How to deal with guilt
How guilt occurs and manifests itself and what can be done about it
Ekaterina Sigitova psychotherapist
What is wrong with feeling guilty? It takes away energy, which could have been spent on something constructive. Learning to recognize it and work with it, so as not to subordinate the feeling of guilt throughout his life.
Every emotion has several levels.
- The first is the emotion itself: it’s how you discern what it is you’re feeling in the first place. For example, how do you recognize that it is joy and not shame? How do you recognize it? Usually by some sensation that is difficult to describe in words. Nevertheless, this inner difference makes up the first level.
- The second level is mental: what thoughts we have about this or that emotion. Like when I feel ashamed and think, “Oh, I’m such a jerk,” or “I’m a loser,” or something else like that. Or when I’m angry, I think, “What a jerk that person is.”
- The third is bodily phenomena: usually each emotion has some kind of typical bodily sensation. For example, anger often causes a rush of blood to the face, a rapid heartbeat, and a desire to clench one’s fists. When ashamed, people blush, they want to shrink into a lump, and everything inside them curls up.
- The fourth level is facial expressions and postures: each emotion corresponds to a facial expression and often a body posture. In case of fear, people often shrink back, close themselves bodily. With anger, on the contrary, an open, aggressive posture and face is typical. To understand what emotion you are experiencing, try to make your facial expression more vivid. Stand in front of a mirror and repeatedly amplify that grimace that you have that corresponds to some emotion. You may see a clownish grimace that literally tells you, “Wow, I’m so angry right now – rr-r-r-r!” or “I’m scared, I’m scared: my eyes are so dilated!” etc.
- The fifth level is desires: many emotions have corresponding desires. Something you want to do. Scared – I want to run away. Angry – I want to fight, swear, yell. Ashamed – I want to disappear.
How to catch emotion
So if you can’t feel the emotion itself, you can travel through these levels until you have a strong feeling that this is the emotion you’re looking for. How exactly that feeling will emerge, I can’t tell you, because it’s usually felt from within.
It’s the way people generally distinguish what it is they’re feeling. How do they distinguish, for example, shame from guilt? It’s always a very tricky question, and many people fall asleep on it. They think, “Oh, are they also different?” That means they have the signs of the emotion mixed up a lot on some levels, so it’s impossible to know what’s guilt and what’s shame.
Just in case, shame is usually about an underlying feeling of being wrong. That I’m all wrong, I’m all bad, and it doesn’t matter what I’ve done, I’m all bad myself. And guilt has more to do with the idea of actions and damage: I did something and it made someone else feel bad-it’s all gone.
How guilt arises
So, guilt is a negative moral evaluation of one’s behavior and the feeling of damage from it.
Sometimes the guilt comes in the form of voices in my head-mother’s, grandmother’s, or collective-society voices. Sometimes they are very real phrases from very real people in our environment. Sometimes we think so ourselves, it comes from within!
And in all of these cases, of course, it is incredibly difficult. Guilt itself is not pathological; it arises naturally in appropriate circumstances (e.g., when we have done something wrong and there are bad consequences from it). But in some cases there is what different people call “toxic” or “neurotic” guilt: when the emotional reaction is highly disproportionate to the source and basically can’t be resolved because something over which you had no control has happened.
Here’s one of my favorite examples on this subject. Imagine that a five-year-old child is given the task of unloading a wagon of iron. Would he be able to do it? No, of course not. Would he feel guilty that he couldn’t? Will he if they start blaming him for it, pointing out the irreparability of what happened and the serious damage it caused.
Is that adequate? We all understand that it is not. But that’s what we understand about the abstract child and the abstract iron wagon. When it comes to our own laden wagons, however, we genuinely feel like five-year-olds who may somehow guess they’re okay, but still feel the same way. Guilt.
Guilt is the linchpin of almost any personality crisis. Half of all people going through a difficult period feel guilty about something all the time. For not doing enough; for reacting that way; for not being able to function fully; for not helping others.
Sometimes it happens that some people feel guilty about something, and others willingly get into the position of prosecutor toward them and accuse them of just that, as in a court of law. On the one hand, this is all normal for a crisis: some people take an aggressive stance, while others take a subservient one, everyone experiences it the way they know how. On the other hand, those who are accused are not relieved of this knowledge.
How does guilt manifest itself?
We human beings are very neurotic creatures: we often tend to look for our own, however tiny, contribution to what is happening. This often leads to unproductive feelings of guilt: What could I have done that I didn’t do? What shouldn’t I have done that I did? Why did I do everything wrong? What horrible consequences have come from it?
Let’s try to figure out if you’ve had something like this, how it came about, and how it got blown out.
If you experienced guilt while in crisis, think about, or better yet, write down exactly what you felt or are feeling it for. What did you have guilt for in this crisis, if that emotion is familiar to you in principle?
There are typical trends of experiencing guilt in a crisis:
- I can’t save everyone and organize everything perfectly;
- not doing enough, not helping enough, not being enough for everything and everyone;
- I don’t meet expectations.
Unfortunately, guilt is bad because it eats up all the energy we invest in it and leaves nothing behind. Nothing constructive comes out of guilt. So our crisis task in relation to guilt, especially toxic, intractable guilt, is to do something to not stay in it, but to convert it into something else and learn to switch to other emotions. That’s what we’ll do next time.
How to get rid of guilt
Guilt is a complex of basic feelings such as fear and aggression directed toward oneself. It is a destructive feeling, which, over time, can flow into an acute form and form a number of diseases in the body, which have a detrimental effect on human health. This perception arises due to the fact that the person either did not perform or for some reason failed to perform some service. There may be many reasons for this.
Not every person knows how to remove guilt. In order to combat this disadvantage, you need to understand the root causes of its appearance in a person’s life. As a rule, the roots of its appearance go far from childhood, and to work it is not easy.
Many experts say that in moderate doses of hypertrophied self-esteem can be beneficial for a person. However, if constant feelings of guilt and anxiety are present in your life, you need to qualitatively work through your barriers.
Coping with guilt means getting rid of the inner aggressor and caretaker that claims you did wrong and incorrectly. A big feature of this emotion and complex is that a person who treats himself properly begins to put himself in last place, treats himself worse, gives him a negative attitude, and becomes a puppet in the hands of others. Guilt makes it easy to manipulate a person and allow them to do things against their will. Guilt and shame are engendered in relationships with one’s spouse, parents, or children. In order not to torment yourself with remorse, many experts recommend revising your own desires and being able to separate them from others, even those close to you.
Often these feelings can arise unreasonably. This is the case when a mother goes to work after a long maternity leave and leaves her child with a stranger or give it to a kindergarten, or when excessive responsibility at work to the boss. In such cases, psychologists recommend finding the cause of the fear and being able to identify its source. Usually there is nothing scary or unnatural in our actions. As soon as a person realizes this, the annoying feeling recedes into the background.
How to get rid of guilt for cheating
Practical psychology is replete with advice on the topic: how to get rid of guilt for treason and its cause. In any case, you need to carefully and soberly assess the situation, to understand why it happened, and to put everything in its place. It is important not to dwell only on themselves and their behavior, and to understand the reasons why your partner made such a mistake. In the case of infidelity occurred in a woman – a thorough analysis of the situation and the problem also does not hurt.
Many girls, by cheating on their partner, thus confirming their self-esteem. In those families where there is no place for affection and expression of feelings to each other so most often. If a girl realizes that this is the reason, you should sit down at the table with your partner and discuss everything properly, including the act. Raise yourself in your own eyes can be at work, in a new hobby or in appearance. The feeling of guilt in this case can easily remove, satisfying his need and admitting that what was done, can not change. In any case, it is worth understanding that the relationship with your spouse is unlikely to be like before. But it is still worth working on them.
Another common reason for infidelity and guilt is a thirst for new adventures and emotions. A close person becomes as if boring, guilty and uninteresting, but a new love infuses you with new and colorful emotions. This is very well helped by playing certain social roles, which allow you to escape from the household routine and release anger.
Working with feelings of guilt is essential. In order to effectively deal with the case, you should visit a sanatorium, take a mini-vacation or reset your head. Psychologists do not recommend communicating with friends, pouring out your soul to your ex-boyfriend or going to noisy companies. It is better to spend time alone with yourself, work through the resentment and forgive yourself for this imposed authentic situation forever.
Feelings of guilt after a breakup
Very often, the breakup of a relationship is accompanied by a false sense of guilt, precisely for the fact that you could not keep your relationship with the opposite sex. In this case, there is self-injury, which in small doses is acceptable, but destructive in large quantities. It is worth realizing that it is perfectly normal to blame yourself for a bad experience, but to consciously destroy yourself – it is unnecessary. Overcome the unpleasant state after the breakup of a relationship, you can analyze the causes of the error. Many experts advise not to go into minor details, but just to remind yourself of the emotions, impressions and feelings that arose at the stage of separation. The main beacon after the end of the relationship are your emotions. If they are positive and you feel a significant relief – you are on the right track and the guilt is worth eradicating immediately, returning to this beacon. There is no point in torturing yourself.
Many experts say that in order to be free of guilt, you should cut off all contact with your ex-boyfriend. It has long been known that men can impose all sorts of guilt on you for a bad experience in a relationship. Only in your area of responsibility is to protect the boundaries and defend them.
It is very important for a woman to feel wanted, but it does not mean that you have to dive headlong into a new relationship. You need to give yourself time to reset and understand what is important to you, both in development and in personal relationships.
Feelings of guilt over your child
It will not be possible to stop feeling guilty in front of your child from the very beginning. However, it is worth understanding that your baby can learn to manipulate you and your feelings. In adulthood, this can often be seen when a teenager manipulates his parents’ feelings and demands money for his needs. One of the most common manipulations children successfully use against their parents is crying and crying. Often little manipulators may also use phrases such as:
- “You don’t love me.”
- “You don’t give me enough time and you disappear at your job – I hate it.”
- “You won’t let me eat candy, and I won’t do my homework.”
These are the kinds of phrases the child uses when he manipulates mom and dad. To begin with, such conversations should be stopped.
Widespread cases where the mother blames herself for the divorce in the family, as well as for the fact that the father does not show attention to the child. It is important to understand that the responsibility for the separation and the relationship with the common child lies with both parents.
In a family where there are several children, you can often observe the presence of guilt in the mother for the unequal balance of attention between the children. In this case, it is important to understand that you are not the ideal mother, who can simultaneously perform both household chores and divide the attention between children. Allow yourself to be real, live and make the lion’s share of blunders, which can then be analyzed and work on the mistakes, realizing in the future its potential.
Psychologists say that it is almost impossible to eradicate guilt in front of parents. However, to reduce it to zero – it’s quite possible. In order not to fall under the influence of manipulative parents, it is important to realize
- Every person has his or her own life. Every child has the right to make mistakes. Allow your own faults and be less than perfect according to society’s perceptions.
- Designate boundaries. It is important that your parents or husband realize that each of us has untouchable territory, which can not be entered. This can be not only appearance, career or personal life, but also many other things.
To avoid being manipulated by adults, learn to give them joy and emotion. To do this is simple enough – do not live their perceptions, but just call often, genuinely interested in their affairs and health.
In order to say goodbye to feelings of guilt, you need to realize, maybe you really do not pay enough attention to your parents and need to increase it on your part? If it’s about an excessive dose of care from loved ones, it’s worth wondering whether you take the right position in his life. Maybe you’re stuck in the mind of a child, and it’s time to grow up and take responsibility for your life. The technique is simple.
How to deal with feelings of guilt over the deceased
Death is a natural and inevitable process. Sooner or later all people lose their loved ones. To experience adequate guilt in front of everyone for the passing of relatives is to torment your soul and not give a chance for a future life in bright colors.
After seeing a relative off to his or her last journey, the involuntary thought arises: what if I am to blame, but what if I should have brought something, done something, expressed emotions or better cared for a parent?
It’s worth considering that feeling guilty after the death of a loved one or partner is a normal reaction to pain. Feeling peacefully gives us the illusion that we can control the process, including the person’s passing. However, it is worth thinking about how to get in shape sooner and get over the loss of a loved one with as little discomfort as possible.
- Don’t keep grief to yourself, if necessary you can cry or express the pain in other ways.
- Ask for help from a specialist, particularly a psychologist.
A professional psychologist can help determine feelings of guilt for the deceased.
How to forgive yourself
The most common form of guilt is guilt before yourself. It seems that you are bad, not conforming to your family. However, this is not the case. The main thing is to recognize the problem, apologize to yourself and love yourself anew.
You can use some psychological techniques and methods that will allow you to work through your internal resentments and shortcomings. Analysis of your inner world can be done with the help of an ordinary piece of paper. Write down all your shortcomings, resentments. Under them, write: “I forgive myself and accept completely. Take your time to analyze and make decisions. Think about what positive qualities you have and how you should develop them in order to achieve success in life.
Remember, your psychological state is only in your hands. Until you realize that the salvation from remorse is yourself, no books, movies and videos will save you. Your happy life is with you, so forgive yourself and find the strength to live a happy and joyful life!