Guilt is something unique to humans. When lions fall asleep at night, the last thing they’re ruminating over is the look on that deer’s face when they killed and ate it for lunch. Guilt has its purpose as an emotion, but when it’s overbaked, it can ruin your day and have a detrimental effect on your life.
Guilt is an emotion felt by all humans, at least at some point in their lives. At the same time, guilt is a taught behavior, according to most experts, even though some believe that it’s also connected to genetic disposition. Guilt leads millions of people around the world down a path of anxiety, depression, and second-guessing everything they say and do. When guilt is proportionate and kept in its rightful place, it stops people from doing bad things. However, when guilt becomes disproportionate, whether due to factors like religion or lousy parenting or anything else, it’s vital to have the right tools at hand to keep the guilt at bay and to manage it properly before it takes over.
Guilt is a powerful and volatile emotion, and even that’s an understatement. Guilt causes people to do crazy things, and often things they ultimately regret. One of the first and most powerful tips is to go easy on yourself and try not to let guilt let you down. Things in life don’t always go according to plan, and people often say the wrong things at the worst times when they didn’t even mean what they said. We’ve all been there, although some people can let things go better than others. If you said or did something bad, apologize for it sincerely, make amends as best, you can, and move on.
So you talked trash about your best friend, it happens. You ignored those texts and calls from your cousin because she drives you nuts, and you were busy that day. It’s all part of normal life, and as long as things are kept within reason, there’s no need to ruminate about things or feel too guilty about them overly. If you did something wrong and apologized for it or paid your dues another way, and followed the advice above, also forgive yourself and move on with your life. Thinking about something already done is a waste of time anyways, and beating yourself up about last Tuesday is pointless.
Write It Down
A fantastic piece of advice when it comes to counteracting the damaging emotion of feeling overly guilty is to write things down. Journaling about one’s feelings daily is known to be a beneficial and effective therapy for a range of issues and especially for guilt. When you jot down daily thoughts about guilt and other emotions you’re experiencing, you become more aware of yourself and can look more objectively at how disproportionate the guilt is and how it’s affecting you. Reading back over previous journal entries can be very therapeutic and telling, especially if you’re able to stick to it daily.
Being mindful can help a person who suffers from an overly guilty complex in several ways. When you practice mindfulness, you don’t dwell on past events nor ruminate about what the future may hold. When you focus on the present and keep your attention on today and what needs doing now, you stave off invasive thoughts of guilt or overthinking about the way you spoke to your mom last week. Another great thing about mindfulness is that it offers you the opportunity to take a step back and to take an honest and objective look at your guilt and how it’s affecting you at any given time.
Talk It Out
One of the worst things to do is keep emotions like guilt bottled up and in the emotional closet. Guilt is undoubtedly one emotion that needs talking out, and that means as often as necessary. Whether you confide in a close friend or family member or you get professional help from a therapist regularly, talk about the things you feel guilty about, and don’t hesitate to bring your guilt journal along too. Talk it out, get some direction and advice, and then move on. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on the guilty thoughts; once you’ve talked them out, put a line under them, and move on with your life. The fact is that living guilt-free or at least mostly guilt-free is the only way to live, and it’s well worth doing everything you can to pursue that end.