Guilt

“When people feel guilt about a specific behavior, they experience tension, remorse, and regret,” the researchers write. “Research has shown that this sense of tension and regret typically motivates reparative action — confessing, apologizing, or somehow repairing the damage done.”
Feelings of shame, on the other hand, involve a painful feeling directed toward the self. For some people, feelings of shame lead to a defensive response, a denial of responsibility, and a need to blame others — a process that can lead to aggression.
Tangney and her colleagues interviewed over 470 inmates, asking them about their feelings of guilt, shame, and externalization of blame soon after they were incarcerated. The researchers followed up with 332 of the offenders a year after they had been released, this time asking them whether they had been arrested again and whether they had committed a crime but had not been caught. They also compared the self-reported data to official arrest records.
Overall, expressions of guilt and shame were associated with recidivism rates, but in different ways.
“Proneness to guilt predicts less recidivism — a lower likelihood of re-offense,” Tangney says. That is, the more inclined an inmate is to feel guilt, the less likely he or she is to re-offend.
The implications of proneness to shame, on the other hand, were more complex.
Inmates inclined to feel shame, and who were also defensive and blameful of others, were more likely to slip back into crime. Inmates who were shameful but who didn’tblame others were less likely to end up in jail again. –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story about a criminal. Include inner monologue that illuminates the shame / guilt he or she feels. Show how it drives the criminal’s actions in the story.

Journaling Prompt: Write about something that you feel shameful about. How can you move past this painful feeling?

Art Prompt: Guilt and shame

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Inform your audience about the difference between guilt and shame. Include how they influence behavior.

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney on Flickr

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