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Shame-Proneness vs. Shame-free Guilt-Proneness in Addiction

"In everyday language, the terms 'shame' and 'guilt' often are used interchangeably to describe emotions that are considered to be detrimental and best avoided. However, much research has demonstrated that shame and guilt are distinct emotions with different implications for motivation and adjustment... shame involves a global negative feeling about the self in response to some misdeed or shortcoming, whereas guilt is a negative feeling about the specific event, rather than about the self. For example, a shame-prone individual who is reprimanded for being late to work after a night of heavy drinking might be likely to think, 'I’m such a loser; I just can’t get it together, ' whereas a guilt-prone individual would more likely think, 'I feel badly for showing up late. I inconvenienced my coworkers.' Feelings of shame can be painful and debilitating, affecting one’s core sense of self... and may invoke a self-defeating cycle of negative affect and substance abuse as the individual struggles to dampen this painful feeling with drugs or alcohol. In comparison, feelings of guilt, although painful, are less disabling than shame and are likely to motivate the individual in a positive direction toward reparation or change."

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