Understanding Guilt and Shame
Guilt and shame terrorise the soul, destroy peace of mind and inflict pain on the body; no part of the person escapes the effects of these twin evils. Guilt is like a leech; it attaches itself to an innocent – although psychologically related – object, which may be an event, person, or feeling.
Both guilt and shame make us want to hide, or to curl up and die, because we feel we have done something so terrible that nobody will ever want to know us or love us, or care for us. Guilt and shame turn us into lepers who live on the fringes of society. Unlike lepers, however, our ‘disease’ is not visible, yet it changes us so that our behaviour shouts just as loudly and clearly as the leper shouted ‘unclean’, that we are different. There was hope for the leper that the disease would run its course and he would be declared ‘clean’. For the person consumed by guilt and shame what cure is there?
In Understanding Guilt and Shame in Counselling and Psychotherapy I do not talk about cure; rather, I believe that guilt and shame have to be understood from the client’s frame of reference and while theory is important, what is more important is what guilt and shame mean to the client. Therapy may need to take a multi-faceted approach to help the client understand and work through these two feelings, which, in my experience erode self-esteem. So working to build self-esteem is essential. This book explores guilt and shame related to illness, disease, and disability, mental health, body image and life events in an attempt to show how invasive and destructive these two feelings are. Case studies are included, which tell the stories of how people suffered and through therapy found relief from guilt and shame.