What is Guilt?
What is guilt? It is best described as the feeling of inadequacy that follows a mistake or a blunder. Sometimes, it isn’t even a blunder to anyone other than to the person feeling guilty.
It is not uncommon to make mistakes. We are all capable of it. But what follows that mistake? If someone else is hurt physically, mentally or financially, you may feel a sense of responsibility to make it right. This is the beginning of guilt.
Whether you hurt someone intentionally or by accident, confessing the wrong can put the situation in perspective. Either the person will forgive you or not. If it is a criminal act, you will be punished or absolved of guilt according to the law.
But, even after all of this happens, what can make a person continue to feel bad about what they have done? Guilty feelings that continue usually start before the incident that evoked the guilt.
What can cause guilt? Here are a few suggestions.
* Criticism – If you are exposed to criticism all the time, you may feel inadequate. This inadequacy could be directed at you or at a certain task you perform.
* Lack of resolution – If you can’t talk to the person you hurt then there is a distinct lack of closure. This can result in you making up scenarios in your mind that revolve around feelings of not being forgiven for the act. You may try harder with others to not hurt or offend them as a result of not being able to make amends in this case.
* Unfulfilled expectations – Some people feel guilty just because they can’t live up to others’ expectations. They feel the disappointment over what they are not, so that who they truly are doesn’t seem to matter.
So how can you counter guilty feelings?
* Take a realistic view of yourself – Each person makes mistakes. Use them as learning experiences. No one is perfect, but you can try to do better the next time.
* List your good qualities – We all have some. Keep this list handy for times when feelings of inadequacy creep back in. Post it on your refrigerator and the bathroom mirror.
* Avoid comparisons – It is the kiss of death. Sure, we all do things differently, but that doesn’t make one method better than another. If you compare yourself to someone else, you are sure to come up short on some point. That is a good way to trigger debilitating guilt.
* Counter negative thoughts – Stop negative thoughts about yourself in their path. When you have one, counter it with a positive affirmation.
Guilt is a destructive emotion that can hurt you long after the triggering event has passed. Learn to let go and move on.