The feeling of guilt: what to do when we feel guilty?

The guilt is a negative feeling that appears when we do something wrong, helps us to become aware of the possible damage caused and we can do something to solve it. Guilt is an unpleasant feeling, but necessary for adaptation to the social gear and the environment.

However, sometimes the guilt seizes us, we may feel guilty without reasons for it. In these cases, the blame it stops fulfilling a function, it stops being healthy and becomes something harmful, in a scourge that imprisons and conditions us.

Keys to manage the feeling of guilt

1.   The guilty feeling It arises as a consequence of our ability to put ourselves in the place of the other, of empathy and the development of our moral conscience.


2.   To free ourselves from guilt It is essential to learn to make realistic judgments and understand that we do not occupy a central place. Sometimes, some damages are inevitable, we can not please everyone, moreover they do not even need that pleasure.

The feeling of guilt

The feeling of guilt is a negative feeling that appears when we believe that we have crossed certain moral norms and have caused harm to others. The fault develops linked to:

1. Empathy or ability to put ourselves in the place of others, since we can understand their discomfort.

2. The development of moral conscience, that takes place in childhood. Moral development makes us understand what is good and what is not. And with this distinction we are responsible for our actions.


The function of the fault

The feeling of guilt fulfills an adaptive function: it is about making us aware of the evil committed in order to repair it. In this way it works as a social gear that favors interaction. However, guilt can stop being adaptive and become harmful. In these cases, instead of being the subject who controls the feeling, the feeling takes control and causes discomfort.

How is the feeling of guilt

1 Adaptive and healthy guilt. Feeling that appears when a real damage is caused. Its usefulness lies in the fact that it helps respect rules and other people. When the feeling of guilt appears, we react with adaptive behaviors whose purpose is to solve the damage: asking for forgiveness, solving the damage, etc ...


2. Disadaptive guilt. It happens when the feeling of guilt appears without any real cause. An injury that is not real is misjudged. The feeling of guilt in these cases does not give rise to the solution and by not solving it dominates and can become destructive.

3. Absence of guilt. It occurs when you have still committed a loss, it is not valued as such.

Guilt mechanism

1. Casual action or not. Guilt begins when a conduct is carried out, premeditated or not.

2. Negative interpretation of the behavior by the subject. The mind begins to elaborate thoughts about the behavior and generates a negative evaluation of it. The action is considered as reprehensible and causing some evil.

3. Development of an emotion of discomfort. We feel bad for being responsible for the consequences of the action.

Consequences of guilt

When the feeling of guilt is excessive both in intensity and in situations, it has important consequences for people who feel guilty:

- Serious and constant emotional discomfort, which is characterized by its persistence and its ability to disturb thought and conscience.

- Feeling of contempt Toward oneself.

- Devaluation of oneself and as a result sometimes low self-esteem.

- It is usually a source of stress and anxiety, frustration and restlessness.

- It gives rise to a high self-demand, trying to control the uncontrollable.

- Generates asymmetric relationships, because when we feel guilty we release others from their guilt and carry them with them.

What do we do to not feel guilty?

Although the feeling of guilt has a necessary and healthy function, it is necessary to free ourselves from the guilt that is not adaptive. When guilt controls us, we enter a state of discomfort from which it is difficult to leave and we must know how to lose ourselves. It is not about evading our bad behavior, adaptive guilt is healthy, being able to recognize our damage is a sign of maturity and contributes to well-being. On the other hand, if it is about ending the maladaptive guilt that controls us and makes us responsible for things that escape our actions.

- Identify and understand the feeling of guilt. First try to recognize the feeling, the feeling, try to write down the sensations. Understanding our feelings helps us understand each other and understand the situation.

- Reflect on the act that caused the blame and about your interpretation of it. Sometimes this act can be assessed as negative without becoming so, it is important to recognize both cases.

- If you really did something bad, express your feelings and apologize to the person or persons harmed. Do not be afraid to say sorry.

- Learn to forgive yourself. Surely the others have already forgiven you, but the most difficult thing is to forgive yourself. Try to see it from the outside, think that it is someone else who did wrong. Understand that you are a person and that you can make mistakes, learn from them.

Celia Rodríguez Ruiz. Clinical health psychologist. Specialist in pedagogy and child and youth psychology. Director of Educa and Learn. Author of the collection Stimulate Reading and Writing Processes.

Video: Letting Go Of Guilt - How To Get Rid Of Guilt Instantly


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