5 Ways to Manage Guilt and Shame


Like thieves in the night – plotting to steal your joy, these two emotions hold hands like depression and anxiety and often show up to sabotage your progress.

Like depression and anxiety these are normal and necessary human emotions but like most uncomfortable emotions, they need to be acknowledged, learned from, and then mastered.

These emotions come from past experiences and can continue to come back to haunt you for years.

It’s a level of bullying that is the most toxic really because it’s self-bullying.

When this becomes a pattern and people get locked into guilt and shame it’s often because on some level they feel they deserve to be punished. Sometimes indefinitely.

When this is the case there can never be true joy and fullness of life because internally there isn’t a sense that the person deserves it. In this case, professional, neurobiological work in therapy to work through these emotions becomes really important.

Guilt and shame can be from current mistakes or situations where you have regretted your actions or caused harm to yourself or others in some way.

The negative outcome serves to teach us how to make better choices in the future.

If guilt and shame is coming up from a current event, take action now. Act quickly to make things right in your life, with other people and yourself.

Guilt and shame are uncomfortable, we often feel them physically, but they serve a purpose.

Not to come from the past and steal our thunder indefinitely, but in the moment, these emotions serve as symptoms of our compass of conscience. We feel them when we have done something against our value system or done something that has hurt someone else.

Keeping short accounts, making genuine apologies and learning from those mistakes – as humans that evolve and learn and all make mistakes – gives us wisdom and learning going forward.

Holding on to guilt and shame or wallowing in it or staying stuck in it doesn’t make us better, it holds us back.

Punishing ourselves beyond the incident and the learning actually takes away from the wisdom. It doesn’t make the old situation right, it doesn’t heal anyone’s wounds, it doesn’t change what has already happened.

So are you going to allow it to hold you back or make you better?

No one is perfect, we all make mistakes and we all deserve forgiveness.

We often forgive others a lot faster than we forgive ourselves.

Practicing self forgiveness and latching onto the learning will make you better and allow you to become more of who you want to be. It will heal the past wounds in fact.

Here are 5 ways to Manage Guilt and Shame: 

1. Challenge Your Perspective. If it’s a recent event, handle it properly with emotional intelligence. This disarms guilt and shame from carrying forward. If it’s an historical event, categorize it as being in the past, being unchangeable, and start rejecting it’s pull in the present.

2. Look for patterns. Guilt and shame often appear after a personal breakthrough, during times of progress, or when you’re alone or otherwise feeling vulnerable. If you know when they predictably come up for you, you can arm yourself against an attack by being ready for them.

3. Notice them. Acknowledge them, Call them out. Take those thoughts hostage and start learning to master your mindset so you can come at these emotions with boldness.  Reject and release them.

4. Take back control. Get ticked off and get defensive for yourself. Get protective of your joy. You have to believe that you deserve to live a life of joy and abundance and how dare they, or anything else come from the past to steal your joy. Defend yourself as you would a child being bullied. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim to your own inner bully.

5. Reframe your experience. Rewrite your past experiences – what have you learned from it – start living in a way that is authentic and accumulates wisdom to diminish future opportunities for guilt and shame. Include self-forgiveness and then move on. Don’t hold grudges against yourself. It’s useless.

I challenge you to go after your thoughts, be fierce about protecting your sense of self and self worth. Realize that no one is going to do it for you. If you’ve allowed guilt, shame and a sense of not being worthy to dominate your life, that’s the biggest mistake and regret of all. Let it go, be fierce about it.

Make things right with yourself. Start now. 

by Tara Miller

Psychotherapist & writer. Helping you live your fullest life using neuroscience based SRT (Self Regulation Therapy). Specializing in general and trauma therapy.

2 thoughts on “5 Ways to Manage Guilt and Shame

  1. Jamie says:

    Guilt and shame can also come from outside sources and pressure from community (i.e.: religion, socio-economics etc) and are super harmful. Thanks for the great advice and great read.

  2. Gary Dashney says:

    Ah, the inner critic. Born from childhood and strengthened over life.! Self-forgiveness and love is a key to deal with guilt and shame. Great list of actions to take to do so.

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