I’m sure at some stage, you have felt the unmistakable pangs of guilt that make you feel bad. When something goes wrong, and you realize there are likely to be consequences to your actions. Consequences that you will have to make amends for. But why do you feel guilty?
You feel that hot dread spreading over the back of your neck; it feels a little like pins and needles. You may even pray “Please let me get away with this one. I promise I’ll never do this again”, and you hope that guilty feeling goes away.
In this article, I want to share my thoughts about one of the most uncomfortable feelings – guilt. This article is part of a series of articles on the emotional states we experience. If you want to find out more about this, click here.
Please be aware that nothing in this article constitutes medical, or any other type of professional advice. The points raised are for entertainment purposes only and the thoughts and ideas expressed are the opinions of the writer.
Why Do You feel guilt All the Time?
So what is guilt anyway?
The simplest definition of guilt is that you feel a sense of worry or unhappiness. This is because you have done something wrong, or think you have.
Established thinking commonly describes guilt as a conditioned emotion. You might feel guilty in certain situations, because of your interpretation of your cultural, family or religious beliefs. Sometimes, unscrupulous people use guilt as a tool to manipulate the behavior of others. The experience of guilt can also be a part of post-traumatic stress disorder.
When you experience guilt, together with the accompanying feeling of shame; it is probably one of the most painful of human emotions. When a loved one dies; you may feel guilty. Guilty about the unfinished issues that you didn’t resolve with them before they died.
Consequences of Guilt.
Guilt can also lead you to have a poor self image. This, in turn, can lead to depressive thoughts, negative self talk, chronic sadness, anxiety or even worse.
Sometimes, guilt entrenches itself so deeply in you, that you feel responsible for everything that goes wrong around you; even when you had nothing to do with it.
Your feelings of guilt cause stress hormones like cortisol to flow into your system. This is because of your fight, flight or freeze response.
All of these types of guilt may begin to ease, if you can allow a process of self-forgiveness to take place.
When you have feelings of excessive guilt, the body reacts similarly to a state of stress. All of the stress hormones release, such as adrenalin and cortisol.
Extended periods spent with high levels of cortisol in your system, as a result of always feeling guilty; can cause serious long term issues. The design of your body is for short burst of stress. This is a hangover from times when ancient humans were prey to predators. You received a scare; you either ran away or fought. As a result, you either survived or you became a meal – Consequently, either way the stressful situation resolved quickly.
What are the roots of Feelings of Guilt?
We all have an innate sense of ourselves as being separate from others, our sense of individuality. This sense of self we call the ego.
Everything we experience, the ego perceives from its perspective of separation. Everything it experiences that is not of itself, it perceives as a potential threat. This is because ego thinks every experience may be a threat. Similarly, every interaction with others and every anticipation of the future, has the potential to be a threat.
The way the human brain processes potential threats is to anticipate the worst possible potential outcome. This is in order to decide how to best protect you. From this perception comes your judgement of people and situations; your actions follow this judgement of perception.
How Guilt can Keep on Recurring.
If your ego controls you, your past experience influences most of your actions and thoughts about life; because the past is the only reference that your ego has to perceive and judge the present.
The Role of Memory.
You compare each experience to a list of memories that you have stored for similar past experiences. You stored these experiences in your memory together with the emotion that you felt at the time. Any trace of similarity of your current experience to a previous one, will trigger the feeling of the same original emotion you experienced.
The result of this process is that you feel trapped. Trapped in a never ending cycle of similar experience and emotional repetition. Consequently, you start to have thoughts of inadequacy, low self image and guilt. This is because you are not able to break out of the repetitive cycle you find yourself trapped within.
An example of this might be feeling powerless to say no. This may lead to guilty thoughts about always caving-in to situations. Situations that you may feel that you should react differently to. These negative emotions can lead to unhealthy guilt.
Another example is when you constantly react with anger. Even to situations where you know, deep down inside, that anger is not the right way to go. But you are unable to catch yourself, because you have a habit of being defensive. We all learn that attack is the best way to defend ourselves.
Take back Control.
In effect, your ego uses guilt to control you. It tries to maintain dominance of your perception and judgement of situations in your life. Unfortunately, your ego reaction triggers the egos of others and the threats you perceive become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The reactions you receive from others reinforce the fears of the ego. As a result, you succumb more and more to the separate fearful life the ego has created.
In this situation, you know that you should be coping better. You think that you are letting yourself down and those around you too. So, you fill yourself with guilt and regret about the way you react to experience. Consequently, you reinforce this, as your ego tells you that this is true, you should feel so guilty; and the hole you have dug around yourself gets deeper and deeper.
Some Sign That You Might Be Feeling Guilty.
Experiencing the following could be an indication that you are feeling guilty about something:
- Worry or anxiety
- Feeling of Sadness or crying.
- Tension in your body.
- Rumination over a past situation or endless repeatetive thoughts.
- Feelings of regret.
- An upset stomach due to nerves.
Where Do You Hold Guilty Feelings in Your Body?
The main contributor to generating feeling of guilt is a part of your brain called the prefrontal cortex, the area of your brain where your logical thinking takes place.
The experience causing your guilt to manifest stimulates the part of your brain called the amygdala. The amygdala stimulates your body’s flight, fight or freeze response and cortisol releases into your system. Due to your brains perception of a potential threat, all systems not required for escape from the threat are suppressed and all systems in the body that would assist with escape are enhanced.
The emotions that you feel that are associated with the guilt you feel, are felt in the heart area. Emotional memory triggers in your heart and becomes stuck energy, if not released. Emotional energy is supposed to pass through you and be let go, when you have evaluated your experience. When you release or let go of these emotions, you allow people and situations to show up differently in your life.
Emotional energy is not supposed to get stuck in your system. When you refuse to allow yourself to feel painful emotions and release them, you suppress, or repress, the emotions and they become stuck energy. This stuck energy affects your thoughts about yourself and influences the people and situations that you attract to yourself.
How do You let go of Feeling Guilty All the Time, Make Amends and forgive Yourself?
Before you get into the process of releasing yourself from your guilt, it is important to be able to understand the type of guilt you are feeling.
The different types of guilt are:
Natural guilt is guilt caused by your inappropriate actions. These are actions that you would be best advised to make amends for.
Maladaptive guilt are feeling of guilt about things that are not under your control. Like not taking steps to stop an unpredictable event from happening. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Sometimes there is nothing you can do, to prevent nasty things from occurring.
Feeling Guilt About Your Innermost Private Thoughts.
To feel guilty about private thoughts that you may subsequently think are inappropriate, is not helpful. Everyone has these thoughts; it is a natural function of the brain. An unfortunate example of this is Tourette’s Syndrome. Sufferers of this affliction are unable to stop themselves from vocalizing their inappropriate thoughts. Normal people still have these thought but they, and you, hopefully, do not verbalize or act on these thoughts. Having thoughts that you think are bad doesn’t make you a bad person, unless you are causing harm to others.
Existential guilt is guilt caused by your views on justice, or more specifically situations where perceived injustice occurs. In this type of guilt, you convince yourself that an outcome or situation that you have been through has advantaged you when others have suffered as a result. An example of this might be feeling guilty when you survive an accident and others didn’t, or being born into wealth while others around you are not as well off. It helps to understand that life doesn’t have to be fair, it frequently isn’t and there is nothing that can be done to change this.
Dealing With Guilt.
The first step to letting go of your guilt is to acknowledge it. By denying it, you will suppress it and this guilt will constantly by looking for situations and opportunities when it can resurface to be released, this will cause you prolonged emotional pain.
Acknowledge Your Feelings.
Once you acknowledge your guilt, you allow it to just be and to be fully experienced. Initially you will feel the intensity, and this can be quite painful to go through. With time, as you allow your guilt to be, the intensity will lessen, and you will be able to let it pass.
Once you have released the emotional energy, the next step is to learn to stop allowing your ego to control your life. Please realise that you are not your ego and you are not your thoughts. Rather you have an ego and you have thoughts, they are tools to help you through life but they are not what you are.
Modern physics and quantum physics has put forward the theory that it is consciousness that is the true self and that consciousness requires experience to develop itself. Because of this, there is life.
Understand Your Power.
At your root, you are pure conscious awareness, a localised manifestation of the universal mind. The universal mind is the oneness of everything, the all that is. So you are the oneness. The oneness is all of you, but you are not all of the oneness – not yet. Once you become all of the oneness, the story will be complete.
As pure conscious awareness you create, experience and learn. You created your ego and thoughts as tools to help you experience and learn from your creation. Your only crime was to forget who you are and to allow your ego to influence you thoughts and convince you that you are separate and under threat from your own self (the oneness that is everything). Everybody and everything around you is a mirror of you.
As pure conscious awareness you are knowingness, but you allowed yourself to rely on thoughts, perception and judgement which will always interpret in limit, instead of allowing knowingness to show you truth; the truth of your limitless potential for love and creation.
Once you understand this, you know who you are in there, so you can take back control of your thoughts and experience from your ego.
Meditation will help you come to this realization of who you really are and allow you to overcome the influence of ego. You will then relegate your ego to the tool it was supposed to be. A tool to assist you to experience the illusion of separation and duality, instead of handing over control of your life.
Then you forgive yourself.
Your forgiveness comes from the realization that, who you are being determines how you behave. This is true at any point in time your experience, and it determines how you react towards the people and situations in your life.
Your guilt tells you that you should have reacted or behaved differently. But that was not who you were at that point in time. You are who you are and that determines how you react. Your current way of reaction and behavior is giving you the opportunity to choose differently in the future. Should you choose differently, you may be able to learn from your experiences. Should you choose to show love and kindness instead of fear or anger, then you will have learned and grown. You will become someone different and be able to choose differently.
Instead of feeling guilt, forgive yourself. Because you couldn’t have behaved any differently and be thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow. Express your true self as love and oneness.
Please do not be mistaken into thinking that who you were being excuses you. It does not allow you to carry on behaving out of fear and separation. You have a responsibility to behave in an acceptable way and to stop allowing your ego to determine your behavior. Just be kind.
Quotations About Why Do You Feel Guilty?
We have covered a lot of ground up to this point. So I thought it would be good to include some quotes about guilt. I hope this inspires you and gets you to reflect on what others say about guilt.
“Negative emotions like loneliness, envy and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change”.– Gretchen Rubin.
“Guilt is cancer. Guilt will confine you, torture you, destroy you as an artist. It’s a black wall. It’s a thief”.– Dave Grohl.
“People tend to dwell more on negative things than on good things. So the mind then becomes obsessed with negative things, with judgments, guilt and anxiety produced by thoughts about the future and so on”.– Eckhart Tolle.
“Fear is the tax that conscience pays to guilt”.– George Sewell.
“I began to realize that when people experience the love of God, it casts out their fear and frees them from guilt”.– Joseph Prince.
Frequently Asked Questions About Why Do You Feel Guilty:
Q: What does it mean to feel guilty all the time?
A: Feeling guilty all the time refers to the persistent experience of guilt and remorse. This is often accompanied by a sense of responsibility for negative events. It is characterized by an ongoing, pervasive feeling of being at fault.
Q: What causes constant feelings of guilt?
A: Constant feelings of guilt can stem from various sources. Sources such as self-imposed expectations, perfectionism, past traumas, unresolved conflicts, or a fear of hurting someone. Societal and cultural influences, as well as cognitive distortions and negative thoughts, can contribute to a guilt complex.
Q: Is feeling guilty all the time a sign of mental health issues?
A: Feeling guilty all the time can be a sign of underlying mental health issues. Excessive guilt may indicate the presence of conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you are experiencing constant guilt and negative emotions; it is important to seek the support of a mental health professional.
Q: Can guilt be unhealthy?
A: Guilt can be unhealthy when it becomes excessive and persistent. Unhealthy guilt is characterized by an overwhelming sense of responsibility, self-blame, and self-criticism. All of which can contribute to feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, and depression. It can hinder personal growth, relationships, and overall well-being, if left unchecked.
Q: How can I make amends when I feel guilty about things?
A: Making amends when you feel guilty involves taking responsibility for your actions. It means expressing genuine remorse and taking appropriate steps to rectify the situation. This may include apologizing, making restitution, and making positive changes in your behavior. This will prevent similar situations from arising in the future. It can be helpful to seek guidance from a mental health professional, or trusted friends, to navigate this process.
Q: Can constantly feeling guilty contribute to a guilt complex?
A: Constant guilt can contribute to the development of a guilt complex. When unchecked, persistent guilt can reinforce negative ways of thinking, self-criticism, and a distorted perception of your actions and responsibilities. Over time, this can lead to a guilt complex. This is where feelings of guilt permeate various aspects of life and hinder personal growth and happiness.
Q: How can mental health services help with constant feelings of guilt?
A: Mental health services, such as therapy with a mental health professional or online therapy; can provide a safe space to explore and address the underlying causes of constant feelings of guilt. A therapist can help you identify unhelpful thinking patterns, develop coping strategies, and challenge self-critical beliefs. Therapy can also support you in making positive changes, fostering self-compassion, and pursuing goals aligned with your values.
Q: Is guilt a normal emotion?
A: Guilt is a normal and common emotion experienced by everyone. It serves as a moral compass, signaling when your actions may have caused harm. However, excessive or persistent guilt that interferes with daily functioning and well-being, may indicate underlying issues that require attention.
Q: How can guilt be a sign of positive changes?
A: Guilt can be a sign of positive changes. Especially when it motivates you to reflect on your actions, take responsibility, and make amends. By acknowledging and learning from your mistakes, guilt can help you see areas for personal growth. It can prompt you to make positive changes in your behavior, relationships, and overall approach to life.
Q: What should I do if I constantly feel guilty about everything?
A: If you constantly feel guilty about everything, it is important to seek support from a mental health professional. This can help you explore the underlying causes of your guilt, challenge self-critical beliefs, and develop healthier ways of thinking. Trusted friends or loved ones can also provide valuable perspective and support throughout this process.
Q: How does guilt contribute to negative emotions?
A: Guilt can contribute to negative emotions by fueling self-blame, shame, anxiety, and depression. Constant guilt often triggers a cycle of negative thoughts and self-criticism. This intensifies feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness. Addressing and managing guilt can help alleviate these negative emotions and promote emotional well-being.
Q: Can survivors experience guilt?
A: Survivors can experience guilt, commonly known as survivor guilt. It is often associated with a sense of responsibility for having survived. Survived either a traumatic event or situation when others did not. Survivor guilt may also manifest as feeling guilty for not being able to prevent harm or protect others. It is important for survivors to acknowledge and process these complex emotions, with the help of a mental health professional.
Q: What should I do if I feel guilty and worry about what others think of me?
A: If you feel guilty and worry about what others think of you; it can be helpful to challenge negative thought patterns and practice self-compassion. Remind yourself that you cannot control others’ thoughts or opinions, and that you are doing your best. If you seek support from a mental health professional, they can provide guidance. This helps in managing these feelings and developing healthier ways of relating to yourself and others.
Q: Does feeling guilty always indicate that something is wrong?
A: Guilt doesn’t necessarily indicate that something is wrong. While guilt often arises in response to perceived or actual harm caused to oneself or others. It can also stem from unrealistic expectations, self-imposed standards, or irrational beliefs. Also, it is important to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy guilt. It helps to explore the underlying factors contributing to your feelings of guilt.
Q: How can I know what’s going on when I constantly feel guilty?
A: When you constantly feel guilty, it’s important to seek support from a mental health professional. They can help you explore and understand the underlying factors contributing to your constant guilt. This may include unresolved conflicts, cognitive distortions, or past traumas. A mental health professional can provide valuable insight, support, and guidance in navigating your emotions and making positive changes.
Q: Can’t seem to shake off guilt, what should I do?
A: If you can’t seem to shake off guilt; it is advisable to seek the help of a mental health professional. They can assist you in identifying the root causes of your guilt. They can help you to challenge unproductive thought patterns and develop effective coping strategies. Addressing guilt in a therapeutic setting can make it easier to manage. This may pave the way for personal growth and well-being.
Q: What if I’ve made mistakes in the past that still make me feel guilty?
A: If past mistakes continue to make you feel guilty, it’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. However, personal growth is possible. Working with a mental health professional can help you explore and process these feelings. This can help to challenge self-critical beliefs and develop strategies to make positive changes in your life. By learning from your past, and taking steps to make amends, you can move on. You can’t change the past, you can only choose differently in future.
In Conclusion, Why Do You Feel Guilty?
I think it is fair to say that we have travelled a fair way down the rabbit hole of guilt. I hope that the ideas I have shared with you have inspired you. Perhaps you will have the courage to take the first steps. First steps in moving towards overcoming any guilt issues you may have.
Maintaining a steady motion towards your target is the key to succeeding in all things. So just stick at it and you will get there.
Guilt is the emotion with the lowest energy signature. Your guilty feelings are all about the consequences that you may face as a result of your actions. Guilt is about how you will survive and whether you will be rejected by your peer support group. When you have feelings of guilt you are not concerned about others. You are focused on whether there will be changes in the treatment you receive from those close to you. Those whom you rely on to feel your connection to others, a basic human need. The next step up the ladder of emotional state is shame. When you start to consider how your actions have affected others, you will move from guilt ot shame.
Reflect and Learn.
Look at the situation and your actions that have caused these feelings of guilt. Decide if your guilty state is justified. If guilt is appropriate, have the courage to make amends. Decide to be a better you in future. If your guilt is not justified, let it go. Move on to more positive thoughts. Try to get busy with something productive to occupy your attention and the emotions of guilt, once rejected, will fade.
If you want to contact me or ask for any assistance on your journey, please reach out to me. I will do my best to assist. Also, if you want to book a session, contact me and I am sure we can set something up.
Please feel free to comment on this article, please do so below. My only request is that we be kind to each other and respect all differing points of view.
With love as always
Richard H Morris.
Nothing in this post should be interpreted as any form of professional advice. The content herein is provided for information and entertainment purposes only, and merely reflects the research done and opinions expressed by the Author. We do make use of affiliate links in our content, should you decide to buy something through one of our links we will receive a commission at no additional cost to the Purchaser.