For a long time it was assumed that everyone struggled with social fears and tenuous self-esteem. It was therefore natural to further assume, that any perceived criticism would only invite a person to unconsciously mount “defenses” against what they regarded as attacks on their already impaired self-image. And while such scenarios can and do still occur, they’re nowhere near as common as they once were.

Perhaps no two concepts in psychology are as confusing at times as personality and character. That’s in part because the definitions of both terms have evolved over time. But it’s also because certain misconceptions about the terms have persisted over the years not just in the minds of the general public but also in among professionals.

The concepts of shame, guilt, regret, remorse, and contrition have been the subject of great debate within the professional community for some time. And even though these terms are not strictly psychological in nature, because they have such importance to matters of character, they’re worth a closer look.

Perceiving the nature of a problem accurately and labeling the psychological realities underlying it correctly are of paramount importance when providing or seeking help. The current series of articles will address some popular misconceptions and the principal reasons important psychological principles and terms are often misused or misunderstood.

Misperceptions abound about why people commit serious crimes and eventually find their way into prison. Some of the misconceptions have been around a long time and persist despite mounds of evidence to the contrary.