”