How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
We feel shame when we have done something that is against our values. It is a feeling of remorse, regret and having done wrong. We may wish to turn the clock back so we can do things differently next time.
Shame can vary from a temporary and mild remorse to deep and racking guilt that dogs us for the rest of our lives.
Shame is triggered when we are reminded of what we have done and the rules we have broken, and we realise that this is a bad thing.
We feel shame more when we know that other people also know what we have done. If I walk down the street and nobody knows, I may feel ok. But if all eyes are on me, my feelings of shame will deepen.
The criminal legal system of many countries aims to reform people by using shame (although with limited success). Putting them in prison, however, tends not to work, as they rationalise away their actions as a collusive effort with other prisoners. What does work better is when they are confronted with what they have done - for example meeting with the victims they have hurt.
Reminding people of what they have done can cause them to feel shame. You can then offer them a way to atone for their sins and get forgiveness from those they have wronged.
Lazarus, R. and Lazarus, B. (1994), Passion and Reason, Oxford University Press, New York
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