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Feeling of Guilt

As human beings we experience many types of emotions at different points of time. While some emotions bring happiness along with them, some cause immense sadness in us. We tend to share our happiness with near and dear ones, going out on treats and in all other possible manner. However, when it comes to sadness, we tend to wrap ourselves in. We feel taken off the hook. We hide our feelings from others posing to be normal. Particularly when sadness is caused due to our own wrong doings, the huge psychological damage we experience is nightmarish. The feeling of guilt such sadness causes in us makes us think about hiding in a dark alley bereft of human beings.

Feeling of guilt is one of the top emotions experienced by human beings. This internal state of the mind tends to be more negative than positive. It is one among the sad emotions caused in human beings by various kinds of situations. It shares its space with other feelings like loneliness, grief, anxiety, fear and agony. Guilt is one of those feelings that can grow with us since its happening. One main factor that contributes to this early setting of guilt in our mind is the conservative society we grow in. Our family, friends, acquaintances and relationships continue telling us in different ways as to what is good and what is bad from our childhood. We grow up with certain notions about the moral and immoral, which gets goofed up many a times based on our situations. Such situations make us swaddle inside a cocoon that keeps getting loaded with more guilt as we grow up according to the situations encountered piling up our wrong decisions overtime. This is typically the reason why we as human beings frequently have guilt inside of us about something we cannot share to the world or in fact anybody else. So are there ways to overcome the feeling of guilt inside us? Can we ever really forget the reason of the guilt in the first place? If yes how? If no why not? Let us have a detailed look at the state of mind called Guilt to find suitable answers for the above questions.

Why we as human beings frequently have guilt inside of us of something we cannot share to the world or in fact anybody?

Many life situations make people travel between extremities that are totally opposed in nature. While we are brought up inculcating certain ideologies right from our childhood, life’s nasty situations force us to behave in an opposite manner sometimes. We feel pulled out of the hook during such times and compromise on our value system to handle life in a pragmatic manner. This creates a fear in us which keeps insisting that we have done something we ought not to have. This fear gets converted into feeling of guilt making us furled up in a compact secured space. We refuse to get out of this space unrevealing what we feel as ‘the secret’ to anybody out there.

For example, the so-called non-adherence which disturbs us all through our life in the name of Guilt starts right between the age of 3 and 5. As children, we have the habit of talking to our toys. We talk to them about many things including our feelings about others. Then, all of a sudden, we realize that we are being too open to the toys. We try to give a new color to the complaining words we spoke to the toys earlier. We withdraw ourselves quickly for the fear of committing an impermissible act. This withdrawal gets buried up deep inside the child acting as the first guilt of their life.

Freud, the famous psychologist explains about how children during their growth stages develop attraction towards parents of their opposite sex. This is termed as Oedipus complex. However, such desires of children gets submerged deep into the subconscious transforming as sexual magnetism towards the opposite gender as they grow up. The sexual desire that rose in them during their childhood towards the parent belonging to the opposite sex remains as a feeling of guilt in them for the rest of their life time. The terrified ashamed mind fails to think that Oedipus complex is a common phenomenon in the developmental stages of all human beings.

Types of Guilt experienced by people

During the life journey, at some stage or the other, we tend to get haunted by different kinds of guilt. The root causes of guilt will vary according to the stage of life we are in.

  • Feeling guilty for something we did

This is the basic kind of guilt experienced by all. Whenever we commit mistake we feel guilty of the same. Here, mistake means whatever we had set as immoral or unacceptable for ourselves. These ‘unacceptable’ behaviors or approach also get set by the society we live in. Probably, one feels guilty of smoking or drinking when they indulge in the habit after taking an oath to give up the same. Hurting a friend unintentionally and feeling sorry for the same falls in this category of guilt.

  • Feeling guilty for something you have really not done but want to do

This is a tougher guilt to handle than the earlier one. The reason for the toughness is the intensity of the mistake you want to commit. Feeling lustful towards another man or woman other than your own spouse can be a typical example for this type of guilt experienced. The key thing to notice here is the fact that you have really not committed any act that is deplorable. The inadmissible feeling of lust makes you feel that you are moving out of your permissible boundaries creating guilt in you.

  • Feeling guilty for something you assume you have done

This kind of guilt is experienced by people more due to thoughts that are highly irrational in nature. The cabbalistic thought process in people makes them feel guilty that their negative thoughts are capable of harming others. A typical example for this can be one’s wish that their ex-boyfriend breaks up with his current girl friend and it happens. When it happens in reality, the feeling of guilt created starts haunting the vengeful person depriving her of all possible happiness out of the same.

  • Feeling guilty that you could have helped someone more

People experience this kind of guilt when they have very high levels of compassion. Such people tend to help others beyond limits even if it means unmanageably taxing on their own selves. Psychology terms this as ‘Compassion Fatigue’. Such people feel that their help to the affected is absolutely disproportionate to the loss experienced by them.

  • Feeling guilty for living a better life than others

This type of guilt is experienced by people in defense forces, troops who escaped the attack of enemies during the war. Instead of feeling thankful for surviving the attack, they feel guilty that they are alive while many of their counterparts are not. The field of Psychology looks at this type of guilt as ‘Survivor Guilt’. If unattended to on time, Survivor Guilt may develop into post traumatic disorder in people making it all the more tough to handle. This type of guilt is also experienced by college students who are first generation graduates. Instead of feeling happy that they have added value to their hereditary, such students tend to feel guilty for the opportunities they have enjoyed but were deprived to their earlier generations. If the logic behind this gap is not properly understood by students at this stage, it may lead them to behaviors that are self destructive in nature.

How to overcome the feeling of guilt inside of us?

Feeling of guilt can be overcome if we understand the nature of the same in a clear manner. Adapting the tips given below based on the suitability of the same will help maneuver feeling guilty easily.

  • Recognize the reason for the guilt. If you are feeling guilty time and again for hurting one friend or the other, it is a warning signal that you have to mend your ways.
  • Take immediate action without procrastinating, once the cause for the guilt is recognized. In the current example given above, consciously start working on your temperament and behavior so you can avoid hurting others, saving you valuable relationships.
  • Move on with life once you take corrective action. After all past is past and nothing can be done about what is already done. Don’t punish yourself living in the past.
  • Don’t lose the learning while you still move on with your life. Remember, you have learnt the lesson paying a high cost namely feeling guilty & losing valuable time.
  • Keep striving for perfection in the area that made you feel guilty. Accept that in reality no one can be perfect in everything and at all points of time

Can we ever really forget the reason of the guilt in the first place? If yes how? If no why not? 

The honest answer to this question is that it depends on the intensity of the act committed. If the act is just an unforeseen error, it can be overcome with the passing of time. If the act is an unintended or forced mistake, it can be overcome by taking appropriate actions. If the act committed is a conscious blunder, it may take a life time to recover from the same. While occasional lying, or stealing things fall into the first two categories mentioned above, committing an abortion falls on the third one. Women who have undergone abortion and don’t have a strong reason for it, experience such high levels of trauma that psychological ramifications appear to be just a deceitful mirage. This is mainly because it is such a blunder which cannot be undone by taking any type of corrective action. Consciously hurting someone also falls into the third category.


Written by Rama Ramji edited by SiteMaster



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