Guilt can be a great motivator. In many societies, guilt and shaming responses to behaviors can go a long ways towards helping illustrate what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior. Used sparingly, it can be a useful tool. However, many times guilt and shame are doled out in large doses and instead of being used as a tool to stop unwanted behaviors, it becomes a weapon to gain control over someone.
As we grow older, the feelings of guilt and shame continue to grow along with us. For some, the feelings can be so intense that it prevents them from seeking happiness—feeling they do not deserve it. For others, the problem can become worse as they seek to self-medicate to avoid the painful feelings.
Learning to deal with those thoughts about ourselves is an important step in getting past those earlier experiences and claiming some control in a healthy way. One of the benefits to therapy is learning to think in healthier ways so that we are not bound by the coping strategies we learned earlier on.