What is guilt and how do you deal with it?

During my years as a therapist, I have seen how many people live in the grip of a great ghost that torments them: their name is guilt. These are people who do not make the most of their lives because they often deprive themselves of experiences, make decisions, take on challenges, come close to their lives to feel guilty.

That’s why today I decided to write some basic ideas that will allow you to reflect on this great ghost that torments our lives and sometimes we don’t realize it.

What we mean by fault

Let’s start by exploring the term guilt a bit. We generally define this concept as an unpleasant feeling born of the sanction, The indictment or conviction resulting from “something we did or did not do and assumed we should or should not do”.

This signaling generates feelings such as sadness, remorse, lamentation, anguish, helplessness and frustration.

Little imaginary judgments

These cases can be found very easily in court cases, in which a person is convicted or given a certain sentence for committing a crime. These processes are often very emotionally trying for those involved., Easily noticing deterioration not only psychological and social, but also physical.

It is precisely on this point that I wish to reflect. In consultation, I usually quote my patients who, consciously or unconsciously, often live in a constant “trial” in which, unfortunately, it is they themselves who are forced to sit in the “armchair of the accused”.

This way, it’s about showing how trying their life is, By the very decision to “sanction or reprimand” for “what is done or not in life”. In other words, in many cases there is no such thing as an “other point”, but it is the very rigidity of the subject that is accused.

When the blame falls on you

Based on this premise, it is clear thatand guilt is the subject’s exclusive decision to condemn himself.

The upbringing and education received in general can influence the acquisition of self-punishing behaviors, but once we move into adulthood we are responsible for changing our repertoire so as to acquire emotional tools of more and more assertive.

The example of the second language

To clarify this point, I usually give the following example to my patients.

As children, parents often cannot give their children the opportunity to acquire a second language; as children and adolescents, they are subject to the possibilities that their parents allow them. And if we ask them why they don’t speak another language, they will naturally answer that their parents cannot offer this option.

But when they are adults, they can no longer justify themselves by talking about what their parents could not provide, because in theory it is absolutely their responsibility to provide all the professional tools necessary to be competitive in the job market. , and the greater the needs. tool to stand out in the professional field, the greater the effort must be to achieve it.

Likewise, if our parents could not provide us with the necessary tools to have mental health and therefore a quality of life, as adults it is our responsibility to acquire new resources. Therefore, to use guilt assertively is an absolute decision of the person. The ideal is to know how to manage these beliefs and feelings to improve our quality of life. in areas where it can improve.

Why should guilt be exterminated when it is not affirmative?

Guilt generates poignant feelings, Because it takes the person prisoner in the face of an emotional situation.

Example: imagine that a natural disaster occurs near us and many loved ones have been affected; we feel his pain and his worry, therefore, if he is within our possibilities, we run to help him, trying to give the best of ourselves in the face of such a catastrophe; it would be almost unthinkable for a person to put handcuffs on their hands and bind themselves to bed to feel the pain of their friends but unable to do anything.

This is precisely the photo taken by people who blame themselves; they are paralyzed, they lament, they feel pain, but they do not take the measures that allow them to improve the panorama. They remain “linked”, “prisoners” in their feeling without being able to collaborate.

Forms of compensation

It should be noted that sometimes people take clear responsibility for their actions, While looking for ways to fix their mistake. For example, if in a couple one of the two was unfaithful, it is possible that the error is admitted and the person has difficulty regaining trust, so that they do not remain in lamentations or sanctions. , but in the way of returning to find the emotional stability of the couple in case they want to continue together. In other words, guilt allows us to become aware of human feeling and therefore to delimit certain actions for a healthy coexistence. It would be an assertive use of guilt.

however, on many occasions people feel guilty for events that are not their responsibility. Going back to one of the examples, it would be as if the person felt responsible for the natural disaster, which devastated the neighborhood and therefore started to apologize to others and not go on with their life for the sadness. that causes the experience.

The guilt that binds us

Likewise, people spend much of their lives immersed in this “irrational belief” that they are responsible for events that belong to their own life course. And the difficulty of the case is that a circle is generated, since “Paralyze” and not look for alternative means to improve the situation, falls into constant complaint or lamentation.

This is why when people are helped to channel their guilt, they are asked if they really want to let go of these unpleasant feelings. The most important question I have to ask them as a therapist is: “Do you want to take responsibility for your life?” why this it often involves taking actions that we subconsciously avoid taking. In some cases, in fact, they find that it is more comfortable to bemoan the past than to start building the present.


Another important aspect to mention in the question of guilt is its temporality.. Guilt, as already mentioned, helps us become aware of actions that we do or stop doing that allow us to change or improve as people; but must be registered within a deadline. It has a beginning and an end, as well as a goal which, as mentioned, focuses on overcoming.

However, its use is distorted when it starts but does not stop, that is, when we feel bad for a mistake we made but constantly berate ourselves.

In legal matters, it is generally understood that a person pays a conviction only once for a crime. In this case, it is the same; the person truly regrets the harm done, apologizes, shows repentance and continues to live. however, many people find it impossible to end this and relive their negative feelings over and over again for the damage they caused to the other person.

At this point, I typically ask my patients the following question: What is the point of living with this feeling of guilt? Maybe it works for us to victimize, manipulate, or avoid taking responsibility? It is extremely important that people find the real reason they are to blame. This is the start of change.

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