Guilt is such a strong emotion when we hold onto it or just have too much of it, at high levels it can be very paralysing for some people as well. It such a complex emotion which often doesn’t have to be embedded into reality or even rational reasoning, we can hold guilt for things we have done, things we didn’t do and even for feeling that we could or should have done more and just have that feeling we didn’t do enough. Certain types of guilt are essential in being the socially evolved beings we have become and is necessary to create a safe and healthy world to live in. Without the feelings of guilt, we would be taking lots of steps back in our emotional evolution as a race and also, we would struggle with many types of emotional connections such as empathy, compassion and our ability to relate to how other people are feeling. If we can’t accept personal responsibility for what we have done, then how can we connect to all the other emotions that we hold? With this connection, it then allows us to connect to other people and then to everything else in our world.
If a person causes harm to another, then guilt and remorse should be our first, instinctive, gut wrenching response. It has a similar physical pull to an anxiety response as it is instant, very powerful and at times it can be emotionally and physically overwhelming. Say if we are driving along and a bird flies in front of us and into the car, it’s not just the shock we feel it’s the loss for the bird and the feeling that we caused this. Guilt will be an instant response, why didn’t we see it, should we have been going slower, could we have responded quicker? Many of these thoughts will be instantly catapulted into our minds and the feeling of guilt will be responsible for us responding in this way. We then want to apologise for the accident and often strive to do better in the future, because we don’t on any level enjoy the feeling of guilt. Of course, these are all normal and natural reactions, that are safe and right to experience, but sometimes we can go beyond what is normal.
If we have found an event hard to come to terms with, guilt can get stuck like a record on repeat, we circle round the feelings, not finding an answer and then because of that we start the circle all over again. This type of guilt is debilitating as it can really start eating us away from the inside out, sick to our stomach, the pain coupled with all the other emotions just sit prominently within us. These feelings continue to shape how we view the world as we use these feelings as a foundation to our future experiences. You might be shocked to know that as children we start to feel the emotion of guilt from the age of three onwards. That’s a big emotion to carry for such a small person, and if we have guilt embedded into us as a child because we have been unable to express how we have been feeling, we will more than likely still be carrying it today. Like anxiety, guilt feelings can grow and spread, if this is happening it will often have a massive impact on our lives and our mood. We then continue to take on these emotions when it isn’t even warranted, adding to the pile of unresolved guilt within us.
This guilt grows and often the thought processes and habits connected to it continue to grow too, taking the feeling and habits of guilt to the extreme. People can suffer excessive rumination’s or depressive thoughts, which of course is a sure-fire recipe for all types of mood disorders. It’s like getting locked into a room with sky news playing all the time and everything that is happening is our fault. People with guilt issues may find that they often apologise for far too many things in their lives. Don’t get me wrong apologies are healthy, positive things to have and should never be put off expressing this if we are to blame for something that has happened. But excessively apologising just embeds the guilt deeper within us and then has that perpetuating response to our excessive guilt levels. If you apologise too much, then it’s time to stop this, you may not even be aware of where the feeling of guilt is coming from or may not have even considered that our habits stem from embedded guilt. Either way it doesn’t matter, of course like any habit some of this will be instant which will take more time to stop. But much of it will have an internal dialogue first, this is the first step, we need to think about this in a new way to help us see more clearly where we should be apologising or not. First think of someone you know who is fair, honest and would apologise if they were in the wrong but who doesn’t over apologise. Then when something happens ask yourself what would this person do? If someone bumped into them would they apologise? If they didn’t have the right change would they apologise? If something wasn’t their fault would they apologise. If the answer is no then you don’t need to apologise, over time you will retrain your mind and then those more reactive instant apologies will naturally become less as well.
Feelings of guilt often lead us to many other negative feelings about who we are as people, this can have such a massive impact on our mood, confidence and our ability to feel safe and secure inside. Take some time to trace back to when the guilt began and see what it is all about, if it’s something that happened then maybe we need to talk it through again with someone or get some professional advice. For most people, it’s something that happened as a child and we of course need to forgive ourselves and accept it’s ok to let it go. It doesn’t make us a bad person it just something that came along, more than likely it wasn’t something we could comprehend as a child. As an adult now we can see this and it’s time to accept that looking at life through the eyes of a child isn’t helpful and that we need to stop the circle of guilt and reassurance. Now is the time to be the best version of yourself don’t waste another day living in the past, it is over and there is no need to keep looking back, it won’t change it.
Make a choice and choose today, embrace life and live in the moment.
Thanks for dropping by Sara x