Guilt is the feeling of having caused harm or inconvenience to someone in some way. Guilt is actually quite important to regulating our social behaviour but some people can suffer from chronic guilt and in some cases, some suffer from unearned guilt.
Unearned guilt is a type of self-inflicted harm that takes responsibility for things that may be completely out of the person’s control. It is a burden that will eventually weigh on the shoulders and eventually will consume the person to such an extent they no longer have any room left to care for themselves.
There are no positive benefits to unearned guilt, but it’s not always easy for people to see the guilt they bear is unearned.
If you suspect you are the type of person who takes guilt and undue responsibility upon yourself, there are things you can consider.
- Any time you feel guilty, ask yourself what it is you are guilty for. You want to be able to define the responsibility you feel and are taking upon yourself. Make sure you know exactly what this is. If you can’t clearly define it, there’s a good chance you might be taking on guilt that you are not responsible for.
- Maybe you did do something wrong or disappointed someone, but think about the relative effects of these things. Not everything we do wrongly is a major event. Put them into context, apologise and learn to accept other people’s forgiveness. People are more forgiving than we sometimes give them credit for, and what we think are big issues may be relatively easy for them to overlook.
- It happens that people sometimes are disappointed in us. One of the difficult parts of any relationship is managing the different expectations of different people involved. Allow yourself to accept that you make mistakes. A small mistake does not warrant holding yourself to the emotional fire for it.
At the end of the day, guilt is a type of prison that can shackle you emotionally and psychologically. It can prevent you from being able to lead the kind of life you want for yourself; the pursuit of happiness, joy, achievement, building good relationships and good memories. Learning how to let go of your guilt, especially if unearned, can open you up to a new way of living and seeing the world.
Join us at College of Allied Educators to learn more about the limits of your abilities and discover how you can help yourself and others overcome their guilt, doubts, fears, disagreements, and challenges in order to build a happier, more meaningful life.
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