In his work on distinguishing between healthy judgment and judgmentalism, Terry Cooper tackles the distinction between guilt and shame (Chapter 5: “Guilty Judgments vs. Shameful Judgmentalism”). This is from Table 5.1: Cooper describes guilt as specific with respect to behavior or action; shame labels oneself. Healthy guilt can focus on what can change whereas shame attacks utilizing “global generalizations” that facilitate a zero-sum perspective. Guilt leads the way to forgiving oneself, recognizing limitations and seeing “the worthwhile person underneath the unhealthy behavior”; shame “does not respond to forgiveness.” Healthy guilt can lead to disclosure to others one trusts, while shame isolates, trying to hide from both self and others. Healthy guilt can rid itself of unrealistic or unattainable standards; shame is associated with ideal or unattainable standards. Healthy guilt moves toward accepting oneself, while shame leads to self-punishment.
For reflection: Later in the chapter, Cooper suggests that shame is “judgmentalism turned inward.” Interesting idea, right? What are your thoughts?