are all variations of the same emotion. People of all cultures all over the world are innately programmed to have these feelings. However the occasions which illicit these feelings vary from culture to culture and also vary over time.
The evolutionary purpose of guilt, embarrassment and shame is to keep social groups united and therefore stronger. All societies make use of these feelings to enforce acceptable behaviour. Because we need others and want to be part of a social group, we care about what others think of us and do not want to be shunned. ‘What will the neighbours think!’ is a historic concern.
The events which bring guilt, embarrassment and shame evolve over time according to the needs and requirements of the community, and, at a more personal level, the needs and requirements of our early upbringing. Disapproval of others and disappointment in ourselves are hard to bear.
The degree to which we may suffer this emotion varies in intensity according to individual reactions to different situations and circumstances. Feelings can be transient or long term. You may feel mildly embarrassed or absolutely mortified. Your suffering may be very brief or can last for a very long time.
- Calling someone you know quite well by the wrong name.
- Walking in late for a meeting.
- Blaming someone for something you later discover to be your own fault.
- Committing a crime.