Why do so many people take upon themselves the heavy burden of Guilt? Some people blame themselves when something bad happens, even if it is not their fault. People with OCD often do this, as they have an exaggerated sense of guilt and responsibility. Even if they have nothing to do with the situation, they may blame themselves for it. I knew a woman with OCD, whose daughter became ill with a stomach virus. Even though her daughter contracted the virus at school, the woman blamed herself, because she believed that her house wasn't clean enough. From then on, she spent most of her nights scrubbing the floors, another exhausting OCD ritual added on to all her other ones. (Perhaps cleaning, hand washing, and over-showering subconsciously helps people with guilty consciences.) Useless guilt caused her OCD to become out of control. She was punishing herself for something she had nothing to do with.
People without OCD can also take unnecessary guilt upon themselves. As I say in my book, OCD and Me: My Unconventional Journey Through Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, "Everyone makes mistakes, I certainly have; it's a part of being human. If an error can be rectified, fine, but if not, it serves absolutely no purpose to beat oneself up over it. In my opinion, unless someone has committed a crime, guilt is a useless emotion that serves no positive purpose. It only makes everything worse."
What if your guilt is real? Perhaps you did something bad in the past, either by accident or on purpose that caused harm to another? The answer is: if you can do something to make it right, by all means, do it. If you cannot fix it, realize this- you did it, you feel badly, now do whatever it takes to get past it. It serves no purpose to destroy yourself over it. Focus on the present moment, and see how you can turn it into something beneficial for yourself and others. Try to focus on something else, and move on with your life. It does no good to live a miserable existence because you hate yourself for whatever you did, or may have done. Wallowing in guilt is horrible- it will make you, as well as those around you, completely miserable. Best thing is to learn from your mistake. Turn your guilt into something productive: become a better person, help others- make your life better for yourself and for your family and friends!
Here are some articles that I found helpful...
"Timid, insecure individuals may be victims of excessive guilt and constant 'second guessing' of themselves and their actions," says Patricia Farrell, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of How to be Your Own Therapist, A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Competent, Confident Life....
"People with an obsessive-compulsive or obsessive-personality disorder or with these traits in their personalities are also prone to excessive ruminating about their actions and driving up their guilt quotient," she adds.
Clearly, the spectrum of guilt that burdens folks runs the gamut. "Some people don't have the positive guilt that keeps you on the straight and narrow. Others have guilt that eats away at their soul; they rarely have a moment of peace," says Michael McKee, PhD, vice chairman of The Cleveland Clinic's psychiatry and psychology department.
"If you're guilty, you're probably getting stressed. If your body releases stress chemicals, it puts you at risk for minor stuff like headaches and backaches," McKee tells WebMD. And that's not all."It [guilt] also contributes to cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal disorders. It can even have a negative impact on the immune system over time," McKee says.
Stop feeling guilty about making mistakes. "View mistakes as a learning experience, not because you're a sinful, slothful person," McKee says.
Catherine Pratt...”It’s very draining and distressing living with a constant feeling of guilt. It also stops you from making the most effective and efficient decisions. In other words, you’ll end up making bad decisions simply because you’re reacting to those feelings of guilt or it's all you think about...
Continuing to focus on how guilty you feel will only serve to keep you stuck feeling anxious and confused. I also find that as long as you're focused on the feelings of guilt, it doesn't matter what you do, you're going to feel guilty because that's what you're concentrating on. You'll keep thinking there's something else you should do or keep beating yourself up that you should have done more when you had the chance. You're focused on the guilt instead of the real situation...
So, you can actually use your guilt to realize what changes you want to make in your life. In my case, it was spending time with my parents, but it might make you realize you want to be a better friend or that you want to be more professional in your job or just that you want to do things differently in the future. You use the guilt to make positive changes in your life.
Everyone makes mistakes. Every single person on this planet does but for some reason we tend to hold ourselves up to an impossibly high standard and think we should be immune from that.
Making mistakes is what makes us human and it's how we learn. You can learn better ways of doing things or it might even remind you of what your true priorities are. Even when things at first go horribly wrong, later you may realize what huge benefits you gained from going through the experience.
It's not always easy appreciating your mistakes but they truly can end up being the most incredible learning opportunities or the catalysts that end up causing huge leaps in mental and spiritual growth.
You also need to know that you made what you thought was the best decision with the facts you had at the time. You did the best you could. Learning that there are better ways to handle similar situations in the future may be a benefit of going through the situation but you didn't know that at the time.
But, these benefits can't happen if you don't forgive yourself and also allow yourself to make mistakes.”
I hope that this blog helps those suffering with the emotional pain that guilt causes. I also hope that everyone reading this will realize that chronic guilt is a useless emotion. I hope you feel better, and I wish you peace and joy always!