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Borderline Personality Disorder: Guilt, Shame and Disgust

It occurred to me the other day that I had not thought about myself in terms of excessive guilt, shame and disgust for many months.  This coincided around about the time I started my new job working with self-actualised people in the mental health field and making long overdue decisions about what sort of people I surrounded myself with in my private life.

I never seemed to have the discriminatory powers to know who was good for me, who was not good for me and who was perfectly evil in my life.  I also put strict boundaries around certain family members.  There are people in my life determined to make me feel shame and guilt because that is what they do best. 

Guilt is behaviour focused.  I feel somewhat guilty because I have not returned a phone call, cleaned up the back garden, paid a bill or shouted at my teenagers.  That is fine.  But when I feel guilty for simply existing and taking up too much oxygen, when logic tells me I am a good person – that is self and other induced shame and that is when I feel self-disgust and loathing.  It is this feeling that (for me) leads to smoking, drinking, binge-eating and taking drugs.  A certain amount of guilt spurs me into action.  Shame makes me withdraw into the fetal position where I cannot function and disgust leads me into self-destruction and suicide-ideation.

I needed (with the help of a good therapist) to separate myself from society with all three emotions until I could work out what they meant and how they affected me.  I am learning that people I used to be friends with, people I worked with and random others are not nice, happy people and no matter how hard I tried I could not win their approval.  There are certain people in my life who have told me they have long-standing issues with me.  I told one of them that that was their choice, it didn’t affect me anymore and I was long over holding ancient grudges.

I choose (and it is a healthy choice) to emotionally and psychically separate from them and live my own relatively guilt free, shame-free and disgust-free life.  The issues, grudges and problems they may have with me originate from them and belong to them.  They cannot project or introject their thoughts and feelings into me anymore.  I feel strong, liberated and empowered.

Nothing has actually changed in my life except for me.  I cannot change the world, nor can I change what the world thinks of me.  I live my life without the shackles of negative self-hatred.  When I make a mistake, or fail to do something, I finally understand that these guilt feelings will pass, that shame and disgust is no longer a part that I identify with and that satisfying, healthy, consistent, reliable feelings of the goodness of who I am is here to stay.

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Borderline Personality Disorder: Guilt, Shame and Disgust

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2012). Borderline Personality Disorder: Guilt, Shame and Disgust. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Jun 2012
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