In our lives, we experience sensations of all kinds through the situations we live in. As we know, some produce well-being and are pleasant to us, and those that we call positive. On the other hand, those that make us uncomfortable and can get to have a terrible time are those that we call negative. The blame is placed on the latter. Nobody is exempt from having experienced this sensation that can be so destructive. Guilt can have profound roots, perhaps triggered in our early childhood and accompanying us throughout our life cycle until adulthood. If we think about it, many of the phrases we receive in the first years of life were mainly intended to control our behavior by projecting a feeling of guilt: “what you just did is very wrong; you should be ashamed of it.” These are situations that, without a doubt, can be more or less familiar to all of us. Therefore, it is necessary to remember that in life, we can adopt two types of roles: that of the person who drags a feeling of guilt throughout his life (and the consequent victimhood) or free ourselves from those yokes, repair possible errors and avoid states chronicles of unhealthy anguish and resentment.
#1. Anatomy Of Guilt: Understand What It Is and How It Works
Guilt is primarily an emotion. It’s a negative state where sadness, pain, bitterness, and anguish are also integrated. They are not very comfortable internal dynamics, and that in the long run can even lead us to states of clear defenselessness. Likewise, it is interesting to know that this dimension has extensive clinical and scientific documentation. In fact, in a study carried out at Vanderbilt University in the United States, it was shown that after depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and even eating disorders, it inhabits a large part of the occasions a feeling of guilt. This emotion that arises after a behavior, a situation for which we believe we are responsible or even as a result of those projections that our parents could direct on us in the past, impacts on oneself in different ways:
Physical influences: The psychophysiological activation of the feeling of guilt manifests itself with pain in the chest, stomach, head pressure, and back discomfort.
Emotional influences: Irritability, nervousness, and we often identify it as something similar to sadness.
#2. To Cope with Guilt, Accept Its Existence but Do Not Intensify It.
Nobody is supposed to like being their own executioner; however, we end up being it in most cases. Many actions that we take help increase the feeling of guilt. Without even realizing it and frequently, we can generate a discomfort that is as useless as unnecessary. These mental actions are the ones that can feed our feelings of guilt the most.
So, let’s see what the mechanisms that feed guilt are like and how they work.
#3. Beware Of Polarized Thinking.
One of these actions is highly polarized thinking. Everything before us is black or white within this vision, but we can see nuances and a wide range of possibilities and circumstances on rare occasions. Thinking that things are good or bad, positive or negative, drastically reduces our vision and leaves little room to maneuver. It is a form of rigidity typical of perfectionism, with a strict system of rules.
#4. Don’t Shy Away from The Emotion of Guilt; Understand It.
Another is the way of coping. Coping with guilt does not lie in stopping feeling this emotion, eradicating it, or avoiding it. The meaning is to let it feel and then consider, reflect, why it has appeared. It seems inevitable, and it will frequently appear in our lives, and of course, it will hurt. “The secret of serenity is to cooperate unconditionally with the inevitable.” -Anthony de Mello-
#5. Your Internal Dialogue Should Not Be Your Enemy.
The last of the actions that help us increase the feeling of guilt is internal dialogue. We should be able to talk to ourselves without blaming ourselves. When we experience the shadow of this emotion, the ideal is to ask ourselves: Why do I feel this way? What is the situation that has caused me the guilt? Can I assume this guilt without making it bigger or underestimating myself for it?
#6. Understand, Mediate and Heal Guilt
Guilt is an emotion that acts as a warning. It is an alarm system from which we must not flee. The idea, therefore, is to reflect on what has caused it and understand why we feel that way. It’s like learning to know where we need to focus in our lives to deal with vulnerabilities. This constructive analysis avoids suffering and discomfort that have nothing to do with guilt but our devaluation and misunderstanding. In this way, we can provide a solution and understand that there are alternatives to face the situation in which we have felt guilty. Guilt can be mediated, for example, by not having apologized to someone for our behavior. Other times, by thinking that we have acted with little success, with little effort, or in the wrong way. Understanding, therefore, that there is often an error to repair allows us to deploy a mechanism of action and repair.
It is part of our responsibility to understand ourselves without falling into our own devaluation, punishing ourselves or disqualifying ourselves, unfairly thinking that we are wrong or selfish, and there is nothing to do about it. This leads us to a loop where we waste time and self-destruct without solving anything or taking the actions that lead to the external solution and our internal conflict. Let’s learn to manage guilt in a practical, constructive, and, above all, healing way.