Do you ever feel like there’s something wrong with you, but you can’t quite put your finger on it? If so, then you may be experiencing guilt. Guilt is one of the most common and destructive emotions that people experience, but it’s also one of the most misunderstood. In this article, we’ll discuss what guilt is, why we feel it, and how we can begin to heal from it.
Guilt can be hard to find and recognise simply because it’s difficult to accept that we have done something which lives that alive but deeply buried within us. For some, it will be on the surface and instantly recognisable. In either case, though, it’s usually something we’d rather not have to talk about.
How can guilt manifest?
Anxiety is familiar to many of us. Sometimes we know what is at the heart of it, and at other times it seems to just float in as if blown by the wind, and we are left guessing as to the cause. Inevitably some deep pattern matching will have occurred, sparking off some reaction that we cannot identify, and we delve down the rabbit hole. Sometimes, we then discover guilt.
Of course, when we feel guilty about something, it can lead to feelings of regret and remorse; these may be the feelings that predominate and masquerade as anxiety. You may even start to obsess over these feelings, which then cloud your judgment and ability to focus on your work. Like anxiety, these feelings and thoughts can continue to go through your mind and keep you awake at 3 am. This inevitably begins a vicious sleep cycle of getting little sleep and then falling asleep when exhausted, and so it goes on.
Why do we experience guilt?
My take on guilt is simple: whilst it’s exceedingly complex, it is a signal that we have strayed from our own standards at some point. We are not living according to the code we have set for ourselves. This can be incredibly painful and difficult to process because it feels like a personal failure. It’s natural to want to avoid this pain by denying that we feel guilty or that our actions were wrong. Unfortunately, this only leads us further away from resolving the issue and can result in further feelings of guilt.
You may feel guilty about a past decision that didn’t serve you well and led to regret. This can start a pattern of obsessive thoughts instead of looking at it dispassionately and learning what you can (because in all negatives, there is a positive), And then moving on.
Guilt can come in many different shapes and sizes. It might be something from our childhood that we thought we had dealt with, but it keeps cropping up. We may have been through therapy and think that should have taken care of it, but here it is again, rearing its ugly head. So, what do we do?
How can you resolve guilt and be free?
As mentioned at the start of this post, sometimes we are unaware that guilt plagues us. We recognise symptoms such as anxiety, but the root cause evades us. If you are finding it challenging to identify whether guilt is something that is affecting you, here are some questions that might help:
-Do you find it hard to forgive yourself?
-Do you replay past events over and over in your head?
-Do you feel like you need to make up for something?
-Do you put yourself down a lot?
-Do you have difficulty moving on from certain events?
If you answered yes to any of the above, then it is likely that guilt is something you are struggling with. So, what can be done about it?
Once guilt is discovered, you can begin to heal. The first step is acknowledgement. We need to be honest with ourselves about the role we played in the situation and how our actions made us feel. Once we have done this, it’s important to forgive ourselves. This doesn’t mean forgetting what we did, but it’s about letting go of the pain and anger we feel towards ourselves.
We also need to forgive others involved in the situation. This can be a lot harder than forgiving ourselves, but it’s essential for our own healing. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning what they did.
Often, we believe this is a lifetime sentence, but it doesn’t have to be. Knowing this alone can sometimes be enough to help people know that they can leave this where it belongs – in the past.
Have you already suffered enough? Now may be the time to take action? I have worked with many people plagued by guilt. I don’t even need to know the full details of it to help free you. Why not book a free 15-minute chat and see how easy it could be to live free of guilt.