February 11, 2014

Understanding Guilt

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Guilt, is a driving force that is as common as love and as damaging as hate. It is more insidious, more difficult to escape and more persistently destructive then lust, ambition, ego or vanity. Most of us suffer from it some of the time; some of us suffer from it, all of the time. The truth is, the more you care about others and the more sensitive and considerate you are, the more likely you will be to suffer from guilt. It is believed that guilt itself, is not a ‘real’ emotion. It is more a sense of self judgement; that comes from knowing or feeling that you have done something wrong. The emotional aspect that affects us I believe, is the feelings of pain, remorse and regret that guilt elicits from us.

We tend to think of guilt in very stark terms of black and white. We know that we feel guilty when we do something that we know is wrong. The simplest type of guilt is the sort we get when we have broken a window, or taken something without paying for it. But most guilt is not like that. The most damaging and destructive guilty feelings of all are not inspired by by any great crime. But by the subtle and destructive feelings of self criticism, and feelings of inadequacy. Often inspired by our inability to live up to the expectations of others. More powerfully perhaps is also the knowledge that we may have hurt or damaged someone else. Even if it was not intentional. This is true Particularly in our relationships with our family, partners and friends.

Guilt can also come from the conscious or unconscious manipulations from those people we respect and love the most. People who the suffer from guilt the most, tend to be those individuals who have the greatest feelings for the people around them. The type of internal pressure produced by feelings of guilt is the most damaging type of all varieties of stress; and it is also the most difficult if not impossible to escape. For the repercussions of living with long-term guilt, and the internal stress it creates can be so far reaching. Guilt is a major cause of heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches and a one hundred and one other stress related disorders.

When you feel guilty, you think, believe that you have done something wrong and are judging yourself. The worst type of guilt is one which you feel that has no resolution to it. In other words, you are at a loss to know what to do to make amends. On a deep level, many feel they deserve to be punished. By tying themselves up in knots, not being able to sleep, and feeling wretched, emotionally and physically. They are in fact trying to punish themselves. Even if they are not consciously aware of it. You are stuck; no matter what you do, you will feel bad. Guilt is a losing battle, an inner conflict where you lose no matter what you do!

Feelings of guilt will often guide people to make decisions that are not thought out, rash and impulsive. Often creating more problems in the long run. So it is important to never make any important decisions when you are motivated from a state of guilt. Easier said then done I know. Guilt can make an individual irrational and emotionally frenetic. But, in acknowledging to yourself that you are not in the right state of mind to make sensible choices, because of how you are feeling; it may be enough to make you hesitate and hold back.

Finding peace from guilt is not easy. If it were, so many people would not suffer from it to such a degree that it literally makes them ill and can often prevent them from moving forward. As mentioned earlier in this article. Those people who suffer from guilt the most are usually the most considerate, caring and sensitive individuals. Because think about it. If they were selfish and self centred, it would not cause them a moments discomfort. Sometimes it is important to acknowledge that no matter how hard we try, in life there will always be someone we will hurt, simply because in caring for one another, we have that power. If you look at the scenario’s where two people decide to end their relationship and go their separate ways. One person in the partnership, does not want this to happen. The other is unhappy and believes it must, so that they can both find happiness elsewhere. The one who has made the decision to end things, will feel guilt because they have hurt the other. But in their heart truly believe it is the right decision. Do they stay in the relationship out of guilt. Or should they make the break, even if it hurts. It is a dilemma that I am sure many can relate to.

There are also situations where people make decisions about their own lives, that spill over and affect others. Because we are all connected. Like the ripple affect. What one does will impact on another. Sometimes that impact can be detrimental, and cause hardship. But that was not the intention. No one can see into the future and predict to any great degree how things will turn out. There is a tendency in some people to take on the burden or responsibility for everyone. Which is unrealistic and can come from complex emotional issues and needs within that person. The only way in which we can deal with feelings of guilt I believe is to face them. Rationalise why you feel as you do. If you need to apologise to someone then do so. Accept that in life as we are growing and maturing, we will make mistakes. Errors of judgement. This is emotional immaturity. The important thing is, that we learn from those mistakes, and make a promise to ourselves that we will not repeat them.

On a spiritual level, consider the importance of certain life lessons happening for personal and spiritual growth. Not just in our own lives but in others. It is my experience, that rarely is something the fault of just one person. Which can be seen particularly in relationships. Though one person might make the decision to end it. Often it is an inevitable conclusion due to the behaviour of ‘both’ parties over a long period of time. For energetically and emotionally relationships will fail if something vital and important has been removed, taken back or is missing from the dynamic of that relationship.

We cannot go back and change the past. But we can use those lessons learned from the past to create a better future. A future in which we have less reason to feel regret, remorse and guilt. Remember this. A loving, sensitive person, rarely deliberately sets out to hurt, harm another. Feeling guilt shows you really cared. You have grown and are not the same person you were then. When we feel guilty, on a deep level, you believe yourself to be a bad person. When the truth is you are not. You feel guilt because you are a good person who is loving and caring. Never forget that! So release the burden of guilt from your shoulders my friends. From your heart and mind, send out messages of love to all those you feel you may have hurt or harmed. Wish them peace and love with the rest of their lives. Continuing on, in love and self-forgiveness, with your own.

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