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How to deal with guilt

Updated: Mar 13

Guilt can feel heavy and can be difficult to move past. In some cases guilt can become toxic resulting in feeling bad about oneself rather than simply feeling remorse for a behavior. This type of guilt develops when we do not have effective ways of dealing with guilty feelings or if we allow those around us to heap guilt on us. Below are 5 tips to help more effectively deal with guilty feelings.

Tip #1 - Be curious about the root of guilty feelings

Acknowledge that you are feeling guilty and then be curious about why these feelings are coming up. Curiosity about the feelings, without judgement, allows us to determine the cause of the guilty feelings and helps with determining the next steps for dealing with them effectively.

Tip #2 - Avoid negative narratives

Guilty feelings can lead to feeling like you are a "bad person" instead of simply being remorseful for a behavior/action and making amends. Avoid letting an action that you feel remorseful about from defining you as "bad".

Tip #3 - Evaluate the action that is causing guilty feelings

Sometimes guilt feelings are self-created. We can sometimes perceive that we have done something wrong when in reality because we are allowing others to make us feel guilty. Thinking through specifically what you feel guilty for and why helps clarify your feelings. It is often helpful to speak with others involved to get their take on what occurred. Guilt feelings are sometimes unwarranted.

Tip #4 - Make amends

If, once you evaluate your feelings and still feel remorseful about your actions, make amends. Talk through what happened and apologize for any actions that you feel were hurtful. Then practice compassion with yourself. We are all human and, as such, were are all fallible. It is important to forgive yourself.

Tip #5 - Seek help from a mental health provider

Past trauma and certain mental health conditions contribute to guilty feelings that are persistent. A mental health provider can help you gain clarity about reasons for prolonged feelings of guilt and teach you effective ways to better manage these feelings. Learning that having needs is not being selfish and learning to set clear boundaries often helps reduce feelings of persistent guilt.

Guilt can feel heavy and, often, we are ill-equipped to deal with such negative feelings. Remember there are solutions out there to reduce these feelings and allow you to move.

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