How To Deal With Guilt And Shame

January 13, 2016

Hi and welcome to this video. In this video I want to talk about how to deal with guilt and shame. Now these two are wonderful emotions and I think they visit as each and every day because it’s so pervasive in at least the North American culture.

The reason I mention this is- you know, think about the TV dramas that you watch, or the TV show that you watch. Every one of these shows, every one of these characters within the shows, is motivated to action usually by guilt or shame. And of course sometimes hilarity ensues or something else ensues. But whatever it is these TV shows set up a blueprint for that pervasive culture of guilt and shame that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

So how do you actually deal with guilt and shame if it’s so pervasive around you? And they’re not resolved very easily or in a satisfactory way in the TV shows? Well, then I want to ask that question to you.

  • How does guilt and shame show up in your life?
  • And for the guilt and shame in your life, what does it serve in your life?
  • That is to say what purpose does it serve in your life to make your life to be satisfactory?

At least the way that you describe it. Now if guilt and shame in your life is not satisfactory, I want to ask you:

  • What is it that you can possibly do to change that?
  • What kind of actions can you take?
  • What kind of conversations do you need to engage in to ensure that guilt and shame don’t visit you?

Or at least without your consent.

Getting To The Root Of Guilt And Shame

So this is one of the reasons that I work as an Ontological Course because I- I love this perspective of dealing with emotions from a linguistic level.

Like a lot of us, you know, we go to school, we are trained to memorize facts, to learn facts, to regurgitate facts. So it’s very appropriate to use this historical, descriptive, linguistic tool to understand the meaning of these emotions.

And for me, the best way I found to do that is to understand the etymology of these emotions. I’ve already covered this in another video but guilt and shame come from old English.

And in some cases they come from old Norse which means, in the case of shame, which describe some sort of physical sensation, which is a cheek red- a cheek redness. The other word for shame is about loss of honour, loss of esteem, loss of something according to the community.

In terms of guilt, we have words like “gylt” which is old English and also “gieldan” which involve the meaning of a debt or an obligation that you have to pay for. That is perhaps property damage that you are obligated to pay off or discharge; that becomes that “you are guilty” in that sense.

Another word for guilt, or at least the etymology of guilt, comes from an old English word “gylt” which has to do with “sin,” “a moral defect” or failure of character or “failure of duty” in some way. When you understand these you understand that guilt and shame about standards.

  • What are the standards that have come into your life?
  • What are the standards of the community that you live in?
  • What are your own standards?

Now “standards” could be anything from standards of behaviour. It could be standards of clothing. It could be standards of height. It could be standards of weight. Whatever it is, these are all standards that either you take into your life and make it your own. Or is imposed upon you by the community. And anytime you violate these standards the two emotions of guilt and shame are going to come and visit you.

How To Deal With Guilt And Shame

So you know I was watching Seinfeld the other day and George! That- that- that guy is motivated by guilt and shame in so many ways that it’s ridiculous! And of course every episode sort of resolves itself but never that underlying cause of guilt or shame. And so with this, I invite you to consider how it is you can get to the underlying root of guilt and shame in your own life. I mean never mind the TV dramas or anything like that.

  • But in your own life, how do you to get to that?

And I think I gave you a hint and that is about getting into conversations.

Guilt And Shame Are About Standards

You see guilt and shame are about standards. What standards do we violate? If we don’t know what standards we violate—that is say if these standards aren’t written down, if the standards aren’t explained to us, if these standards are non verbal, unspoken, unwritten, how do we know that we’ve actually violated any standards?

So the conversations to have around guilt and shame are to go back and have conversations and request clarity around them. Request clarity for what are acceptable standards. In some cases, these are conversations you’re going to have with yourself. In some cases these could be conversations that you have with other individuals.

Now in the case of persistent guilt and shame, I think it is more rewarding to actually go within yourself to take that time for introspection and understand what situations caused it, how you have reacted to it in the past, and how you continue to react to it now.

Working With Guilt And Shame

You see guilt and shame, because they are emotions, they already have stories. Those stories have some sort of internal loop for you because you interpret those emotions in a particular way. And those interpretations are the wau that you motivate yourself to action whatever the action may be. So I want to invite you:

  • How does guilt and shame show up in your life?
  • What situations, or events, or individuals trigger this emotion of guilt and shame?
  • How does that serve you in your life?
  • How does that make your life meaningful?
  • And how does guilt and shame, how do they NOT bring meaning to your life?

These are questions only you can answer for yourself because you live your life, you live your interpretation, you are your own unique observer. Guilt and shame in your life show up in one way. Guilt and shame in somebody else’s life shows up in a different way.

Working With Emotions Linguistically

Now what I’m sharing with you is a tool, a linguistic tool, that you can use to really get to the heart of guilt and shame in your life. So from the ontological coaching perspective, using the Vedic frameworks, life is meant to be live joyously.

And these emotions, whatever they may be, whether it’s guilt or shame—in this case—if they are not serving you to have a fulfilled life, if they’re not serving you to have a satisfactory life, or a life where the outcome becomes meaningful, or has some sort of value for you, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider how you would like to live your life.

Perhaps it is time to reconsider what kind of new emotions you can bring to your conversations. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider what kinds of conversations that you can have.

You know I find emotions to be tremendously powerful and tremendously rewarding—including the emotions of guilt and shame! Because these emotions are there to serve us in some capacity or another. Guilt and shame serve us- serve to protect us and other emotions will come and go. But how is that, how are those emotions meaningful to you in your life?

So to wrap up this video let me recap what I’ve mentioned. Guilt and shame are emotions and they visit us constantly, especially North America, because it’s really pervasive. When you use the linguistic tool of language to work with these emotions, you get a better idea of how to resolve them to your own satisfaction.

So because guilt and shame are named, because they are described, language becomes a tool with which you can go in deeper and get to the heart of these emotions. So what does that mean?

Approaching Guilt And Shame From Etymology

Well we approach it from a perspective of etymology. We go and look at the meanings and the roots of these words in the dictionary. These roots give us an indication of what the actions are, what the story is, behind that emotion. And then we can notice how relevant- what resonance that story has within our lives. And what actions those stories cause us to take in our lives.

If those actions that we take don’t get us the life that we want, or don’t create that satisfaction, or that meaning, or value in the outcomes in our conversations, then we have to go back and revisit, and reengage, in conversations.

In the case of guilt, it’s because we violated some sort of internal standard. So those conversations are something we have with ourselves through introspection. With regards to shame, shame is the violation of standards of the community. So those are the conversations that we’re going to have with members of the community.

In each of these conversations, the invitation is to consider making a request for clarity.

  • What is it exactly, what is it specifically, that cause the violation of the standards?

The more clarity you have the better the outcome for yourself. Because you know then what standards exactly you are violating. And once you know that, then you can decide whether or not to be more congruent with those standards in your actions, or not.

I hope this is been helpful and if you do have any questions or comments please share them below and I’ll get to them as soon as I can.

Take care of yourself, have a beautiful day and I’ll see you in the next video!

Bye-bye for now!