Artefact 3: Shame/Guilt

For the 3rd artefact I will discuss the definitions and moral implications of Guilt vs Shame.

At the simplist level I have found the difference between the two is very unique and somewhat confusing. Joseph Burgo PH.D. describes it an interesting manner: “I once said something hurtful at a dinner party, and on some level, I intended it to be hurtful. Afterward, I felt guilty because I could see that I had hurt my friend. More painfully, I also felt ashamed that I was the sort of person who would behave that way. Guilt arose as a result of inflicting pain on somebody else; I felt shame in relation to myself.(Burgo, 2015) At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking these might be the same thing however this isn’t the case.

On closer inspection I have found the two are as separate as night and day. Burgo and several other Physiatrists point out how Guilt is an internal responsive emotion that tells you that have done something that you consider wrong and that you should feel bad for doing that particular thing (Wong and Tsai, 2015). Guilt is also a part of healthy psychological development as it allows you to learn from these mistakes and move forward while being aware that you shouldn’t repeat the wrongful action “guilt can help us hone our own moral compass“. (Talk Therapy Channel, 2013)

Shame on the other hand is a polar opposite in that in can destroy sense of self and prevent you from improving. Shame is feelings disgrace (against yourself) because external sources take of notice of something you do and decide its wrong. Shame runs much deeper than guilt as it manifests in feelings of worthlessness that can isolate you from others and can stop feeling empathy towards them “When shame is especially pervasive (what I refer to as core or basic shame), it usually precludes feelings of genuine concern and guilt from developing; the sense of being damaged is so powerful and painful that it crowds out feeling for anyone else.” (Burgo, 2015) It can also lead senses idealisation as others are seen as perfect (I myself have felt this way and sometimes still do), which in turn can lead to withdrawal and negative feelings towards other people. So in summary Guilt can be described as a wound that can be healed and Shame is akin to an infection that destroys from within overtime, at least how we as western individualistic culture understand it.

Now whats interesting is these definitions can vary from culture to culture. We in the west are generally a seen as individualistic culture as mentioned above. Where as the chinese, Japanese, Koreans identify as collectivist cultures. Shame is utilised as motivational factor in Collectivist cultures due to insistance on conforming the demands of peers (Dessi and Zhao, 2011). Different cultures seem to value different emotions as motivational factors.

I attended the Coventry Photo Club to ask if they could provide some images that I could have used for my Artefact. Unfortunately they came to me after the artefact had already been completed, However looking at I must say they would have contributed very to the ideas process.

Photos By: Emma Berthaud Remillieux


Burgo, J. (2015). The Difference Between Guilt and Shame. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2015].

Dessi, R. and Zhao, X. (2011). Self-Esteem, Shame and Personal Motivation. 2nd ed. [ebook] Toulouse: d’Économie Industrielle. Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2015].

Talk Therapy Channel, (2013). Understanding Shame and Guilt.

Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2015].

Wong, Y. and Tsai, J. (2015). Cultural Models of Shame and Guilt. 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: [Accessed 8 Nov. 2015].


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