navigating a world which feels like gravity is working in reverse

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Guilt Drowned Out By Shame

I think I have a poor capacity to process negative emotions.  For example most of my life my radar has been jammed by shame (for looking/being different, not having a job, a place, and SO, etc..).  This has drowned out the guilt I’m supposed to feel that would goad me towards Christianity.  The Christian message, at least in the traditions I’ve been in has gone something like this:

  • You aren’t perfect and should feel guilty about this
  • Luckily our religion will wash away your guilt with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross
  • Well not really, we were kidding about that.  Guilt is the lever we’ll use to keep you in line (because you’re still not perfect and you still should feel guilty about this fact).

(Christian traditions vary mainly by how disingenuous they are about the facts above)

The problem with this whole thing (at least for me and I suspect a lot of people) is that our negative emotion “radio” is not well developed enough.  Shame comes in on the same channel as guilt and drowns the guilt right out (because, at least in my case, the shame is felt much stronger).  I suspect that in earlier times when Christian mores were more prevalent, shame was used a lot more in keeping people away from things like fornication and alcoholism.  However that’s receded, now shame is pegged to mostly consumeristic metrics like money, status, pleasure, etc…