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Demystifying the Mask of Guilt

We all love to do things the right way, and we wish to feel good about it. As humans, we all make mistakes, but we become real humans when we make an effort to realize that mistake and rectifying it rightly. Unfortunately, there are individuals whose minds work in the opposite direction leading them to experience the emotion of guilt. Guilt is the enemy of human minds.

Usually, after one has made a mistake, an unusual, uncomfortable feeling of sadness or sorrow sneaks into the individual’s mind allowing them to know they have given birth to guilt. Even when guilt is considered to have negative effects, many argue that the guilt feeling can be good as it gives them the chance to realize the good and bad in it helps one be a better human.

Signs revealed by the guilty

Hidden in one’s daily life actions, the following are the commonly found socio-emotional signs of guilt: Avoid a wide range of emotions, avoid eye contact and social interactions, lowered self-esteem, overwhelmed by bad decision-making, engage in small talks, being oversensitive or (over)justify their actions constantly, putting oneself behind other until it becomes detrimental, develop anxiety or depression, constantly deliver an apology for no practical matter and so on.

Recognizing the types of guilt

Even when situations or people lead individuals to experience guilt, this feeling can vary from person to person as there are 2 kinds of guilt:

  • Healthy Guilt: This is the negative guilt feeling that arrives when one consciously perceives their behaviour or action as inappropriate and unacceptable. Healthy guilt, which is either rational or proportionate, is often experienced by those who hurt others or causes problems that otherwise could be avoided.

  • Unhealthy Guilt: Though guilt feelings about something or someone arise in individuals, it is the case where they are not to be blamed or have zero control over the situations. These guilt feelings are termed as disproportionate, irrational and misplaced.

The key to dealing with both of these guilt feelings is to maintain the stability of one’s mindset.

Dealing with Healthy guilt

Whenever individuals feel unpleasant and guilty after doing something wrong or bad, they can use the following tips as a springboard for inspiring themselves and improving their relationships:

  • Change the behaviour: A guilty behaviour may involve having said something insensitive or hurtful, or even frequently repeated behaviours that cause trouble to others. Tackle this behaviour off you by analyzing the problem behaviour and making your actions useful to others, such as initiating positive and respectful interactions with others.

  • Acknowledge before apologizing: If your actions make you feel guilty, avoid justifying yourself or shifting the blame on others (though they are involved). Instead, take time to acknowledge the damage or injustice caused to others by your actions and rectify them by delivering an unconditional apology and assuring no repetition of such behaviour.

  • Amend quickly: Before allowing healthy guilt feelings to build up in you that can lead to anxiety and cause more pain, figure out a way to put the situation before you right and modify your meaningful and worthy behaviours to those you make amends to.

  • Move on with acceptance: The sooner you leave the guilt behind you after you think you have done your best to change and prevent the repetition of the same behaviour or situation, the sooner you can get your mind focused on functioning productively. Accept your feelings by engaging in mindfulness and begin practising self-forgiveness.

Dealing with Unhealthy guilt

It is very hard to overcome unhealthy guilt as compared to healthy guilt. Fortunately, research-tested some right strategies that make it possible to maintain a stable, positive and guilt-free mindset:

  • Be realistic: In any situation, focus on the elements that are in and off your control, which will help you analyze whether the guilt in you is unfounded, unproductive or reasonable to acknowledge and can be responsibly rectified.

  • Act assertively: You can feel guilty when individuals purposely manipulate you with no good reason behind it or place unrealistic pressures on you unknowingly. This is where you need to stand up strong for yourself and if you are certain that you are right, then convey your message assertively and confidently.

  • Keep using affirmation: One can combat repetitive or constantly occurring unjustified guilt feelings by using affirmations. Affirmations help one to drive to the point to realize that they are not at fault and fosters them to feel guilt-free and positive about themselves.

  • Challenge the perfection in you: Holding themselves to unrealistic high standards, individuals develop thoughts on what and whether something they have done was up to mark or overlook what they do well. Remind yourself nobody is perfect and take time to challenge the perfectionist behaviours in you to refocus and rethink one’s standards realistically.

Despite practising the above tips, if one feels that they have not recovered from their guilty mindset, then it is advisable to visit a psychology counsellor or a therapist who will help examine the guilt feelings, reveal any guilt that is off proportion and help one to deal with these feelings productively.

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