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Guilt, Is It Healthy, And How Can I Overcome It?

Aug 17, 2007
Guilt is a natural human emotion that causes you to scrutinize your actions and feel remorse for the things that you have either purposely or unknowingly caused. Guilt is also a feeling you may encounter when your actions have caused pain or grief to another person.

There are two main types of guilt. One is caused directly by your actions. This type of guilt is the healthy type and is a built in response to help you understand that there are emotional consequences when you do something that is wrong or unethical. This type of guilt, if used correctly, can be harnessed to make you live your life as a kind and considerate person.

The other type of guilt is destructive guilt, often associated with depression and worthlessness. If you feel guilty for winning the lottery or you are feeling guilt because of an event or occurrence that you have no control over, you are not feeling a healthy type of guilt. If you continuously feel guilty about things for long periods or keep bringing up things that you have done in the past and begin feeling guilty all over again about them, you are not using your guilt properly or benefiting from this emotion.

Another person making you feel guilty for doing things that make you happy is known as manipulation and is very wrong. This is also a type of unhealthy guilt. Nobody has the right to control your life or your actions to suit themselves. If anyone should be feeling guilty, it is the person who is trying to manipulate another.

How Guilt Adversely Affects Your Life

As we discussed, there are two types of guilt - healthy and unhealthy. If you are feeling healthy guilt, it can adversely affect your life but teach you a valuable lesson in humanity. Guilt, when used properly, tells you that your actions were not right and, for that reason, you feel truly terrible. Yet you know that the feelings will be removed if you make amends and accept that what you have done is wrong. By admitting and making amends, you relieve your guilt. You feel instantly better about the situation, as well as about yourself and, in the process, you have learned from your mistakes.

Unhealthy guilt, on the other hand, is destructive. It will rob you of your self-esteem, as well as make you turn the people that you love away from you. Long-term guilt is not only unhealthy mentally and physically, it will ruin your life, making it almost unbearable as you are never able to make amends or truly benefit from your feelings as you are not giving them closure.

It is important to understand that guilt is an emotion that should only be felt when you were in control of a situation and have acted badly. It should not be a feeling that is caused by an occurrence that you were not directly responsible for or had no control over in the first place.

How To Get Rid Of Guilt

Feeling guilty is not a nice feeling. If you are carrying around unhealthy guilt, you should speak to a professional about your feelings and try to understand that they are unfounded. For those who are feeling healthy guilt, it is important to remember that you are feeling like this for a reason.

Scrutinize what you did wrong and then think about how you can make amends for your actions. By resolving your feelings of guilt and seeking forgiveness, you are then able to put your experience behind you and learn from your mistakes. This is the true function of guilt and the only way to truly put it behind you.

There are many benefits to overcoming your guilt and one of the most important ones is that you are able to move on and strengthen your relationships with those around you by admitting that you behaved badly and by making amends. This means that you have learned that your actions were wrong and you have leaned a valuable lesson from them, so you no longer need to feel bad.


Guilt should be felt, scrutinized, learned from and then let go. By practicing this, we are accepting that we are human and make mistakes sometimes, but are able to accept them, make amends, then move on. But keep the experience in the back of our minds, so that it will never be repeated. Many people consider guilt to be a useless emotion, but no human emotion is truly wasted or useless.

It is how we choose to cope with our emotions and what we learn from them in our life's experience that make them truly valuable to us. By understanding and using your feelings of guilt constructively, you have the opportunity to be a better person and a better fellow human being. But whether you choose this path is entirely up to you.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of my-personal-growth.com, a site that provides information and articles for self improvement and personal growth and development.
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