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Coping with guilt and shame: a narrative approach

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Autobiographical narratives (N = 97) of guilt and shame experiences were analysed to determine how the nature of emotion and context relate to ways of coping in such situations. The coding categories were created by content analysis, and the connections between categories were analysed with optimal scaling and log-linear analysis. Two theoretical perspectives were tested: the view that shame generally is a more maladaptive emotion than guilt, and the view that in situations where responsibility is ambiguous, both guilt and shame feelings are likely to be maladaptive. In line with the latter, chronic rumination was more likely to occur in situations where responsibility was ambiguous compared to situations where the respondent's responsibility was clear, regardless of emotion. In addition, reparative behaviour was less frequently reported in shame situations than in situations where the respondent felt guilty or both guilty and ashamed. The findings supported the view that the nature of emotional reaction and the nature of the situation both affect the ways of coping.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Helsinki, Finland

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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