Shame is an important emotion entwined in substance use. It can be the reason some people choose not to take steps towards healing and feeling it can continue the cycle of negative behavior. When we understand why we feel shame, we can take the steps needed to overcome it.

According to researcher Brené Brown, "shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging." The feeling of shame can motivate action and inaction, and it is important to understand. Shame can make you believe things that are not true, like you are destined to be a certain way, and it can take away your power to change.

The Difference Between Guilt and Shame 

Guilt and shame are two of the most commonly confused emotions. Both reflect our values in life and our perception of what is right and wrong. But there is a core difference between shame and guilt.

With shame, we internalize our actions. For example we think, "I am bad."

With guilt, we recognize that our behavior is wrong, "I did something bad."

Shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, and other mental health conditions. Guilt is inversely correlated with negative things.

Why Do We Feel Shame?

Shame is an all-encompassing emotion that changes how we view ourselves and our worth in the world. You might feel shame about a behavior, or how you treated someone. You can even feel shame for having certain thoughts. Shame is powerful because when you feel it, you also usually feel like you can't talk about it.

The Importance of Understanding Shame 

When we feel shame and continue to let it drive our behaviors it has power over us. Everyone feels shame, and no one wants to talk about it. Recognizing the feeling of shame is an important step in emotional processing. Talking about your shame is the next step. When you talk about shame you can separate yourself from your behavior. Therapists and support groups can be very helpful to process shame.