can be a Cover Up
for Guilt, Shame and Vulnerability
Lynne Namka, Ed. D. ©
Anger is a normal
emotion that we all have. Humans have had anger since the
caveman days, and it is necessary for our survival as a
species. Anger, as an emotion, is neither good nor bad,
it is just a feeling. Anger, as a response or a behavior,
however, can cause all kinds of havoc both in the person
who expresses it inappropriately and those to whom it is
directed. Or it can be used as an energy to set things right.
Anger is extremely
complex; that is why very few people have the skills to
express it directly and safely. No one really understood
how anger worked until recently. Very few people, in the
past, knew helpful ways of expressing anger.
probably didn't know how to release anger appropriately.
They most likely blew out angry feelings on others or
stuffed them down inside and gave you the message, "Don't
get angry." You learned your ways of "doing" anger from
your parents and peers. Your parents learned their ways
of "doing" anger from their parents and so on back it
goes to past generations.
accompany being threatened by someone else can trigger
anger. A good use of anger is that it gets you to feel
so strongly about an injustice that you will try to correct
it. Justifiable anger is a way you stand up for yourself
when someone threatens you. The threat can be to your
physical body or your property. Mostly anger in adults
comes up when your self-esteem or your values are threatened.
gives people momentum to produce necessary change. It
can get you to leave a bad situation. Anger, appropriately
used, can create social change. Healthy anger can be constructive
in making a difference in a situation. (See my book, How
to Let Go of Your Mad Baggage for this type of healthy
One form of
unwholesome anger has to do with unrealistic expectations
that are not met. And expectations can be sensible and
practical or unreal and with not basis in reality. Expectations
are, after all, only what you expect, not tried and true
outcomes that will automatically happen just because you
wish them to. This is where unhealthy anger comes in.
People expect things that are not based in reality, and
then get angry when their expectations are not met. Some
people feel entitled to get something when there is no
practical reason why they should get it. See my article
on the Angries Out web page for "Children
of Entitlement" and "The
Right Man, Right Woman Theory" for this kind
on entitlement anger.
of unhealthy type is anger that comes up when you refuse
to take responsibility for what you have done wrong. This
is anger based on trying to avoid feeling guilt and shame.
Shame is a fear-based internal state of feeling unprotected,
vulnerable and defenseless. Shame holds the horrifying
beliefs of being unworthy and unlovable. Shame conjures
up intense painful feelings of mortification due to a
fear of being seen as inadequate.
are a threat to the integrity of the self. Unbearable
feelings of shame keep you caught in fear of being found
out by others. When you are held prisoner by shame, the
perceived deficits within yourself are so humiliating
that you will go to extreme lengths to hide the flawed
self. Like screaming in rage at another person to get
them to back off!
be substituted when you feel guilty and cannot own up
to what you have done. Anger can be substituted to avoid
the more painful feelings of embarrassment and humiliation.
Anger can be "used" to shut down the internal
bad feelings of vulnerability and helplessness, as anger
is a more comfortable emotion to feel. And it works! Anger
can also be "used" to intimidate and force the
other person to back off and stop their criticism.
becomes the prevalent emotion used to avoid feeling bad
inside. The habit of shielding your self with the anger
defense becomes a learned behavior of self-protection.
Anger becomes entrenched as a protective device and you
have trouble giving it up. Anger can work to protect you
against threat temporarily. But it creates more shame
because on some level you recognize that what you are
doing is unacceptable. The guilt and shame of habitually
angry people keeps growing because they circumvent the
bad feelings instead of dealing with them honestly.
Feeling Threatened, Covering It
Up with Anger and Projecting It on Someone Else
the need to look good to protect the fragile self-esteem,
is the basis of macho behavior, bullying and aggression.
Denial, repression, projection, and blaming others are
defense mechanisms, which help you try to avoid feeling
guilt and shame. Blaming another person instead of looking
at your own part of the problem is called projection‹you
spot it, you got it!
criticisms and labels all function to isolate us from
others. Our attempts to project our own painful elements
onto other people interrupt the growth process of both
the sender and the receiver. Judgment, being an either/or
process, divides and separates us from others, God or
our sense of wholeness.
are a defensive mechanism where we ignore what we do not
like about ourselves and become upset about that same
trait in another. They are the disowned aspect of our
personality. Blaming others protect us through distractions
and help keep a lid on the terror that knowledge of our
dark side might provoke.
protect us by keeping a lid on the terror that knowledge
of our negative qualities might provoke. You project your
own guilt and anger on to others when you judge and label
the other person's actions instead of just observing or
witnessing them. Carl Jung believed that the projection
defense functions like a mirror between the ego and the
unconsciousness personality. The negative characteristic
that has been disowned which has been tying up psychic
energy in the ego will be reflected in the person's daily
What you resist,
persists. Projections are warning signals that something
is unresolved in your self. Carl Jung said that if you
do not know and own the darker aspects of your self, you
will project your own negative repressed elements on other
of your anger and projection is a function of one or more
- 1.The size
of the negative part inside yourself,
- 2. The amount
of the denial that you have about this trait in yourself,
- 3. The need
of your soul to work out this projection, judgment and
Harsh Criticism, Rejection, Humiliation
and Bullying Create Shame-Based Defenses
parental behavior produces shame-prone children who then
criticize themselves and others. Often perfectionism is
passed from generation to generation and not measuring
up to the unrealistic standards of others. Parental withdrawal,
rejection or favoritism of a sibling causes shame and
deep fears of abandonment.
Shame is based
on rejection. Parental high expectations of behavior,
criticism and disapproval for failure create shame. Parental
humiliation and punishment for failure or for distress
or crying creates the need to hide vulnerability. When
a parent rejects their offspring, the child learns to
reject the wonderful aspects of himself. Shame feelings
are created when there is a betrayal by other people and
a broken trust through expressing harsh disapproval. The
scolded and rejected child believes that he must be really
bad or his parents would love him.
peers or adults creates a sense of helplessness in the
child and he feels ashamed. The frightened and rejected
child believes that he must be flawed or his classmates
would accept and like him.
of physical and sexual abuse imprints major feelings of
being devalued and unworthy in the victim. The energy
of shame of others is contagious and can be passed from
one individual to another. Children who are sexually abused
usually absorb some of the shame of the person who abused
of societies' values around sexual and aggressive behavior
can create guilt and shame. Engaging in behaviors that
society frowns upon creates more shame. You add guilt
and shame to yourself when you act in inappropriate behavior,
which results in public humiliation. Worrying what others
think, fears of public failure and social disapproval
lead to added fears of rejection and shame. Engaging in
excessive use of alcohol, substances and addictive behavior
may be an indicator of shame. Engaging in excessive use
of alcohol, substances and addictive behavior creates
more guilt and shame and amplifies a vicious cycle.
says "I Did Something Bad."
Guilt is a
feeling that you did something wrong. Guilt comes to you
from your conscience, which tells you that you are not
living up to your values. Guilt says, "I did something
bad. I was wrong. I must pay." Guilt is about actions
that have hurt yourself or others. It is situation specific
and related to your misbehavior. Your guilt then sets
about to punish you. The guilt serves as personal punishment
for the undesirable behavior. Guilty feelings can be helpful
in the sense that they help us to put on the brakes on
behaviors we would regret later.
you will hang on to guilt long after the situation has
passed. Hang-on guilt remains because you do not know
how to release it. Guilt for acts committed in childhood
can cause a reservoir of negative emotions to be stored
in the body resulting in curbing of healthy assertive
behavior. This kind of guilt is sometimes at the bottom
There is another
type of unhealthy guilt where we feel that we are the
cause of something not because of wrongdoing but because
of underlying feelings of worthlessness. This pseudo-guilt
inadvertently is passed down in families when a parent
acted like a martyr (Why did I get such a child? You will
be the death of me.) or used discipline techniques of
shaming and blaming the child (You are stupid. Dummy!)
The child, being vulnerable, absorbs the negative energy
of the abuser and internalizes the negative labels as
being true. (I am dumb because my father called me dumb
when I knocked the glass of milk over.)
says "I Am Bad."
Shame is about
the flawed self. Shame says, "I am bad." Feeling ashamed
is always about the global self-esteem and how you totally
feel about yourself. The shame core builds up with many
events of guilt. Fears of being different and looked down
upon by others are common causes of guilt and shame. Guilt
and shame build up across time and lead to the global
belief of "I am unworthy. I am unlovable."
One of the
most insidious fears is that other people will find out
how bad we really are and reject us. We focus too keenly
on being judged by others and live in fear of what will
other people think. The core beliefs of the person caught
in guilt and shame is "I am bad. I must hide my badness
to avoid further humiliation and rejection for others.
I must reject and control my bad behavior. I cannot trust
myself to refrain from this behavior. I must hide it even
from myself. God rejects and punishes badness." Much personal
energy is used up in dealing with the fear that we will
be found out that we are a sham. The shame that surrounds
fear about being different from our peers and being rejected
or teased for it can affect personal growth and normal
risk taking by tying up psychic energy.
shame and guilt cause a lack of trust of others and a
deep breach or separation from your real self. At some
point in an individual's life, the old defenses to protect
yourself against guilt and shame no longer work. Shame
can come up big time. The person's life crashes around
him. Hitting bottom with an addiction, depression or anxiety
may prompt you to seek help to deal with the uncomfortable
define and shape who you are in negative ways that you
cannot even comprehend. Feelings of guilt and shame cause
you to hide behind defenses of denial and resulting anger
when you feel threatened. Other defenses against feeling
shame include macho behavior, intellectualization and
shutting down feelings. Controlling, blaming, criticizing
or feeling superior to others are common defenses in people
who are typically angry.
dysfunctional behavior in a person's life usually indicate
a strong internal shame core. Lack of intimacy and connection
to others indicates a lack of trust. Shame shuts you down.
An excess of shame can lead to a fear of taking risks
and an unfulfilled life. Repressed shame leads to substituting
more acceptable emotions such as anger, depression and
anxiety to reduce the internal tension. Some people turn
to addictions as a way to temporarily keep the feelings
of guilt and shame down. This works only for a short time,
and adds more guilt and shame to the person.
shame about a behavior one considers inappropriate, either
past or present, can lead to repression and denial as
a means to try to control the bad behavior. We may think
the behavior and belief are no longer present until an
upsetting event pops it out again. These two negative
emotions carry a certain vibration or energy that become
stored producing a blockage in the person's energy flow.
Guilt and shame result in deep fears of rejection and
separation from others. Yet the basis of these strong
emotions is a rejection in a part of the self and separation
And if you
do not have feel guilt and shame when you hurt other people,
that is a different problem altogether. If you cannot
identify with the ideas in this article and are looking
for ways to deal with your anger, start reading in the
field of narcissism.
Paradox of Guilt and Shame
the human response to guilt and shame is to increase the
energy around these behaviors by resisting them and judging
our self to be bad. Giving energy to shame makes it persist.
The result is that the negative feelings do not dissipate
but remain stored away in the body until we find a way
to forgive our self.
We all have
bits of behavior that are dark. That doesn't mean that
we are evil or bad, but that we merely are human. One
purpose of the negative emotions is to help us look at
some aspect of ourselves that is incongruent with our
deepest values and understanding of what it means to be
human. Symptoms such as guilt, shame and resulting anger
are merely the indicator lights of your body that something
needs an adjustment. Negative symptoms show you where
your life is out of balance. They give you a place to
start doing some detective work on yourself.
for your misbehavior and saying, "I am sorry"
to the person you have hurt is the process of making amends
and release guilt. Or you can write a letter of apology.
Making an apology is a necessary step in releasing guilt
for past and current misbehavior. (See I'm
Sorry I Hurt Someone on the Angries Out web page.)
The pain that
underlies the guilt and shame comes from belief that the
event was harmful to the person. The person has the belief
of "I am not safe. I can be hurt because I am bad. My
physical body, my self esteem, my property or my values
can be damaged." While it is true that your body, reputation
and property can be hurt, the core essence of you cannot
be destroyed. The negative feelings of being harmed and
that you survived the traumatic experience. Beliefs about
not being safe and beliefs about yourself as being unworthy
can be changed, no matter what has happened to you.
guilt cause a deep breach or separation from the real
self. The paradox of the emotions of guilt and shame is
that these two base emotions keep the person from knowing
that he is love and yet the solution to release them is
to know that "I am love." Forgiveness and the firm resolution
to stop harmful behavior is the answer to releasing guilt
Shapes Negative Symptoms But It is also the Way Home
of the negative emotion is to help us look at those aspects
of our self that are incongruent with our deepest values
and understand of what it means to be human from a soul
level. The anxiety around the painful past can be touched
into and moved through.
reduction work must be experiential; it cannot be released
on an intellectual level. Laughter about one's former
predicament can shift shame energies. The original feelings
where shame first came up can be brought forward and examined
to allow a shift. Shame can be released thorough confession
and processing the original painful experiences. The repressed,
uncomfortable feeling can be accessed and worked through
to release the shame energies. You can get underneath
the anger that hides the guilt and shame to find feelings
of hurt, sadness, vulnerability and a fear of being rejected
and abandoned. When these feelings are exorcised, there
will be less shame.
that the person who verbally, physically or sexually abused
you had poor self esteem issues of their own that they
were trying to throw on you. Critical parents felt bad
about themselves and in their frustration in not knowing
how to release shame, passed it on and projected it onto
the child. You can learn to identify their shame in you
and know that you do not have to hang on to it. Most good
therapists know techniques to do this release work.
You can learn
to detach and become an observer of your own internal
states of guilt and shame. You can learn to become a detective
on your own emotions and behavior to catch and break into
feelings of guilt and shame. You can learn not to shut
down the painful feelings or distract them with anger,
but to stay present and learn from them.
how shame works helps release it. The cleaning out of
the global belief of "I am bad" takes time and exploration.
Mild shame might be processed and released on your own
using these ideas. If you try to let it go on your own,
but cannot, you will need professional help. Deep guilt
and shame are best done with a therapist who understands
the process of shame release and can stay present with
You can work
through core negative beliefs such "I am a bad person.
I am not safe. I will be rejected because I am unworthy.
I will be abandoned." if you are willing to stop doing
destructive behavior. The paradox of the base emotions
of guilt and shame keep you from knowing that you are
love and yet the solution to releasing these emotions
is to get to the place of knowing "I am love." Feelings
of vulnerability and shame can be the Soul's way of saying,
"Look at this. These feelings are not who you are." Meditation
and prayer help release shame, as shame is a tool of the
Soul to get you to wake up.
release work is combined in therapy with learning to speak
up and say no, to state boundaries and to share feelings,
self-esteem zooms upward. The opposite of guilt and shame
is to accept yourself with all your human flaws and decide
to not do any behaviors that create more disturbing emotions.
We are more
than our physical body and we are more than our thoughts
of shame. When you understand that what happened was merely
a painful situation, which you made judgments about the
unworthiness about your self, you can let the self-condemnation
messages and bad feelings go. When you perceive that what
happened was an opportunity for growth, then perhaps you
can reframe the situation. No easy task, but there it
is that you are a beautiful person who was shamed as a
child, and your mind and body incorporated that shame.
You need not let feelings of unworthiness shape your life
in negative ways. You are more than your physical body.
You are much, much more than your painful emotions. You
are essence longing to return to your true self. Shame
asks you to get to the lies underneath that you are unworthy
and unlovable. Use your guilt as an opportunity to stop
doing things not in accordance with your conscience. Then,
having cleaned up your life, address the lies of being
unworthy that shame has foisted upon you.
You can put
yourself in a space of love and light and hold the bad
feelings up for examination. Your Higher Power and the
integrity can help give you a different understanding
of the early painful experiences that caused shame. Turning
the shame over to something greater than oneself, such
as God, can help negate those global beliefs of unworthiness.