Guilt is a feeling that manifests itself in the form of remorse in people; it reminds them over and over of a mistake committed or not committed in the past (such as getting the wrong result for the right action you have done.)
Due to which people suffer from severe mental diseases, and this feeling of guilt settles in their minds by making a home.
They’re compelled to think that whatever they have done till the date or whatever they will do in the future, everything will go wrong, from which they will never be able to forgive themselves.
When people start feeling guilty, they set stringent standard values of themselves, which if not fulfilled, they begin to see themselves as a criminal.
Feeling guilty is that type of category of remorse in which people hesitate to make eye contact with themselves and see themself as inferior. Feelings like guilt sometimes put you in a situation where you start believing yourself wrong even though you are not.
There are many such moments in life where one can feel dreary, disappointed and sad with himself. It is normal, but if this apathy, sadness, trouble or despair in the person has arisen due to some regret and it is very old, then understand that this is a feeling of guilt.
And it will push the person towards negativity, and due to this, the person could have serious mental illnesses like depression.
Due to guilt, if a person starts getting angry on small things, is always anxious, or repeatedly curses his past, relatives, friends, or himself. That person should get himself treated by a psychiatrist at the earliest.
The psychiatrist will understand your guilt and try to reduce it successfully.
Psychotherapists cannot change you, but with the help of your feelings, they can guide you on the right path. Due to which your morale will start to increase, and you will slowly start coming out of feelings of guilt.
Before dealing with guilt, it is essential for you to understand what type of guilt problem you are suffering from. Which is the guilt that is forcing you to adopt a harmful lifestyle.
And below, we’re going to look into that.
5 Must-Haves to Stop Feeling Guilty
|Learn From Past Mistakes||✅|
|Walking, Meditation and Reading Books Are Essential||✅|
Types of Guilt
A palm has two sides. A dish has two surfaces. And even a coin has two sides which you already know — it’s a favourite example of many.
When you look outside into the real world, you’ll find numerous examples filled with many faces. If something has to exist in the 3D world, it must possess 3 dimensions or even more.
Based on this same principle, guilt, too, has sides. However, they’re not 3 dimensional but enough to make you feel bad.
Or help you realise something magnificent.
The possible types of guilt people likely to feel once in their lifetime are,
- Negative Guilt,
- Positive Guilt.
And these two types of guilt further consists of different types that might keep you uneasy for days. Each type has its own reason to occur in your mind and remains there for a short period to prolonged if not treated.
Even more, in the absence of treatment, the possibility of you becoming a person of habit is high. Therefore, it’s better to hurry than… you know already. Don’t you?
What’s Negative Guilt?
The feeling of guilt that eats you inside and does the opposite work for you, in the end, is Negative Guilt. It could be short term to long-term. And sometimes harder to treat. The same as Guilt, it also has types,
1) The Feeling of Guilt Without Committing Any Offence
In this type of negative guilt, the person starts blaming himself even without making any mistake.
Due to this type of guilt, the person suffers quickly and for a long time.
To feel guilty without committing any crime, to declare oneself guilty without any fault, is in a way very disturbing. In this type of guilt, the person considers himself the cause of someone’s death or feels guilty of someone’s loss.
In both cases, the person falls in his own eyes. He starts looking at himself with an inferiority complex, doesn’t like to go out, and starts separating himself from the world.
If you’re looking for an example, then Marsha’s story that Bessel van der Kolk shared in his book The Body Keeps the Score fits right here.
On an average day, she, a forty-year-old schoolteacher from a suburb outside of Boston, picked up her five-year-old daughter, Melissa, from day camp.
While they were going on their way, Marsha heard a continuous beeping; it showcased that Melissa’s seat belt wasn’t correctly connected.
So, she reached over Melissa’s side to adjust the belt. While doing that, she ran a red light. And because of that, another car smashed into hers from the right, killing her daughter at once.
Marsha was injured and carried in the ambulance to the hospital. During that commute, the seven-month-old embryo Marsha was carrying also died.
That tragic incident changed Marsha from a cheerful woman to a depressed person filled with self-blame. She remained in the feeling of guilt for 13 years until Bessel van der Kolk treated her successfully.
This is what negative guilt can do to you, whether you like it or not.
2) Feeling of Guilt When We Have the Privilege and Others Don’t
Just like life, our mind is unexpected. Regardless of a situation, it can pop up anything in our consciousness that sometimes feels terrible.
It can make us think about anything while we look at different objects of the world. Perhaps, you’re thinking something right now looking at these words. Like they’re getting inside your mind letter by letter.
The same happens to us when we see people less privileged than us. Or a poor – completely unprivileged person with no luxury or comfort.
In that moment, we think what good we have done that we have this luxury and he doesn’t. Why does he have to live on the street and me in a good house? This thinking soon guides us in the direction where we think, “This man has nothing, and still he’s living with a smile. And I’ve things even though I behave I’ve nothing.”
And this is where we start to feel guilty. First, for us having things and that other person not. And second, for behaving like we have nothing even after we’re in a much better situation.
Unlike the previous guilt, it remains for a short time, but as long as it lasts, it gives us a hard time.
Despite its category, it could turn things very much in our and others’ favour if it’s taken right. Primarily, people don’t focus on this feeling of guilt. For a little time, they feel bad and then move on with their life.
Also, neither action is needed to overcome this guilt emotion, nor you’ll become a terrible person in the absence of treatment. This particular negative guilt will pass eventually.
However, there are examples of people who did great because of this feeling of guilt, such as Gautam Buddha.
In his early time, he felt wrong about people who were lesser than him. He was in guilt because of the thought of why he has all the luxury and others don’t.
But, in the end, this feeling of guilt made him find the 4th largest religion in the world.
What’s Positive Guilt?
Positive guilt is the type of remorse that occurs most of the time after an action has been performed.
The same as negative guilt, it troubles your mind but motivates you to do something good if not ignored. Because if you ignore positive guilt, then soon you’ll stop realising your mistakes.
And once you do that, you won’t care if it hurts someone.
Unlike negative guilt, it requires an action afterwards so that you won’t repeat your mistake—for example, an apology. So, you won’t become selfish, irresponsible, and a person of habit. Simply put, a true criminal.
And to not become a criminal, sometimes feeling guilty is necessary.
The following are the fragments of positive guilt that people feel once in their lifetime,
- Unintentional guilt – Feeling guilty because of an unintentional crime.
- Intentional guilt – Feeling guilty because of an intentional crime.
- Transformational guilt – Feeling of guilt that motivates you to make amends.
- Cautioning guilt – Feeling of guilt that prevents wrongdoing.
1. Unintentional guilt
In a particular situation, when a person takes an action that he believes to be right at the moment but later, the outcome describes a different picture, i.e., he has done wrong and is bound to feel the guilt.
The person himself accepts that he did wrong and what he’s going through is an effect of his crime.
For example, if you are a teacher and you wallop a student on some of his mistakes, after that the student got sick and could not appear in the annual examination due to which he could not pass and got one year behind.
Now you start to feel guilty that the student failed because of you.
You will start to feel that if you had not punished him severely on that day, then maybe he would have been able to take the exam, and his year would not have been ruined.
You will also start thinking of many different ways that could have been used to punish the student rather than the severe punishment you gave.
Like you could have talked to his parents or even explained to him once, and many such thoughts will start bothering you.
From this feeling of guilt, you’ll probably come out, but it did worry you for a while.
You unintentionally committed the crime, but you started cursing yourself because it ruined a whole year of the student.
2. Intentional guilt
In this type of guilt, the person knows he’s committing a crime or doing wrong. Still, he realises his mistake only and feels guilty after being made aware by an outsider or his family members, either by punishment or words.
Or a loss happened to his trusted person or family because of his crime.
There are many examples of this type of guilt, such as theft, assault, indecent behaviour with someone, murder, and cheating.
Moreover, other than realising his crime by an outside force, sometimes a person feels guilty of his offence on his own as well through enlightenment.
Or you could say self-realisation. But, it’s rare, for example, the incident of Mahatma Gandhi stealing money.
What! Mahatma Gandhi stole? That’s unbelievable. Yes, it is, but that’s what it is.
In his early days, Mahatma Gandhi, to help his brother, stole a hit of gold from the other brother.
But that stealing couldn’t let Gandhi sit with ease. It haunted them over and over, and they finally decided to tell their father about it.
To do that, they wrote a letter mentioning everything about the incident and what they did. In their letter, they promised their father that they would never steal again and wished to be punished for what they did.
Their father was ill during that time. So, Mahatma Gandhi went to their father’s bed, handed the letter to the father and sat down quietly near the bed.
While reading the letter, the father started to sob; tears rolled down from cheeks. And as Gandhi watched the tears, their heart was engulfed with guilt. Their father’s tears affected them enormously, and that day they took a solemn vow never to do an unrighteous deed again.
That incident became a turning point in their life, and they always strived to be good and truthful.
3. Transformational guilt
Humans always try to achieve a particular goal or some kind of standard that’s set in their minds. For instance, potters try to make more and more pots. Students try to get better scores despite their preparations. And workers try to earn more and more.
Still, there are times when we cannot achieve what we set out to. And that’s where we face transformational guilt.
Though, it reminds us over and over that we scored low or done little. But it also motivates us to do better next time. It didn’t let us sit with what we had accomplished.
Simply put, transformational guilt creates a feeling of restlessness unless we do something good or better than the previous.
However, if you’re restless despite achieving something good and better, then it’s not transformational guilt. Instead, you’re an insatiable person.
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4. Cautioning guilt
If Gandhi had felt the cautioning guilt, he might’ve not stolen the gold from his brother.
Cautioning guilt is the type of guilt that stops you from doing something unethical to yourself or someone else. For instance, you’re married to a lovely and adorable woman.
Who cares about you more than herself. And even you love her like you never did before.
But, there’s another person where you work. She’s attractive, sexy, and out of your league. Still, many times she has given you hints to make out with her. And her signals excite you like hell.
Now, humans are human. Despite your resistance, one day, you give in to your temptations.
You booked a hotel room and went there with your super seductive colleague. Nevertheless, before anything happened, a feeling came into your mind. “What would happen if my wife found out about all this? How will I ever face her? She’ll be broken, and I can’t see her broken.”
And there you feel the shame. You feel the power of cautioning guilt.
Despite your colleague’s position on the bed, you left her there and took a deep breath outside the building, finding yourself lucky not to do what you’ve wanted to.
Now, enough with the types. Let’s check out how to get rid of guilt. Or understand how you can make a better relationship with it.
7 Common Causes of Guilt Emotion
- You have damaged one’s trust.
- Failure to fulfil the commitment made to oneself.
- Physical and mental injury to someone caused by you.
- The conflict between personal values and the choices one makes.
- You are prioritizing your personal needs, even when you internally believe that you should take care of the needs of others.
- You are comparing yourself to others.
- You are making the mistakes made in the past as your centre.
What Happens When You Live With the Guilt?
- The person starts isolating himself.
- Anger and abuse have become the person’s nature.
- The person starts behaving in a dramatic way to prove himself a victim.
- Self-harming behaviour (body picking, abusing your body with food, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, self-mutilation, being accident-prone.)
- Fighting with family members, sabotaging things at home and the office.
- Believing that you don’t deserve good things.
- Believing that nothing good will ever happen to you in the future.
- Expecting great sympathy for oneself from others.
- You are talking negative things to yourself.
- Shedding tears alone (crying in the kitchen, bathroom, toilet, a closed room, etc.)
- Self-talking with remorseful thoughts like; I wish it didn’t happen, I wish I’d done that, I wish she could talk to me, I wish this relationship never happened, I wish she were alive etc.
How to Deal With Guilt? An Important Aspect of Guilt Emotion
Guilt is a powerful negative emotion – the same as anger. But it depends on you, how you deal with it or use it. Either for positivity or wells of darkness and despair.
Feelings of guilt grip a person in a way where he starts talking to himself to prove himself right. He feels as if he is talking to people in reality.
These feelings isolate a person from the real world entirely. It makes the person’s outlook negative in almost every way.
In reality, guilt does not allow a person to come out of his past.
A person who’s living with guilt which in some way is a severe mental illness, loses control of himself and goes into depression.
Due to guilt, a person wouldn’t suffer from diseases like depression and know how to deal with them: The following tips have been suggested, keeping everything in mind.
Nevertheless, before you head over to these suggestions, first, what’s necessary to do is, find out which guilt you’re feeling. Because, if you don’t know the disease, you cannot treat it well – as we Nathawat Brothers always say.
If you are living with regret, you must have some complaints about yourself.
It is possible that they may be related to your past, in which any of your wishes may not have been fulfilled, or you may have hurt someone’s expectations.
Or maybe you have caused physical or mental harm to someone, etc.
One thing is evident among all the reasons that you are feeling delinquent. And you feel this in such a way that you see punishing yourself as the only way to get out of it.
You think of different ways to punish yourself, but the truth is that you do not want to face your guilt in front of you.
You definitely keep thinking about it in your mind continuously, but you shy away from seeing it in the outside world, hearing about it from another person.
You constantly talk, argue with your guilt by being the other person alone but are afraid to share it with someone from the outside world.
And why you’re afraid, ’cause you overthink about the “what will others say” shame. Because, in that case, your guilt will not be hidden, and you have to listen to the thoughts of outsiders.
Thus, keeping this fear in mind, rather than dealing with guilt and shame, you become used to being alone with them.
To get out of this type of situation, write down your guilt. Remember your mistakes made in the past, do not talk to them.
Feel them at ease, do not get tied to them.
Share your guilt with someone you trust, a private person, a member of your family, or a loved one.
This will ensure that they will easily listen to you and tell you the difference between right and wrong, which will help you understand your guilt.
They’ll tell you how wrong it is to be in your guilt. When you reveal your guilt to someone you trust, it is sure that you have found the energy to let go of your self-blame.
You have walked through the door of embarrassment that kept you locked in a room of humiliation until now.
Your trusted person will take a positive approach to your guilt and guide you on the right path to positive thinking, which will gradually help you overcome guilt and avoid blaming yourself.
2. Apologize and Move On
If someone else is the cause of your remorse or self-blame, the same person will undoubtedly be the solution to your problem.
If you have caused any kind of harm to any person and because of that you are upset, you’re feeling guilty; then you should apologize to that person.
Your job here is only and only to apologize. If that person doesn’t forgive you, you don’t have to think about it too much, and forget everything and move on.
Many times a person tries to apologize, he wants to get rid of his self-blame, but many reasons prevent him from apologizing.
The person thinks that if he apologizes, he will look weak in front of the other person or that the other person will not respond to the apology he asks for.
Or, by apologizing, you may look wrong in his eyes because forgiveness is sought only on a mistake?
No, that’s not right.
Because forgiveness is also sought to reduce the distance in the relationship. It is also requested to set up a new life. It is also asked for the happiness of others. And it is also sought for eradicating hatred towards ourselves from one’s mind.
Therefore, it would be wrong to think that you ask for forgiveness only when you make a mistake.
And apologizing to someone will only and only weaken you is also wrong to think.
If these kinds of thoughts keep you stuck inside, then you can never take positive initiative.
All these negative emotions start teaching you the lesson of your dignity. This makes you enter a negative style of pride, and you start saying to yourself, “Why should I apologize to them? I didn’t do anything wrong,” even when you know at the time that you are wrapped in a blanket of remorse.
Apologizing will not destroy your potential, but you will come out of a bigger problem. Your ability to understand yourself will increase, and you will come out of this quagmire of self-guilt.
You must understand that mental peace is the most significant power, most considerable pride, and most cherishable respect in this modern era.
3. Accept Reality to Cope With Guilt
If you want to be free of guilt, you must first accept the problems that are forming in your life. The reason for any sorrow, regret, or problem is that we cannot accept our present. Due to which we leave our present and start living in our past.
And the people living in the past always waste their today in wishing for the good. They insist on not accepting the truth, and this stubbornness leaves them alone to repent for life.
If your guilt is true, then you should accept it and move on.
But instead, what we do is get hooked to it like I wish I didn’t do this, or I wish I did that.
And there are many things that we look back on in the past over and over.
By doing so, we create a canker of remorse for ourselves, which we keep alive by scratching with our own guilt. You should understand that by thinking about the past, you increase your self-guilt and not destroy it forever.
4. Self-Forgiveness to Stop Feeling Guilty
A person can forgive people very easily for the mistakes they’ve made because, at that time, he considers himself like a king and the other person lesser than himself who is asking for forgiveness.
But the mistake made by oneself appears very small to the person in front of his self-respect. The person is never able to accept the mistake made by himself because of his ego.
And when a person does not accept any mistake, then what will he apologize for?
It becomes complicated for any person when he is living his life in remorse because of some crime or mistake, and on the other hand, his ego is not allowing him to accept his mistake.
This type of problem imprisons a person after a time in the cage of self-guilt, from where he wants to get out but doesn’t have any idea how to forgive himself.
Sometimes a person makes some such mistakes in his past, which he regrets his whole life. He suffers from severe diseases like stress, depression, anxiety disorder, heart disease just by remembering those mistakes.
The person keeps thinking only about the humiliation and embarrassment due to his mistakes.
He cannot even muster the courage to forgive himself, and the person’s alienation starts from here.
- Whatever has happened in the past, you have to forget about it and move on.
- You need to know the nature of your guilt.
- According to Eastern Philosophy, you have no control over what has happened to you in the past.
- Don’t run away from your guilt, but accept it.
- Stop getting angry with yourself.
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5. Learn From the Past Mistakes and Overcome the Feeling of Always Feeling Guilty
To break free from your self-blame, you have to forget about your past mistakes and think deeply about what you lost from those mistakes.
Was it the trust of an acquaintance or the love? Or the companionship of your life partner? Or the happiness of an acquaintance, or the kindness of an acquaintance?
Or maybe you have taken your mistake so much to your heart that you have lost your life’s joy and satisfaction.
As we discussed earlier, a person often thinks about his past that I wish I had done this, or I wish I had not. He repeatedly sees every scene from his memory from each point of view and gets distracted, which is inevitable.
He also knows that he cannot change the past but can rectify the embarrassment or humiliation, or guilt he has been living because of the past.
Often people get so caught up in guilt that they fail to realize that their guilt has become a past and that they have no control over what they have done.
Learn from your past mistakes, and commit yourself never to make the same mistake again.
Before you get bogged down by depression and severe mental illness, you must leave your past behind. You must accept the present for a better future. Looking back over and over again and reflecting on your memories will not fix what happened.
You can’t recreate events by replaying scenarios with different imaginary outcomes, but you can learn from what you did wrong or inadvertently go wrong or your unnecessarily blaming yourself. Consider the questions given below carefully.
- What did you do wrong?
- How much wrong did you do?
- Why did you do wrong?
- Did you need to make a mistake?
- Can your mistake never be forgotten?
- Can a wrong done by you be corrected?
- Can thinking about the same topic over and over again make you change it?
- Anything different you can do to correct your mistake?
6. Consult a Psychiatrist for Dealing With Guilt Better
If your guilt has become very dominant in your life, you do not see joy and satisfaction in your life; then you must consult a psychiatrist.
The psychiatrist will talk to you about the symptoms that have led you to feel guilty. This can be 3 to 4 or sometimes even 7 sessions in a month, depending on the severity of the mental illness.
A psychiatrist can’t change you, but he can understand your guilt and tell you how to deal with it.
The psychotherapist will share several methods that you can use to slowly enter a new lifestyle better than the present and different from the previous. You can’t expect the same life you had before feeling guilty.
Due to severe embarrassment or constant remorse, the person cannot get rid of the guilt, and due to such negative feelings, he starts finding every task difficult.
Guilt causes a person to have frequent intrusive thoughts. He also thinks about depression, trauma or abuse. If a person feels hesitant to make a decision, it becomes difficult for him to get out of guilt.
The situation usually gets worse if the person makes constant efforts to avoid these severe feelings.
Over time, guilt and remorse build up and can affect the relationships around you, and stress is almost sure to add up to daily life.
Guilt emotion can cause difficulty in sleeping, and due to this, there is a direct impact on both the mental and physical health of the person. He starts getting used to bad habits, and to get himself out of this dilemma, he starts misbehaving with himself.
If sadness, self-blame, deceit, crying, rumours, and regrets flow through conversation in someone’s daily life, then it is enough to isolate the person from others.
Professional support is very much needed to diagnose this type of problem.
A skilled therapist can guide a patient by helping them identify the causes of guilt, addressing them, discovering skills for effective coping, and developing greater self-compassion.
7. Walking, Meditation and Reading Books Are Essential
When we’re going through self-doubt and pity ourselves for the wrong we did, thoughts are always there.
Thoughts are the things that make us or break us. But, somehow, some simple things can help us channel our thoughts in a better way.
And those things are,
- And reading Books.
Walking helps us take some time off for ourselves — from the environment that forces us to think about the thoughts that regulate feelings of guilt. Nevertheless, while we walk, there are chances that we encounter those thoughts again and again.
But, there’s a difference. Because this time we’re surrounded with other creatures, scenery and our path.
Your mind will repeatedly wander to those troubling thoughts, but it will also return to its surroundings. So, you’ll not completely lose yourself in them.
Moreover, when you practice meditation, it will give you another power—the power to understand your thoughts. And if you lose yourself in the endless loop of thinking, this power will help you come back to the present task, which is walking and breathing.
By reading, you’ll learn a lot of helpful, practical, powerful, and knowledgeable stuff that would help you develop your self-argument skill, which further assists you to tackle down the negative thoughts that arise due to guilt.
Overall, by implementing these activities into your lifestyle, you’ll be able to overcome feelings of guilt. And perhaps, you won’t even need a therapist to help you deal with your bad conscience.
I hope this article has helped you understand why we feel guilty and how you can overcome it beyond expectation. Using the ideas mentioned above, I believe you’ll be able to deal with your guilt without taking help from another person. But, as far as it’s concerned, a hand is always and will be helpful.
Therefore, whenever it’s possible, never miss asking for help. Now, go and do something good and meaningful with your life. If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and people you know. Because you never know who’d need it the most.
Thank you for giving your time, and I am confident, as you’ve read this post, whenever you’ll say, “I feel guilty,” you’ll know what to do with it.
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1 thought on “Feeling Guilty? Types, Why We Do & How to Overcome It”
Wonderful article. Thanks so much. Very positive and compassionate.