Guilt isn’t always a rational thing, Clio realized. Guilt is a weight that will crush you whether you deserve it or not. ~ Maureen Johnson, Girl at Sea
Guilt is a feeling of blame or responsibility for having done something wrong. In its healthiest form, guilt is a moral compass that helps guide us and keeps us from repeating behavior that we consider wrong or has the ability to hurt ourself or others. Guilt, which is closely related to shame, doesn’t feel good: mentally replaying what happened, wishing you could go back and change what happened, you experience an upset stomach, clamped throat, tight chest, and loss of appetite. Guilt prompts you to apologize when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, because you want to make things right.
The problem with guilt is that it isn’t always deserved. Wrongs can be imagined. You might experience survivor’s guilt, or feel guilty because you think that you’re not doing enough for your children or spouse. You might feel guilty when you eat or when you take much-needed time for yourself. Unhealthy guilt occurs when you feel responsible for something outside your control or when you’ve not actually done something wrong, and it serves no rational purpose.In its healthiest form, guilt is a moral compass that guides us. Click To Tweet
Some of us are guilt prone — taking on responsibility and blame that is not actually ours to own. Excessive guilt and the resulting feelings of failure can be distracting, hamper your ability to enjoy constructive relationships, decrease focus and productivity, and lead to depression.
If you are prone to feeling guilty, or wonder if your guilt is the healthy kind, the following journaling prompts will help you analyze, process, and find a constructive or positive way to deal with it.
- Do you feel guilty for actual wrongdoing or f0r something outside your control? Would you categorize your guilt as healthy or excessive, and why?
- Imagine that the situation is reversed and you’ve switched roles with the other person. Would you feel hurt or angry if the other person acted as you have? If not, write about the reasons why you feel that your behavior is wrong, yet theirs would not be wrong.
- Is your guilt generated from within you, does it come from an external source or person, or does it stem from a past experience?
- In what ways might your guilt have a positive influence on you, or how could you use it constructively?
- Is there a way to make amends for what you’ve done? How?
- What’s holding you back from moving on?
- What can you learn from this situation?
I’d like to hear from you. What is your experience with guilt and how do you usually deal with it?