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  • Writer's pictureMonique Verhoef, RTC


Have you ever noticed how quickly guilt can get to you; even for the smallest and meaningless things? We have all been there, or may be it’s an emotion that you are currently feeling. Guilt is an emotion that warns us that we did something wrong. Most people have learned this social development during their childhood: Guilt.

What is guilt

The main purpose of guilt is to warn us of something that we are doing wrong, and to create a better behaviour. It reminds us to evaluate our behaviour in order to prevent us from making the same mistake in the future.

Types of guilt

It is important to understand the type of guilt you are experiencing.

1. Healthy guilt: For example this can include something that you may have said to some one or neglect your family or friends due to your career. Here, the purpose of guilt you are experiencing, are to either change your behaviour or lose your family and friends. Healthy guilt helps you to adjust your ethical behaviour scope.

2. Unhealthy guilt: This involves a behaviour that does not need to be reviewed or that requires a behavioural change. For example, if you are a dog owner you may feel bad by going to work and leaving pup at home, despite the interacting and plenty of walks your dog receives on a daily basis. You may think that your dog becomes sad and suffers from the time it’s been left alone. In most situations when a dog receives appropriate daily exercise and interaction, he is in a happy place and when left alone he most likely will look forward to a long needed nap. In this case there is nothing to feel guilty about, however you still do.

How to deal with guilt

Long-term guilt can weigh a ton on your shoulders. When you are experiencing rational guilt (healthy guilt) you have the choice to take action and chance your behaviour. It’s easier to say sorry to the one we offended. However, it’s more complicated to recognize and rearrange your work schedule, which may damage your family’s quality time.

Unhealthy guilt, on the other hand can make you feel bad. And there may not even be a real reason for it.

Guilt is trying to teach us a lesson. But for most people it’s a battle of trial and error until we have completely learned our lesson, like adjusting our work hours for example.

Guilt can come from a situation you did something bad or hurtful to some one else. It can make you feel bad for a period of time. If you can identify the problem behaviour you can take action sooner and the guilt will be diminished.

Come to terms, apologize and let go! If you fail to let go, the more it will bother you and may affect even the relationship with the person or daily things in life. Certain feelings of guilt may be more complicated, but the basics of getting rid of guilt is to accept, acknowledge inappropriate behaviour, make adjustments, set things straight, and move on.

Guilt is trying to tell you something; apologize to the person that was hurt, and think twice before you do or say something.

When guilt is not trying to adjust your unwanted behaviour

If guilt, like unhealthy guilt, is not trying to change your behaviour then there is not much to learn. Instead learn how to understand whya simple behaviour makes you feel guilty, most people don’t feel guilty about. Perhaps it could be something you have been brought up with.

No one is perfect, even though it might seem so. Perfection can never be achieved. And it is OK

to make mistakes. We can learn from them and therefore create a better you! Don’t dwell on long periods of beating your self up and impairing your self-esteem because something inside you tells you should have known better. Again you are not perfect, and that is OK!

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