There are so many situations that cause the feeling of remorse or responsibility in us – rightly or wrongly, we feel guilt at our act and omissions – this guilt can have far-reaching consequences for us and our lives. Any perceived violation of a code of conduct, either social or personal (relating to our conscience) can give rise to guilt.
Causes of guilt
There are so many things that can cause us to feel guilty. It could be something as simple as not spending enough time with a child, or something serious like infidelity in a relationship or a crime.
There is evidence to show that guilt is one of the causes of disorders such as PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) which is common after stressful or traumatic experiences such as war. A person may well feel guilty about surviving in a situation that took so many other lives. Guilt can be illogical and can manifest even when we know that something is not our fault and that we couldn’t have done anything to prevent what did happen.
Feelings of guilt can occur due to personal beliefs and convictions and also due to religious ones.
Guilt – Good or Bad?
Guilt is an important socializing factor and can keep us from doing wrong. According to Dr. Willard Gaylin, psychotherapist and author of Feelings: Our Vital Signs guilt is a useful emotion. Guilt can be a guarding of our own standards and can be what helps us tell right from wrong. It is guilt that tells us we have done something we shouldn’t have to our fellow human beings. It is guilt that causes us to make amends and which prevents us from repeating the mistake.
However guilt can become excessive and extreme; a corrosive emotion that can consume us and prevent us from reaching our potentialities. It can keep us from becoming as successful as we deserve to be. In particular women can feel lot of guilt, because women tend to be more focused on people than men are and are more worried about the possible impact of their actions on others.
How to let go of the guilt?
Firstly examine honestly if you really are at fault and deserve the guilt you’re feeling. Is someone making you feel guilty and do you really deserve to feel the way that you do?
If you do feel that you are deserving of the guilt that you feel, then accept what has happened. Confronting the situation and accepting your part in it can be the first step towards letting go of the guilt.
Understand that everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. Perhaps you are being harder on yourself than you need to be, and the person who thinks you are most at fault is you, yourself.
Seek forgiveness. When you have done wrong, try and seek the forgiveness of the person you have wronged. A sincere apology may actually work wonders for your feelings of guilt. However sometimes it could be personal or religious reasons why you feel that guilt. In that case, consider meeting with your spiritual or religious leader. If you find you cannot forgive yourself, therapy may be a good idea.