Guilt, by definition is the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime. Psychcentral defined it as “an emotional experience that occurs when a person believes or realizes — correctly or not — that they have compromised their values or morality in some way.” Did you know that guilt can be seen differently? For example, there can be legal guilt, moral guilt just to name a couple. But what happens when we carry unwarranted guilt? That is what we will take a look at today. It is important to know the difference between a healthy level of guilt vs the weight of excessive unhealthy guilt. The affects of carrying too much guilt and not processing those emotions can have lasting affects on us.
What Is Guilt Anyway?
Let’s first look at a healthy feeling of guilt. Guilt is often the pain you feel when realizing your actions hurt someone else. Guilt can also be from actions you have taken that were outside of your moral standards you have set for yourself. You can feel this way over your thoughts, words or actions. You can even feel guilt if you think you have made a mistake. It is healthy to be able to know when our actions have affected someone else. It is necessary to be able to recognize that and say that you are sorry. Do you find it easy to apologize when you have hurt someone?
Not all Guilt is Healthy?
No, it’s not. Guilt that comes from a place of not being able to meet someone else’s expectations of you, is often an unhealthy guilt to carry. This type of guilt can be detrimental to our mental as well as physical health. Examples of that are below.
- Taking responsibility beyond what we can control
- Harm toward someone that we did not cause
- Guilt that has not stopped, causing self-criticism
- Inappropriate accountability, beyond our own actions
- Taking responsibility for others actions
- Other peoples emotions
When considering if a current feeling of guilt is healthy or not, try considering your intentions. If you set out with the best of intentions in mind, and things did not go as planned, you need to be able to know that and apologize if necessary. Do you carry feelings of guilt for an unintentional thing that happened?
How Can I Help My Guilt?
It may feel better, temporarily, to put off processing your emotions. But this approach doesn’t resolve anything within you. Allowing these unresolved feelings to continue to build up inside of you can cause other issues. So why not choose to face the guilt you feel head on? Below are some steps for suggestions that could help you take steps forward. Remember, other peoples reactions to you do not always signify truth. Take some steps for you allow others to process their own emotions.
- Offer genuine apologies
- Accept responsibility for your part of a circumstance
- You are human and we make mistakes, believe that
- Learn from bad choices
- Forgive your past self, it is in the past
- Is the solution within your control, if not, let the guilt go
- Do not allow yourself to talk negative about you
- Remind yourself of something positive you did this week
The last topic I will mention regarding guilt is this, if you have trauma or mental illnesses in your family, overcoming feelings of guilt may require help. It is ok, you are not alone. It takes courage to seek help in taking steps to better our lives, and you are worth it.
Upstate Restorative Counseling is here to listen. Our team of counselors can help you determine the next step to shedding what causes you guilt.