Why We Feel Guilty

Guilt is one of the strongest emotions. It hinders personal development, preventing people from being themselves and living for themselves. Instead of the present, there are memories of the past and what makes one feel guilty. Instead of active self-development, energy is spent on experiencing pain, suppressing negative emotions, and overcoming self-disrespect. People constantly punish themselves and try to please others.

Guilt and Psychosomatics

Imposed guilt differs from rational and conscious guilt. It’s a subconscious pressure that lowers self-esteem and affects all actions. Such people:

  • Constantly apologize (even if they are the victim);
  • Sacrifice their needs and desires for others’ wellbeing;
  • Try to please those around them;
  • Depend on others’ opinions and judgments;
  • Struggle to achieve goals and overcome obstacles;
  • Consider themselves foolish and useless;
  • Suffer from an inferiority complex;
  • Feel guilty even for their emotions, like sadness or anger.

People with chronic guilt apologize to the world for their very existence. Over time, this affects their psychosomatics. Suppressed emotions and desires begin to cry out for help, manifesting in various psychosomatic symptoms:

  • Frequent colds;
  • Cardiovascular system malfunctions;
  • Musculoskeletal disorders;
  • Frequent injuries.

Another consequence of chronic guilt is self-harm or autoaggression, either as conscious physical harm or unconsciously creating failure scenarios. Such people often find themselves in unpleasant situations, aggressive relationships, or accidents. Some call it bad luck or a loser’s stigma, leading to even more guilt.

When We Might Feel Guilty: Causes

Guilt arises when one realizes they can’t meet the demands and expectations of authoritative figures (failing to meet expectations, disappointing someone). It often stems from parental demands and self-imposed standards, originating in childhood.

Family Upbringing

Conditions that foster the belief “I am bad” and the accompanying irrational guilt:

  • Excessive demands from parents;
  • Punishments, criticism, insults from close ones;
  • Comparing the child unfavorably with others or the parents themselves;
  • Rejection of the child, statements like “wish you were never born,” “you ruined my life.”

Some examples of such phrases:

  1. “Sidorov’s Pete got an A, and you again a D. I’m always embarrassed because of you.”
  2. “What kind of child are you! Everyone has normal kids, but you’re disobedient. Do good boys behave like that?”
  3. “You’re a girl, and you got all dirty.”
  4. “What are you dawdling for! We’ll be late because of you again.”
  5. “I have heart problems because of your antics. I live on pills.”
  6. “I fed you, raised you, and look what you do!”
  7. “It’s because of you the father left the family.”
  8. “You’re a boy, don’t cry.”
  9. “You’re misbehaving.”
  10. “I’m offended by you, I won’t talk to you until you apologize.”

Attention! There are numerous phrases forming the belief “I am bad.” Their essence is negative irrational criticism + punishment or a loud, accusatory tone of voice.

In summary, authoritative upbringing in the family and/or educational institutions (kindergarten, school, boarding school, etc.) is to blame. However, adults can also become victims of guilt if they’re in dependent relationships with a domestic tyrant or under the influence of an authoritative leader at work.

Manipulation by Guilt

Manipulation through guilt and pity is primitive but popular. Parents use it (“You’re leaving again tonight, have some pity on your mother!”) and adults in romantic relationships (“You’re always at work, can’t even call, while I’m going crazy here. Don’t you feel sorry for me at all?”).

People with the childhood belief “I am bad” just need to hear any reproach, constructive or not, to fall into self-accusation and self-flagellation. They are paranoid, imagining being laughed at or looked at wrongly. They fear offending someone. This is noticeable, making them frequent targets of manipulators.

What to Do with Constant Feelings of Guilt? Psychological Reasons

Guilt is part of the victim script. It’s a special type of thinking where a person is accustomed to suffering. As odd as it sounds, they feel good when feeling bad. Subjected to a specific type of “love” from parents since childhood, they have learned this model as the only correct one. Hence, the victim always finds their tyrant and savior. In psychology, this is referred to as Karpman’s triangle. To heal, it’s necessary to understand the reasons for such thinking and rid oneself of the imposed guilt.

Start by analyzing situations where feelings of guilt intensify. Note the beliefs you hear in such moments. They might even sound in someone’s voice, like a mother’s, for example. It’s better to do this in writing. This step will help find the source.

It’s important! Don’t try to completely rid yourself of guilt. Instead, turn irrational guilt into rational guilt. That is, feel it when you are truly at fault. For example, if you missed a report deadline because you forgot about it. Or didn’t show up for a meeting and didn’t bother to inform the person about it.

How to Get Rid of Obsessive Feelings of Guilt

To get rid of guilt, you need to break the victim mentality. This means learning healthy responsibility and self-love. General Recommendations How to get rid of the feeling of constant guilt:

  1. Learn to separate subjective factors from objective ones, your responsibility from others’. It’s one thing if you’re late to work because you overslept, another if you’re late because the alarm clock broke and didn’t ring. In the second case, circumstances beyond your control are to blame. You didn’t even know about them.
  2. Learn to say “no,” i.e., develop healthy egoism and self-respect.
  3. Get to know and accept your characteristics, needs.
  4. Stop pleasing others (get rid of the mindset “I shouldn’t upset…”).
  5. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Look online at how many famous people have been involved in scandals, ridiculous or difficult situations. And nothing, they came out winners. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s not scary, what’s scary is ignoring the experience and repeating the same mistakes.
  6. Learn to evaluate and criticize actions, circumstances, situations, but not yourself as a personality. You are always fabulous, but some actions and reactions may need correction.
  7. Make a self-development plan, find a future goal. It’s time to stop wasting energy on what can’t be fixed. Accept this and take care of the future.
  8. Ask for forgiveness and forgive yourself. You can use the technique of an unsent letter: express everything you want, describe the situation as you see it, determine each side’s share of responsibility, ask forgiveness for your actions, forgive the other person for their mistakes, then forgive yourself and thank yourself and them. The letter is not sent, but you can burn it. When writing, don’t choose words, monitor literacy and content. The main thing is to express your feelings, thoughts, and emotions. And if you can talk to the person in person, it’s better to ask for forgiveness in person and talk about what torments your soul.

The unsent letter will help you get rid of guilt and resentment. The latter often goes hand in hand with the first. For example, a child’s guilt towards the mother is accompanied by resentment and love for her, and sometimes even anger (“yes, I wasn’t the best child, but she could have praised me more, supported me, believed in me”). Such a contradiction of feelings gives rise to even more psychosomatic disorders.

Attention! Getting rid of childhood beliefs is not easy. It’s a psychological trauma that lives in the subconscious. If you can’t handle it on your own, you should definitely visit a psychologist.

Affirmation Psychosomaticist Louise Hay suggests fighting the feeling of guilt with affirmations:

  • I love and highly value myself.
  • I love and approve of myself.
  • I look at myself with love.
  • I discard all limitations and gain the freedom to be myself.
  • I accept myself.

Repeat these affirmations every day, but don’t forget about regular self-work (general recommendations). Self-suggestion alone is not enough to change life.

Another auxiliary measure is self-diagnosis. You can take a test right now to determine abnormal guilt and repeat it later to track therapy dynamics.

Test Therapy We invite you to familiarize yourself with the “Perceived Guilt Index” method. Authors: John R. Otterbacher, David S. Muntz. This technique can be used to analyze situations that cause guilt. It will also help track the dynamics of correcting the condition.

You will need to determine the indicator on two scales: the feeling of guilt at the present moment (G-state scale) and the expression of this feeling as a personality component (G-trait scale).

To determine the index of the first scale, choose only one word or phrase that most accurately describes your current state (the index of each answer is indicated in brackets):

  • Depressed (4.3);
  • Judging (6.8);
  • Innocent (1.1);
  • Calm (2);
  • Ashamed (9.4);
  • Unworthy (7.8);
  • Disappointed (5.9);
  • Irritable (5.3);
  • In a state of decline (8.6);
  • Restrained (3.4);
  • Unforgivable (10.4).

For the second scale, choose one word or phrase from the same list that most accurately describes how you usually experience guilt.

Compare the index of the first and second scales. The second scale is your personal norm, the first is a deviation from it in response to a specific situation. Analyzing the situation and index will help build a correction plan.

There is a second method of evaluation: comparing the index with the generally accepted norm in psychology. To determine it, subtract the value of the second scale from the value of the first and add ten to the result. If the final index is more than 10, then the experienced guilt is higher than usual. If less than 10, it is lower, which is also not the norm.

Louise Hay: Never, Under Any Circumstances, Criticize Yourself

According to Louise Hay, guilt can be eliminated through total self-acceptance and forgiveness. Only a positive attitude towards oneself and the absence of self-criticism will allow one to find harmony with oneself and the world. It also frees from psychosomatic symptoms. Louise personally verified this: she released internal grievances and permanently defeated cancer. Guilt causes a person to seek new sources of pain and punishment. After each failure, another round of reproach follows. A vicious cycle that damages physical and mental health.

In her work “Never, Under Any Circumstances, Criticize Yourself,” Louise Hay prepared several simple daily tips. They will help you change your attitude towards yourself and the world. Here are just a few of them, relevant to our topic:

  1. People who caused you suffering were just as frightened as you are now.
  2. Our beliefs are formed in childhood. Later, we move through life creating situations that confirm our beliefs.
  3. How foolish it is to punish ourselves in the present for someone else hurting us in the past.
  4. To forgive or to continue to be offended is a personal choice. We choose what to feel. It’s time to forgive everyone, including ourselves.
  5. As soon as a person gets sick, they need to look for someone to forgive.
  6. Self-approval and self-acceptance are keys to positive changes in our lives.
  7. Inside each of us lives a three-year-old child who is still scared and needs a little love.
  8. Loving yourself means valuing the very fact of your existence and being grateful for it.
  9. All the events that have taken place in your life up to this moment were the result of your thoughts and beliefs from the past.
  10. People who don’t love themselves can’t forgive.
  11. Loving yourself means defining the purpose of your life, finding your favorite activity.
  12. Guilt has nothing to do with actual events.

These beliefs are so obvious, but they are not easy to root in our consciousness. However, it must be done to maintain health.

Psychosomatics of Non-Forgiveness Guilt leads to perfectionism, the pursuit of the ideal. A person sets rigid demands on themselves, forbids making mistakes. And if this happens, they harshly punish themselves and experience severe stress. In essence, people with constant guilt live in stress all the time. This slowly but surely destabilizes all body systems and disrupts hormonal balance.

On the other end of guilt is always resentment. In psychosomatics, non-forgiveness is linked to the development of cancer. Low self-esteem, self-pity, the inability to forgive oneself and others – all these are precursors of cancer. Until a person lets go of the past and gets rid of grievances, they will live with memories. And their body will consume itself.

Attention! Psychosomatic diseases are real disorders in organ function caused by stress. To fully recover from the disease, comprehensive therapy is needed: medication and psychological counseling.

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