Guilt – How To Overcome It?

Author: Asha S.

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At times someone who is near and dear, creates guilt in you by using statements like “If It Weren’t for YOU (IIWFY).” The idea is to put the blame on you, whether you are at fault or not, often for their own shortcomings, or for general bad things that are happening.

Regardless of whether it is true or not, the person starts off by blaming you for your simplest of tasks (or blaming you for NOT having done something which they feel you should have done), and then being very vocal in confidently declaring that it is because of you that the problem has arisen, or is not being solved.

Many a time, you may know that you are not doing anything wrong. But a manipulative person can keep repeating the mantra of IIWFY till you actually start believing it, and then the guilt sets in. Even more shrewd are those who make you feel bad regardless of what you do or don’t do – what is referred to as “do and you are damned, don’t do and you are damned”.

Always be aware of such people in your close circles. Some are malicious and want to put you down, others have good intentions, but become very oppressive because they think that is how you will improve. Either way, you need to insulate yourself, stop taking the responsibility to anything and everything that happens to others, and believe in yourself. Keep positive company, and remind yourself that feeling guilty cannot undo what is already done – but it can definitely bring down your quality of life.

The dictionary defines the word "guilt" as a "feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

Guilt is an emotion that is combination of anger and fear hidden inside us.

We experience guilt when we

  • Feel you have not done something that ought to have been done or did something badly, or you did something that you should not have done.
  • Feel a sense of regret for your real or imagined misdeeds, both past and present.
  • Feel a sense of obligation for not pleasing, not helping someone.
  • Accept responsibility for someone else's problem because it bothers you to see that person suffer.
  • A strong moral sense of right and wrong.
  • An inbuilt critic in mind which is constantly comparing you to others and their actions, looking for reasons to put you down and picking on your deeds that make you feel bad about.

What does guilt do to you?

Make you become over-responsible, striving to make life "right." Make you over-sensitive, immobilize you and ignore your emotions and interfere in your decision making. On a positive note when you are proactive it can act as a motivator to change.

When we feel guilty you start to believe many things such as:

  • No matter what I do, I am always wrong and I do not deserve to be happy.
  • I am responsible for my family's happiness, and it’s my fault if others are unhappy.
  • There is only one "right" way to do things.
  • It's bad to feel hurt and pain and wrong to be concerned about myself.
  • People are constantly judging me, and their judgment is important to me.
  • I must always be responsible, and be giving to others.

Suggested steps to overcome guilt.

Recognize the role that guilt is playing in your life, by choosing a current problem and answering the following questions in a journal:

a. What problem is currently troubling you? Are you feeling guilty? To what extent & does it exaggerate my problem or my reactions?
b. Who is responsible for the problem? Is it interpersonal or intrapersonal?
c. Am I taking on another person’s responsibility? Am I trying to protect someone from experiencing pain, hardship or discomfort? What do I do to make this problem worse for myself?
d. Does this problem have more than one solution? Am I willing to try out a new method?

Once you have reached this far, understand your fears, irrational beliefs, and embark on the journey of forgiveness, use self-affirmations like –“I deserve to solve this problem”, “I deserve to be good to myself”, I deserve to receive others goodness, too! You could also try meditation and an creative visualization techniques like packing your guilt in a nice box, walking up to a mountain top and throw it off for good, bury your guilty thoughts., etc.

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