Governing Guilt for Inner Peace

If you scrutinize the word “guilty,” what you may discover in Old English is the word “gyltan,” which translates to “commit a sin.” It’s no wonder why some people feel uncomfortable when experiencing guilt. There are various reasons why someone may experience feelings of guilt, ranging from telling a lie or withholding the truth to neglecting someone or failing to achieve something they were supposed to achieve.

The truth is that in our everyday lives, people often mistakenly use the terms guilt and shame interchangeably. Guilt is when you believe you have done something wrong or morally incorrect, while shame involves believing that you are wrong; it is a label you place on yourself.

When you feel guilt to the extent that it becomes all-consuming, causing you to overthink and replay every action and word, making you self-conscious and keeping you away from certain people because you don’t want to confront or don’t know how to overcome these feelings, consider using the following 3-step recipe:

1. Be aware of the degree of responsibility you had for that behavior. Some people may expect things from you, implying that you are responsible. However, some things are out of our control, and we may not be able to change the course of events.

2. Be honest with yourself and admit the mistakes you’ve made. Acknowledge that, like all of us, you are a person who makes mistakes. What’s important is that these mistakes are not part of your identity and belief system.

3. Find ways to change your behavior while making it clear to yourself that it was your behavior that generated these feelings of guilt. Avoid any labels, as we often conform to those labels, resulting in counterproductive outcomes.

The secret to this recipe is that it changes your mindset, allowing you to automatically filter out intrusive thoughts that do not serve you. Every emotion and feeling provides feedback. However, sometimes the feedback we receive from ourselves is tainted by circumstances or the way we were raised, hindering our growth and evolution.

Guilt and its associated emotional challenges can vary significantly from person to person, and the process of overcoming them may not always be straightforward. It is essential to acknowledge that everyone’s experiences and circumstances are unique, and if you find yourself struggling with overwhelming guilt or facing challenges in implementing these steps, seeking guidance from a mental health professional is highly advisable. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Your mental health is of paramount importance, and you should never hesitate to consult a mental health professional if you have any doubts or challenges in managing your feelings of guilt or any other mental health concerns.