Guilt is one of the most powerful emotions we encounter. It causes great emotional distress and leads to feelings of anxiety and despair. We define guilt as (a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined).
The emotion of guilt has the ability to prevent motivation, meaning that guilt can cause us to isolate from friends, family, society, and prevent us from concentrating on work or other important issues in life.
Guilt creates confidence issues and can impair our ability feel good about ourselves. It produces negative “self-talk” which further increases “self-doubt” and confidence issues.
It is important to understand the difference between real guilt and imagined guilt. Real guilt is guilt associated with tangible evidence to show you caused emotional or physical distress to another person.
Evidence is apparent either by communication or visual presence of pain and suffering to another person. Imagined guilt is guilt associated with no evidence to show you caused suffering to another person.
The feelings are always real but imagined guilt is caused by irrational thoughts. The thoughts become “real” and create feelings of remorse for another persons’ non-existent pain.
It does not matter if the feelings of guilt are real or imagined because the feelings are always real which causes emotional distress (anxiety, despair, fear, etc.) and the fall out (lack of motivation, exhaustion, confidence issues).
It is important to decipher between “real and imagined” guilt because understanding where the guilt is coming from will help in overcoming it.
The first step in discovering which form of guilt you are experiencing is to step away from the thoughts for a moment. If you get caught up in the momentum of negative thoughts they become irrational and can hinder your ability to think clearly.
Walk away from the situation and clear your head (go for a walk, listen to happy music, read an interesting book, or count to 100). By taking a break from the negative emotion (guilt) you will be able to think more positive and create emotional balance which will enable you to process your feelings rationally.
After you process where the guilt might be coming from and you still have feelings of emotional distress communication is key. The most important aspect of dealing with “guilt” is open communication. Your imagination can be your worst enemy in situations dealing with guilt.
Danielle Putnam is from Colorado received her B.A. from Texas Tech University and M.A. from Pepperdine University both degrees in Psychology. She has owned and operated a private practice for over 10 years and is the author of Pick Your Poison Confidence.
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