Guilt is a very powerful emotion that can destroy your inner peace and also weaken your immune system. Most often people who suffer from anxiety disorders also suffer from guilt feelings and worry about their future. They harbor a lot of guilt about things that may have happened in the past. It is now well known that lasting guilt can be detrimental to your health. Buried or repressed guilt feelings are like sparks of fire that can ruin the person’s mental stability. Unresolved guilt can also be very stressful. Sometimes you may be carrying the guilt from your childhood. Most likely it was not your fault but you have been carrying the guilt around for years. Guilt can also be over present behavior. You might feel deep inside that you are a mean, selfish, and inconsiderate person. You may harbor resentment because of all you do for others, and this makes you feel guilty. You might feel guilty about not treating your parents adequately. Where ever your guilt is coming from, it all boils down to the same self hate label, “ I am a bad person. I did something wrong and I should be punished.”
It has been found that people who continually blame themselves tend to magnify things and have trouble forgiving themselves. It is true that there are certain things in your life that you might have done in the past that were not right. However, dwelling on them and berating yourself will only cause negative and unproductive feelings about yourself. You can start by learning to forgive yourself.
Feeling guilty for past wrongs is a great way to explain your current dissatisfaction with yourself and life. “I deserve to be unhappy”” I should be punished for what I did.” This is why people who harbor guilt feelings have trouble enjoying the present moment and take positive steps to improve their life. Somehow, they adopt a negative and pessimistic attitude and believe that happiness won’t last for them. They don’t deserve it so why bother to try for happiness? This attitude is very self defeating and is toxic to the mental peace of the person who is harboring these intense guilt feelings. It is very difficult for them to let go of the guilt. They dwell on the bad things they did, dissecting and analyzing it over and over and try to justify their behavior. Feeling guilty brings and reinforces the feeling of self hate. It justifies the self hate somehow, and that almost feels right.
It is important to note that if someone else is blaming you for something they feel you did to them, it is even more difficult to let go of guilt. No one has the right to do this to you and therefore it is important to be aware of these situations so that you can recognize this as their problem. To let go of the guilt, you need to put it in proper perspective.
How to let go of guilt:
1. Analyze your wrong doing with a realistic and open mind. It may be difficult initially but it becomes easier as you continue to do it.
2. If your wrong doing is something you can apologize for, do not hesitate to do so. Do not worry about how much time has elapsed since you hurt someone. If you feel hurt or mistreated, find a way to let them know you are sorry. This is very important in order for you to let go of the guilt and move on. This will make you feel relieved and you will be surprised how light you will feel afterwards. This helps reduce the load of the guilt that you have been carrying inside.
3. It is also important to set a time limit on your guilt. How long will you suffer from this mistake?” Take some time alone and reflect on why it happened. What was the situation at that time and what can you do to make sure it does not happen again? Also reflect on what you can learn from this and give yourself something positive from the experience. Give yourself credit for growing, learning and becoming more responsible and mature. This definitely facilitates the healing process and sounds better than beating yourself and consequently feeling bad.
4. It is also helpful to reframe your belief system and consider yourself a human being who can make mistakes. “To err is human”, is a popular saying that I will use to elaborate this point. By adopting a new attitude,” I am human “,will give you the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. People who are smart, make mistakes and learn from them and move on to take new challenges in life versus being stuck in the past mistakes, and berating themselves endlessly.
5. It is important to let go of the guilt and forgive yourself. Say it out loud, “I forgive myself for the wrong doings. I am not going to waste and spoil my present by dwelling on the past. Life is too short and I need to make right choices. I choose to be happy now. Guilt is just useless and unproductive for my well being.” These affirmations will renew your intent to reduce guilt feelings and help ease your pain from guilt pangs.
6. Sometimes we live with people who manipulate us and make us feel guilty. For example, a martyred feeling from your spouse cause you to have guilt feelings. There are ways to deal with this manipulation. You need to identify the guilt buttons- the things you are insecure about such as work, your children, and your inability to handle social situations with your friends etc. Next, identify the people who can push these buttons and take the power away from them. Recognize you are not a child and recognize the other person is not God and he or she is not always right. Set your own standards and decide that you are in control of your life and that you have the power to make your decisions and you will not allow others to rule your life.
7. Sometimes, guilt tends to harbor in an environment of secrecy. If this is the case, bring your guilt in the open, talk about it and share with others. Just the simple act of confessing can make you realize how trivial it was and relieve you from the burden that you have been carrying. The longer you keep it inside, the longer will be suffering from it. Long term burden of guilt can make you depressed and anxious as you would tend to avoid social situations and begin to withdraw. Also, it is possinble that you will not be a pleasant company if your mind is obsessing on your guilt feelings. Good communication and confession can ease the pain you are suffering from.
8. Focus on the present. We have discussed that guilt is always about past doings. We cannot change the past by feeling guilty and that is why guilt is the useless emotion. We need to focus on the present and how to bring about change in the outcome in the future. We can learn from our past mistakes and ensure that they do not get repeated. Instead of making ourselves suffer, it is better to make amends. For example, if you could not offer help to your friend when he needed help in moving, you can offer him to help in some other way. Writer will recommend the readers to read the blog on “Joy of Living in the Present” to get more detailed perspective on this concept.
9. Believe in yourself. Inferiority complex interferes with the attainment of goals but self confidence leads to success. Therefore, it is important to have faith in your abilities and believe in yourself so that you can let go of your guilt. Start enjoying the positive things in your life so that you are not harboring guilt feelings. Do not think that you deserve to feel bad as you have done bad things in the past. When you begin to believe this, you become so comfortable with feeling bad that when good things happen, it causes anxiety, because you feel that you do not deserve to feel good.
However, it affects your mental stability and is counterproductive to your well being. People who always feel guilty have health problems as these negative feelings release bad chemicals in your body. This in turn affects your digestive, circulatory and breathing mechanisms. Depressed people tend to have a negative outlook of life and constantly suffer from guilt, and feelings of inadequacy. In order to reduce the intensity of depressive symptoms, they need to change their outlook and resolve their feelings of guilt so that they can begin to enjoy life again.
Hope this outline will help you relieve your guilt feelings and you will learn to overcome them by using effective thought management techniques. Using self talk, affirmations, and thought stopping techniques will also facilitate this process. Please refer to other blogs written by the writer on these techniques to relieve OCD, Panic disorder and Anxiety disorders.