Guilt is a very normal and natural part of life. A healthy sense of guilt lets you know when you’ve done something that goes against your personal moral code and is an opportunity to take responsibility, learn from it and move forward. It’s a signal that you’ve done something that doesn’t fit with how you feel you should act.
Without some sense of guilt to guide you, you would never know if you were doing right or wrong. It’s essential that you have a good sense of guilt, but at a healthy level.
The more empathic and sensitive you are, the more you will tend to experience feelings of guilt. You may feel guilty, even when you know you haven’t really done anything wrong. This can come from low self-esteem and an unhealthy need to please others at the cost of your own happiness.
Low self-esteem and self judgement will transform rational guilty thoughts into distressing guilty feelings. Overthinking will only feed these thoughts and grow them more. It’s easy to see how guilt can go from being the essential guide that keeps us from breaking our personal moral codes into the cruel self-punisher that leaves us racked with hurtful guilty feelings.
An abusive or manipulative person may take advantage of your guilty complex. They may project their own guilty feelings on to you as a way of avoiding facing their own guilt. They may also guilt trip you as a way of coercing you into doing what they want you to do. Having a guilty complex will leave you wide open to abuse from others.
Sometimes guilt can occur when we’re trying to make sense of something that seems impossible to understand. After a loss or a bereavement, there is often a sense of guilt. This is a normal part of the grief process. However, this healthy guilt can quickly turn into a damaging and unhealthy type of guilt.
When a sense of guilt starts to affect how you see yourself, and how you value yourself, it becomes shame. Guilt is feeling bad about what you did, shame is feeling bad about who you are.
You may feel that you’re a bad person because you did something bad, or you made a mistake. It’s important to know that good people are allowed to make mistakes and do bad things. Doing a bad thing doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. You have the right to make a mistake, accept it for what it was, take responsibility, learn from it and move forward.
When you start to feel unhealthy and distressing guilty feelings it is because you are feeling overly responsible for something. You are taking on more of the burden of responsibility than you need to. In some cases, maybe you don’t actually have any responsibility at all.
Guilt is all about the burden of responsibility. Exploring the weight of responsibility you feel and getting some perspective on it can really help to improve how you feel. Exploring and processing your guilty and shameful feelings and learning new coping strategies can really lessen your sense of guilt and help you to see things in a less unhealthy and balanced way.