I've started to take psychological and fiscal control
of my inheritance, one of the most useful insights I've
gained is about the difference between shame and guilt.
define shame as the feeling of negative self-worth resulting
from the betrayal of moral expectations others have of
me. Guilt, by contrast, is the feeling of negative self-worth
resulting from the betrayal of moral expectations I have
of myself. The following opposing examples, drawn from
my life but somewhat fictionalized, illustrate how I distinguish
#1--High Shame/Low Guilt: As a young filmmaker new to
New York City
and mostly closeted about my wealth, I planned to make
a low-budget documentary about an 80-year-old eccentric
cousin of mine who lives in New
York. I was excited to begin interviews-until
my cousin informed me he would be spending the entire
summer in Paris!
What could I do but gulp and wish him bon voyage?
it dawned on me that there was no good reason I couldn't
fly to France
and interview him there. No reason except the spectacle
of shame I envisioned-that of a neon light pulsating around
my neck reading "DILETTANTE RICH-KID ARTISTE," as I writhed
before a circle of struggling and much more talented film-making
with the help of my therapist, I discovered I had very
little actual guilt about the thought of going. Travel
to me is an unqualified good and an exotic location could
only help my film. To make a long story short, I'm not
exactly bragging about my trip to Europe,
but I certainly am going.
#2--Low Shame/High Guilt: Discombobulated by all the last
minute planning for my trip to Paris,
I rush to the airport in my car instead of taking public
transportation. Two weeks later I arrived at Kennedy
discover the car has been towed and I'm liable for $250
in fines. The ability to buy off one's mistakes is one
of the worst-kept secrets of being wealthy. This sum could
have provided a month's worth of special transportation
for a low-income person with a physical disability, but
in this case it supported the laziness of an upper-income
person with scheduling disabilities.
only thing working in my favor is that bragging about
vehicular victimization is practically a sport in New
York City. Given the proper spin,
my experience getting nicked by the Transport Authority
for $250 might even earn me a badge of solidarity from
the overtaxed, underpaid working guys hanging out at our
corner tavern. The irony of the low
shame/high guilt experience.
Experience has taught me that shame is secondary--the
primary enemy is guilt, as few things are more important
in life than reconciling yourself with your conscience.
By dividing the effects of shame and guilt within the
painful muddle of self-rebuke, I am better able to conquer
the enemies of my positive self-worth. When my behavior
is squared with my own conscience, I can more easily confront
the slings and arrows of shame. .
- anonymous author
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