While disturbing for most people, guilt is a normal emotion. We usually feel guilty when we think or know that we did something wrong or failed to something. Guilt appears as a natural emotional response when we hurt another person. We feel uncomfortable, unpleasant, and upset, and these feelings usually motivate us to correct the mistake and apologize. Also, the feeling of guilt motivates us to feel remorse and behave more responsibly in the future.
Since guilt is related to our moral code and our behavior, a moderate amount of guilt can be regarded as adaptive. Guilt relies on our compassion and empathy for another and it helps preserve social connection; we feel guilty when we cause harm to another being. In other words, guilt involves a sense of responsibility or regret that relates to our behavior.
The Difference Between Guilt and Shame
Although guilt and shame are closely related, they are not the same concepts. While shame comprises negative feelings about self, guilt is related to some specific harm (real or perceived) we caused. You may feel guilty about a certain act without feeling shame. The tendency to feel excessive and enduring shame has been associated with anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
You may feel guilt over things you did wrong. Nevertheless, you can also feel guilt over things you believe were your fault or even things you had no responsibility for.
Many people suffer from excessive or chronic guilt for things they cannot control. Excessive guilt is unproductive. It can decrease your self-esteem and cause feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, self-criticism, and shame.
What is a Guilt Trip?
Guilt may cause others to take advantage of you. For example, if you are in a relationship with a narcissist, your extreme and chronic feeling of guilt might cause the narcissistic partner to use your guilty feelings as a tool to get you to do things they want, which is known as a “guilt trip”.
How to Overcome Guilt?
It can be difficult to release guilt, especially if you suffer from chronic feeling. But it is possible. Here are the three best anti-dotes for guilt.
1. Practice Mindfulness Meditation for Guilt
Guided meditation for releasing guilt can help you regain self-respect and boost your self-compassion. Mindful self-compassion helps you comfort yourself when you feel guilt. It provides an opportunity to come to terms with your guilt, helping you to understand the causes of your feelings. Meditation practice can also help you understand that guilt does not define you, ease the pain you feel and boost your self-love and self-acceptance.
2. Forgive Yourself
Understanding that everyone makes mistakes will improve your self-compassion and help you accept your faults and wrongs as part of a unique life experience. Guilt is a conditional emotional reaction, which means that we learn it. So, replacing guilt with self-compassion will help you stop self-judging yourself and let go of reasons to hold onto any remaining guilt. Furthermore, self-compassion leads to compassion towards others, which should eventually leave you with fewer reasons to feel guilt
3. Seek Support
If you’re struggling with feelings of toxic, overwhelming guilt, look for help. A qualified and experienced therapist can help you understand the root of guilt and help you address it. Counseling can help you overcome feelings of guilt and prevent them from affecting your mental health and overall well-being.