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Guilt And Shame

Way Too Much Of A Good Thing?

One who is dealing with depression will often also deal with issues of guilt and shame. These are profoundly toxic emotions that can lead to dysfunction and severe depressive episodes.

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These impulses, in-and-of themselves, are not necessarily negative emotions. They act as a 'check and balance', if you will, on our baser impulses and can be part of a healthy conscience. However, all too often we heap undue quantities of these emotions upon ourselves that lead to a crushing and burdensome debt that we can never seem to repay.

We have all have done things we regret. There are people we may have wronged. We can apologize a thousand times and be forgiven a thousand times. But we just can't forgive ourselves. There are times for these emotions. And there are times to let these emotions go.  

Destructive Emotional Patterns Learned In Childhood

Often these feelings are not the result of anything you may have done wrong, but come from deep familial dysfunction, often arising from childhood. Abuse, neglect, hypercritical and/or distant parents can create toxic levels of destructive emotions, often resulting in depression and poor self-esteem. Negative emotions created in childhood can be some of the hardest to dislodge as an adult, especially shame from the guilt you may have been made to feel for simply being there.

Like other emotional dysfunction, you may rationally understand why you feel undue guilt and shame and why you needn’t feel this way, but emotions are strong and usually deeply imbedded, as such they can be hard to let go of. It's hard to think your way out of it when those thoughts go against what you really FEEL. The good news is that you can learn to let go off these toxic feelings.

The Importance Of Shedding These Burdens

Whether you suffer from depression or not, I can't stress to you enough the importance of dealing with these most devastating emotions. Excessive guilt and shame will affect every area of your life-- physically, mentally, and emotionally—from your relationships to your career to your physical health, and everything else in between. You will always fall shorts of the results you want to produce, sometime dramatically so, for this simple reason:

Because deep down inside, you don't feel like you deserve any better.

Without even realizing it consciously, these feelings may set in motion a deeply held desire for constant punishment. And a life of consistent failure, shortcomings, and disappointment is the continual and resonant affirmation for a person whose basic identity tells them, “you're not worth it.” As you can see, there is a close relationship between feelings of guilt and shame and low self-esteem.

A Dysfunctional Spiritual Identity

Taken to one very unfortunate extreme, guilty and shameful feelings will affect your spiritual life. Feeling that you are unlovable and unworthy may lead you to the feeling that not even God could love you. You then engage your spiritual side not out of joy, or wonderment, or longing, but out of fear. Harsh parenting, especially from fathers, and rigid religious upbringing can contribute to a dysfunctional spirituality.

As Always, Remember...

As stated before, these feelings are often associated with depression. As you begin to heal your way through depression you will also learn to resolve these other destructive impulses. As such, deep seated feelings of guilt and shame should be worked through with a competent therapist, especially if you are also suffering from depression. (Not all people who have these emotions will display symptoms of clinical depression, but they should still be resolved so as to live your life unburdened by them).

These resources will help you unbind the shackles of guilt and shame so that you may live your life with more freedom, happiness, and peace—all that you deserve.

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