Healthy Ways to Deal With Guilt: 22 Tips for a Cleaner Conscience
Reader's Digest - Stealth Health
Banish the "Shoulds"
Ask anyone to define "guilt," and they hem and haw. It's a feeling that's kind of hard to describe.A feeling that I should have done something, should be doing something, should not have done something.
Actually, "guilt" comes from an Old English word that meant "delinquency." Today Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines it as "feelings of culpability, especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy; self-reproach." It's a revealing definition -- nowhere does it say that guilt is related to things you actually did wrong.
Sometimes you should feel guilty (if you've done something morally wrong, committed a crime, or intentionally hurt someone). But if you're like most of us, you walk around feeling guilty because of all the "shoulds" that come into your life -- that is, the things you didn't do. That's not only bad for your mental and physical health, but completely unfair to you. Here's how to shed some of that guilt:
1. Above all else, learn to forgive yourself. If feelings of guilt haunt you, take some concrete steps to end this self-inflicted punishment. First, list the things you feel guilty about. It could be something stupid you said recently, an act of cruelty you did to a sibling in your childhood, or a detrimental personal habit that has hurt your relationship with a loved one. Then ask, How can I forgive myself and let it go? Perhaps it's prayer, writing a letter, having a talk, making a charitable donation, or committing to a personal change. Often it's merely having the courage to say, "I'm sorry." Then do what it takes so you can honestly, finally forgive yourself. You'll be amazed at the lightness and freedom doing this can bring.
2. Set a no-guilt-allowed rule whenever you go on vacation or do something just for yourself. Often women do not experience vacations, breaks, and other relaxing activities as stress-relieving because they feel guilty that they are not doing more productive things, says Larina Kase, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Center for Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania. Tell yourself that you are taking a break and doing it for a reason (improved health, decreased stress, etc.) so there is no reason to feel guilty. As soon as you hear yourself say, “I should be…” remind yourself why you are choosing not to do that. Make sure anyone you’re traveling with knows about the no-guilt rule too.
3. Take five minutes in the morning to feel guilty. Then either do what you’re feeling guilty about (e.g., call your mother) or forgive yourself for what you did that you shouldn’t have done, knowing that you’ve learned your lesson and won’t do it again, says Rebecca Fuller Ward, a therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the author of How to Stay Married Without Going Crazy.
4. Correct a mistake rather than feeling guilty about it. For instance, if you’re feeling guilty because you went shopping on Saturday instead of visiting your mother in the nursing home, take time out of your schedule midweek for a visit. Many times, the things we feel guilty about are relatively easy to make right.
Maintaining a sense of conscience is essential to being a healthy living person that maintains responsibility for one’s actions and lives in accordance to one’s values. A manner in which we experience and sustain a sense of conscience is by experiencing guilt. As with all aspects of people’s lives, moderation and balance are critical. Any emotion that consumes one can wreak havoc on people’s lives. Guilt is one of those primary emotions that can be very helpful when experienced and channeled appropriately. For those that have been enslaved by their unreasonable guilt, they can understand the poisonous effect it can have on one’s life. The guilt can sit and simmer until it erodes an individual’s sense of self. A memory involving guilt can be replayed in one’s mind as a broken record that continuously repeats itself and only frustrates those listening. Guilt has to do with feeling bad about something one did that is in opposition to our values. This essential emotion drives us to engage in prosocial behavior. However, an overly punitive conscience that uses guilt as a weapon to control and defeat can be toxic to one’s emotional and mental health.
For this reason, it is paramount that we understand the root of guilt and the type of guilt that is being experienced in order to effectively deal with the guilt. Guilt is an emotion that can weigh heavily on one’s spirit and drain one of the joys of life. It can also influence the important choices people make. Given guilt’s massive impact on who people are and what they do with their lives, it is imperative that people adequately address guilt in a fashion that will help rather than hinder their identities and how they evolve as human beings. Carrying guilt is detrimental to one’s health. It keeps people frozen and stuck. Knowing where guilt comes from allows people to consciously deal with the guilt by making amends for something, processing the guilt or letting it go through forgiveness.
Guilt may manifest itself in several ways:
1. Natural Guilt: or remorse over something that one did or failed to do. 2. Free-floating/Toxic Guilt: The core feeling of not being a good person. 3. Existential Guilt: the uncomfortable feeling that is derived from the injustice that is observed in the world
and one’s indebted responsibilities to life in general.
Do You Know The Difference Between Healthy And Unhealthy Guilt?
Do You Know the Difference Between Guilt and Shame? By Bill Urell
Guilt is the emotional reaction people may feel if they believe they are directly or indirectly responsible for something bad happening. Feelings of guilt arise when you feel bad about your behavior and its consequences. This is different from the feeling of shame, because people who feel shame are evaluating themselves as bad.
Healthy Guilt, Unhealthy Guilt By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Guilt is the feeling that results when you tell yourself that you have done something wrong.
Healthy guilt is the feeling that occurs when you have actually done something wrong - such as deliberately harming someone. This is an important feeling, which results from having developed a conscience - a loving adult self who is concerned with your highest good and the highest good of all. People who never developed a conscience and feel no guilt or remorse over harming others are called sociopaths. These people have no loving adult self and can wreck havoc - stealing, raping, killing - without ever feeling badly about it.
Healthy guilt results in taking responsibility for our choices and being accountable for our actions. When we have not behaved in a way that is in our highest good and the highest good of all, our loving adult self will feel remorse and take over, doing whatever we have to do to remedy the situation.
Unhealthy guilt results from telling yourself that you have done something wrong when you haven't actually done something wrong. For example, if you decide to do something for yourself with no intent to harm anyone, and someone gets upset with you for doing what you want instead of doing what he or she wants, what do you tell yourself? Here are some of the inner statements that can lead to unhealthy guilt:
"It's my fault that he is feeling angry."
"I should have done what she wanted instead of what I wanted. I have caused her to feel hurt."
"I'm being selfish in doing what I want to do."
"It's my duty to put myself aside and do what others want me to do."
"If he gets angry with me, then I must have done something wrong."
"If she is hurt, then I must have done something wrong."
Many of us have been trained to believe that we are responsible for others' feelings, so that when others are angry or hurt, it is our fault. But unless you deliberately intended to harm someone, his or her feelings are not your responsibility. Others get hurt when they take your behavior personally, and they get angry when they make you responsible for their feelings. But this does not mean that you are responsible for their feelings.
You are responsible for your own intent. When you intend to harm someone, then you are responsible for the results of that. But when you just want to take care of yourself with no intent to harm anyone - such as want some time alone when your partner wants to spend time with you - then you are not responsible for your partner's upset.
Unhealthy guilt comes from telling yourself a lie. When the wounded, programmed critical part of you takes over and tells you that doing what you want with no intent to harm anyone is wrong, that is when you will feel unhealthy guilt. This critical part of you wants to control how others feel about you, and so tells you the lie that you are responsible for others' feelings.
Unhealthy guilt also arises when someone blames you for his or her feelings and you take on the blame. Many people have learned to blame others for their feelings rather than take responsible for their own feelings. When you accept this blame, it is because you want to believe that you can control others' feelings. You will feel unhealthy guilt when you accept blame for others' feelings.
Healthy guilt is an important feeling and leads to positive action, but unhealthy guilt is a waste of energy.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a best-selling author of 8 books and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process. Visit www.innerbonding.com for more articles and support.
7 Reasons Why You Feel Guilty And How To Deal With Those Feelings of Guilt
By Catherine Pratt www.Life-With-Confidence.com
Ah, feeling guilty. It really does make you feel like a huge weight is on your shoulders the whole time, doesn't it?
I used to think my entire life was run by my feelings of guilt. Everything I did or thought seemed to be governed by how guilty I felt that day.
It also didn’t seem to matter what "it" was. I’d be feeling guilty about everything and anything. Either that I hadn’t done enough or that I’d upset people when I hadn’t meant to or even that I "should" have done something differently. I’d feel guilty about so many things and my life really did seem to be just reacting to one feeling of guilt after another.
It’s very draining and distressing living with a constant feeling of guilt. It also stops you from making the most effective and efficient decisions. In other words, you’ll end up making bad decisions simply because you’re reacting to those feelings of guilt.
So, where does guilt really come from and what causes it? And, how do we deal with feeling guilty all of the time?
I think feeling guilty comes down to basically 7 main reasons and usually you'll be dealing with not just one of these but actually a combination of them:
1. You feel guilty when you're trying to avoid something
Guilt often comes from trying to avoid something. You don't want people to be mad at you, you don't want to let someone down, you don't want people to be upset because you did something.
To eliminate those feelings of guilt, it really helps if you can take a moment and ask yourself what are you thinking about? Are you thinking about what you don't want (people being mad, etc.) or what you do want? Once you focus on what you do want, then you can start thinking of actual solutions and work towards that. Usually, you'll find that as soon as you start that forwards motion, the feeling of guilt will go away.
Continuing to focus on how guilty you feel will only serve to keep you stuck feeling anxious and confused. I also find that as long as you're focused on the feelings of guilt, it doesn't matter what you do, you're going to feel guilty because that's what you're concentrating on. You'll keep thinking there's something else you should do or keep beating yourself up that you should have done more when you had the chance. You're focused on the guilt instead of the real situation.
If you turn your thoughts to focus on what you want and then ask yourself how can you achieve that, you're able to move forwards. You won't be stuck feeling like there's nothing you can do. You're able to take action which is one of the things that really helps to eliminate those guilt feelings. But, you're not just taking action to relieve your feelings of guilt, you're taking action to solve the real problem or situation.
How to Deal with Guilt: Guilt is a terrible emotion to live with, particularly if it is intense, growing and living with you every day. This article provides useful steps on how to deal with guilt. wikiHow
Elderly Parents and Dealing with Guilt: Guilt, helplessness, and the pain of realizing that you may no longer be suited, or able, to give your elderly parent what he or she needs is an enormous burden for any child to feel (regardless of age), and it will take time and a lot of patience – with yourself – to be able to deal with such feelings about parents care.