How to cope with feelings of guilt
Sometimes I feel that I have too much to do and I feel guilty when I can’t get everything done. There are always so any people to see and now, when I wake up, there are always nearly 70 emails that need checking, many spam, some important. It’s hard to keep up.
Then there’s the carpet. It’s deep red, like dried blood, and it shows up every stain, every bit of fluff. Right now the carpet is so dirty, I can’t bear to look at it.
And my manuscript! I need to make urgent edits and then reprint it and read it as a whole. My hair needs shampooing and even the plant in my living room is a little sad – she clearly needs water.
Feelings of guilt
The older I get, the more responsibilities I seem to have. The more responsibilities I have, the more stressed out I can tend to feel. The guilt rises up in me like a mild anxiety or panic – and I never feel 100% good. There is always this pervasive feeling that something is wrong, or off, or slightly skew-whiff (or slightly awry).
Feelings of guilt for not meeting my responsibilities make me feel:
- Like I cannot relax
- Stops me from being as productive as I could be
- Occasionally depressed for short periods
Ways to cope with feelings of guilt
So, these feelings I have are not useful to me- what can I do about them?
According to Psych Central, “Guilt is an emotional warning sign that most people learn through their normal childhood social development. Its purpose is to let us know when we’ve done something wrong, to help us develop a better sense of our behavior and how it affects ourselves and others. It prompts us to re-examine our behavior so that we don’t end up making the same mistake twice.”
Dr. John M. Grohol suggests the following 5 steps:
1. Recognise the type of guilt and its purpose
2. Make changes sooner rather than later
3. Accept you did something wrong and move on
4. Learn from your behaviour
5. Understand that there is no such thing as perfection
So, often we feel guilty when we think we have done something wrong and we are focusing on it. But there are times when this is not useful or healthy.
Diana Lalor of the Cottesloe Counselling Centre mentions that some guilt can be harmful if left to fester.
“Unhealthy guilt does not allow for mistakes; we expect too much from ourselves and others. Guilt is unhealthy if it is out of proportion or causes acute distress.”
But guilt can be good for us too, she says.
“Its purpose is to let us know when we’ve done something wrong, to help us develop a better sense of our behaviour and how it affects ourselves and others. It prompts us to re-examine our behaviour so that we don’t end up making the same mistake twice.”
If you feel guilty today, use the 5 steps above and try to let it go.
“Guilt is anger directed at ourselves – at what we did or did not do. Resentment is anger directed at others – at what they did or did not do.”