Shame & Guilt Counselling in Vancouver, BC
When a person experiences chronic shame and guilt (or what seems to be), it usually is not connected with a specific present event, but is a result of a pervasive background sense felt all the time. People who have experienced trauma in the past can develop what is known as “core shame” and they can also be more sensitive to experiencing feelings of guilt in response to current events and internalizing others’ accusations (or perceived accusations).
While guilt can be adaptive in proportion to an event for motivating social compliance to norms and cohesion, shame is usually about the person being bad. This is different from guilt, which is about the behaviour being bad. Shame tends to be experienced as feeling bad about oneself as a person with no possibility of reparation, whereas guilt is experienced as remorse while still feeling connected and loved as a person with the possibility of redemption.
Self-esteem and individuation of self from the ‘internalized other’ during early experiences that formed a pattern of core shame or a predisposition and sensitization to feelings of guilt are likely part of the counselling for shame and guilt process. This process may include experientially learning:
- How the brain and mind work so that you can better understand why you feel and behave the way you do as it relates to the inner reactions of shame and guilt that you feel.
- What stress is and how to best manage it so you can maintain some ‘emotional balance’ during the waves of guilt and undercurrent of shame.
- How to identify hidden thoughts, feelings, and beliefs apart from those that were internalized during development that have led to maladaptive guilt and core shame. As with many ‘presenting concerns’, shame and guilt are tied with other feelings and emotions such as anger and sadness.
- How to form new, more adaptive and constructive beliefs about yourself, others, and the world as these inform the automatic interpretations and expectations that you have.
- During counselling for shame and guilt, you will learn to develop more constructive and harmonious ways of communicating and relating with others (and self) with a focus on respecting your and their emotional boundaries and fostering self-agency and autonomy to promote greater connection and validation. Because anger and sadness are very much intertwined with shame and guilt, there is a focus on constructive expression.
- How to discover, understand, and manage the different types and layers of emotions that may be underlying ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’ and the underlying needs for safety and connection that are associated with guilt and shame.
- Gain new thinking tools and problem-solving techniques to better deal with life’s challenges to give you greater self-agency and autonomy that also helps with managing or mitigating guilt and shame when it becomes maladaptive and not commensurate with the present situation.
- Learn helpful and practical principles to better approach challenges in life with greater peace of mind and success.
Our in-person and online shame and guilt counselling services in Vancouver provide a safe place for you to discuss your experiences without judgment or criticism. We focus on helping you recognize the source of your emotions, identify any patterns or underlying issues, and develop tools for addressing them in more constructive ways.
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What is Shame?
Shame is a powerful emotion that can be triggered by a variety of experiences, from a simple mistake to something more traumatic. It can manifest in feelings of self-loathing or inadequacy and linger even after the situation has passed. It often involves feeling exposed or judged harshly by others, and it can lead to depression, anxiety, and social avoidance.
On a deeper level, shame can be related to a person’s core beliefs about themselves or the world around them. It can also be rooted in past experiences, such as being shamed or excluded by family or peers.
Signs and symptoms of shame:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Feeling embarrassed or unworthy of attention
- Having a negative self-image
- Difficulty connecting with others
- Feeling isolated and disconnected from the world around you
What is Guilt?
Guilt is similar to shame but it has its own unique characteristics. It involves feeling remorse for an action or decision that was wrong according to moral standards of conduct. This emotion is often experienced after a mistake or misjudgment and can lead to feelings of regret, self-doubt, and distress. Unlike shame, guilt typically involves more internal judgment rather than external criticism from others.
Signs and symptoms of guilt:
- Difficulty forgiving yourself
- Feeling responsible for the bad things that happen to you
- Over-apologizing or self-blaming
- Avoiding situations that remind you of your mistake
- Inability to enjoy pleasures and successes due to guilt
Heal with Wellspring Shame & Guilt Counselling
At Wellspring Counselling, our experienced Vancouver therapists and counsellors are trained to help you understand the source of your guilt and shame, explore how it manifests in your behaviour, and come up with strategies for managing these difficult emotions. We provide a safe and compassionate environment where you can express yourself openly without fear of judgment or criticism. With our support, you can learn to address your feelings in healthier ways and find the strength to move forward in life.