Guilt, like worry, is an emotion that is created by our imaginations following an event, or non-event. It is a feeling that comes when you feel you have not done something, or you feel you have done something badly – it is what is generated when you feel unsatisfied with your performance.
Feeling guilty is what happens when you are not taking full responsibility for your action, or your inaction, it is the nagging in your head that tells you, you have let yourself down, let other people down, that you have failed.
This may seem to you like you are taking responsibility, but blaming, even if it is directed at yourself, does not equal taking responsibility.
Whether created by your imagination or not, when it transcends into feelings and emotions, Guilt is very real and can become a debilitating factor in life. People who suffer extreme levels of Guilt may go on to experience high levels of stress, anxiety and even depression.
Why do you feel guilty?
Feelings of guilt occur because deep down in your subconscious you have become emotionally attached to an event that you feel in some way responsible for, either you feel that you did something wrong, feel that you didn’t do enough or feel that you should have done something – all of these feelings stem from an apparent lack on your part.
Do you sometimes feel guilty for helping others? Maybe someone who should be helping themselves by now, or someone who will only learn without your help, but you can’t help helping them because you love them.
Do you sometimes wish you could do more to help? You feel guilty because you don’t think you do enough to help someone.
Do you sometimes feel guilty for not seeing someone enough? Maybe you don’t visit as often as you should.
Do you sometimes feel guilty when things go wrong? Some people feel guilty for everything that goes wrong, regardless of responsibility – is this you?
Do you feel guilty if someone tells you they could have done better? This feeling of a lack of ability when you are compared to others.
Do you feel guilty at work, and carry the world on your shoulders? This is a common feeling, despite the focus on team responsibility.
In all of these cases you are feeling guilty because of your attachment to a situation, however valid or however responsible you should feel, and you are punishing yourself as a result.
The situations we have described will lead to guilt, and in each of these we can learn to overcome guilt, and stop it before it happens, so read on.
Where guilt becomes much more serious, leading to anxiety and depression, is when we grow up feeling guilty, generally from childhood. When we are young we are like a sponge for information, our brains and our minds are absorbing so much and what we take in becomes our roadmap of our lives, effectively our beliefs.
Though this roadmap is often changed through new experiences, constant repetition will cement beliefs within our psyche that can become very difficult to dislodge. If you know that your mothers name is Ann, because you have heard it so many times, and I were to tell you her name is not Ann, then you would not believe me. No matter what I said you would not believe me, because you truly believe it to be true. After years of knowing your mothers name was Ann, it would take Birth Certificate proof to prove otherwise.
If you were continually made to feel guilty as a child, then there is a good chance that these feelings will continue into Adult hood and lead to some sort of mental or emotional dysfunction, you may suffer anxiety or even depression.
You may find it hard to believe that children can be subjected to attitudes as a child that will manifest into serious problems as an adult, but if we consider that our childhood experiences (particularly those between 2 and 5 years old) shape our lives, it is easy to see how problems can occur.
As a child did you ever here these statements completed with a negative ending,
You are always…
Its your fault….
These are all very powerful statements, and if completed with You are always making a mess around here, You never help me and Its your fault we have no money, three very powerful endings, then you are piling emotional guilt onto children that obviously do not know better.
Education is a far better solution than reprimanding, teach a child to understand cause and effect, don’t make them feel part of that cause and effect because it may be harbored in later life.
Of course, debilitating guilt can begin in adulthood, in the workplace we can be made to feel useless, responsible if everything goes wrong. In a relationship we can be made to feel worthless. In any situation where you begin to experience guilt, if it hasn’t gone so far as to leave you feeling anxious and depressed, then read about ways of stopping the guilty feeling before it happens.
If you have been experiencing anxiety or depression follow the links tio find out what you can do to help get better.
Stopping the Guilty feeling before it happens
Guilt is for most people perfectly normal and providing you understand it and it’s causes you can make it abnormal in your life.
You feel guilty because you have attachment to a situation that you feel you under-performed in.
To overcome this feeling you must take responsibility for your action, not blame, responsibility.
You know the feeling you get when you experience guilt, a bit like butterflies in the stomach, maybe shortness of breath, maybe even light-headedness, whatever your particular symptoms, you know what they are and so identify their beginning.
Treat the symptoms as a positive warning sign for you to practice removing guilt from your life forever; at this time they are there to help you.
As soon as you get your friendly warning, repeat the following statement 5 times,
“In (whatever the situation was), I did the best I could do with the time, skills and resources I had available to me and I have learned from this experience, thank you”
so it may have been something like…
“In not visiting my mum enough, I did the best I could with the time, skills and resources I had available to me and I have learned from this experience, thank you”
really say it with feeling, all the time completely forgiving yourself for whatever happened, because you did your best, and you best is always good enough when you put it in the context of everything you have going on in your life at anyone time.
Keep using this method and you will find your guilty feelings disappearing, leaving you more confident and in control.
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