Lessons in Kindness, an approach to guilt and shame

guilt and shame


‘When a person (among the Babemba tribes of southern Africa) acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe, regardless of age, begins to talk out loud to the accused, one at a time, about all of the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his life time. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, kindnesses and strengths are recited carefully and at length. No one is permitted to fabricate, exaggerate or be facetious about his accomplishments or the positive effect of his personality…’

– Leonard Zunin, 1972

How we respond to behaviours that are anything from displeasing to downright unacceptable often reflects how we feel about ourselves inside. It also reflects some of what we brought with us from our early years and what was modelled for us, and the social norms of our society. But it’s not too late to change our responses.

Guilt is usually short-lived and is a response- we did something, or failed to do something, and we feel bad about that. Sometimes that’s useful, and can motivate us to take some kind of corrective action or plan for personal improvement. It’s not so helpful if its unfounded guilt, or if for example we are being manipulated by someone.

Shame however is a different level. Shame is where our emotion becomes our identity at a deeper level. We feel, not that we have just something that is bad, but perhaps we are bad. Something about us is not fundamentally okay. Shame blocks our progress in life in terms of success and happiness as it leads to disruptive sabotaging behaviours.

In the video below I look at using Positive EFT to work through shame and reduce/eliminate it by focusing on the opposite of shame and calling that quality in. What is the opposite of shame? Perhaps pride, or grace. But it is the word you find most fitting that is the one to use, in the video I use ‘confidence.’


Positive EFT for releasing guilt and shame:

If you are feeling blocked by shame it can help to talk to someone about it, a counsellor or experienced EFT practitioner can help you to work through and release this so you can start feeling good again. Being ashamed doesn’t make anything better for anyone else, and doesn’t fix anything.

Growth Exercise: Read over the quote above again carefully, and think how you can apply some of that wisdom in your own life, both to others and to yourself. It might not mean gathering in a circle at the centre of a village, but taking the time to look at your or that person’s good points, and really acknowledging those.

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