One of the most difficult things to deal with in life is the feeling of guilt. We have all experienced guilt at some point in our lives. And we all need to know how to cope with it.
Sure, it’s appropriate to feel guilty after doing something that deserves remorse. However, problems may arise if you ruminate over the guilt for an extended period of time. This is when you need to know how to deal with guilt.
One major issue with the problem of guilt is that it sometimes isn’t warranted. Yes, people can and should feel guilty when they have done something wrong.
The problem lies with people who feel guilty when they haven’t done anything. People who have hurt someone else should feel guilty, yes. The woman who is working hard and, therefore, feels that she doesn’t spend enough time with her family? It’s not really right that she should feel guilty – she is doing what she has to do.
Why do you feel guilt?
The first step to dealing with guilt is simple – it’s about understanding why you feel this way.
There is usually a reason for any feelings of guilt. This applies to guilt whether or not it is justified. First, you need to identify the reasons why you feel the way you do. Then you can take steps to stop the feeling.
Knowing why you are feeling guilty allows you to move forward to try and make amends. If you have hurt someone, you can apologize. If you have lied to someone, you can apologize.
If your feelings of guilt are unfounded, this is an incredibly important step. Most people try and avoid feelings of guilt when they come up. This is understandable – guilt is an uncomfortable feeling, and humans don’t like being uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the only way to deal with guilt is to face it head-on.
Do you feel guilt because of your own actions?
This is a tricky one to get to grips with when it comes to dealing with the feeling of guilt. Often when dealing with our feelings, we only examine our own motivations. This leaves out a huge area that also needs examination.
Things like what other people think of us and what they expect of us are vastly important. They quite often are what drives us to be the people we are. When we feel guilt, it is good to look into whether or not that guilt is external or not.
Guilt can come from our perception that we aren’t living up to people’s ideas for us. Guilt can also come from our own perception of ourselves. It is important to decide which type of guilt we are feeling.
Guilt that comes from an external source, or what we think is an external source. When you feel guilty, the best way to deal with externally imposed guilt is to try and avoid it. Linking your self-esteem to something that is externally imposed is a bad plan.
This is two-fold: one, you can’t please everybody; and two, the external validation may not even be real.
Is this guilt in proportion?
Remember what we said about the woman feeling guilty about having to support her family? When you feel guilt, you should try and figure out if it is proportional to the crime.
For example, if you did something wrong, then you should feel some guilt. No one is trying to say otherwise. But the guilt you feel has to be in proportion. If you are endlessly self-flagellating over a white lie, then you are putting entirely too much stock in how bad you feel.
Alternatively, consider the people who harbour lots of guilt over nothing. There are plenty of people out there who feel guilt and have done nothing wrong. In this case, all the guilt does is ruin their lives and make them less happy.
Guilt is there to tell us that we have done something wrong, but it is like food. Everything in moderation and you will be fine. Too much guilt, however, can result in an upset life and a slanted viewpoint.
Talk to people
Your support network is, as always, invaluable in this case. When you are unsure of yourself, talk to your friends. When you don’t know what to do, talk to your friends. When you do know what to do but want some help or support, talk to your friends.
Your friends are the ones you need the most. They are quite often the people we feel guilty about hurting. They are also the ones who will support us in working through our guilt. We can rely on our friends to help us, no matter what we do, and how we need them.
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