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Life Coach - Us Life Coaching, LLC
 
Linda Ocejo, MA, CPRP, CLC
 
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     MA Psychology - Pi Lambda Theta
     BA Psychology - Cum Laude
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Guilt

What is guilt and how can we deal with its consequences?

Guilt acts as a warning sign which many people learn about through the process of childhood development. Guilt allows us to be aware of how our unique behaviors influence/affect others, as well as ourselves; and it also allows one to know when they have done things which are wrong. Additionally, guilt allows individuals to take a better look at their behaviors to help them not to continuously make the same mistakes. It is advantageous for each of us to combat the guilty feelings that we have, accepting important feelings of guilt, and discarding guilty feelings when they are not important.

We should not be overcome with guilt where it becomes debilitating and destructive to us, and to our relationships with others. However, it is important to recognize the type of guilt we are experiencing, and its unique purpose. In the event that our actions, and/or behaviors are hurtful or offensive to ourselves, or to others, the process of feeling guilty works well in order to assist an individual to mature, as well as to grow. An example would be when we have feelings of guilt after being unkind to another person by way of our words.

On the other hand, there is guilt which serves no purpose which is rational. An example of such guilt is when a mother has to go back to work after having her first child, erroneously believing that by going back to work the development of the child will be damaged. In this scenario there is no reason to feel guilty, but we still tend to do so.

If one finds that the guilt that they are experiencing is appropriate, action should be taken as soon as possible to alleviate the behavior which is problematic. Continued guilt bogs us down, and prevents us from moving on in life. It is quite easy and non-problematic to apologize to an individual whom we've hurt through something that we've said. However, of course, other areas may be more challenging. Appropriate guilt lets us know that we have to do something in a different way so that we may repair important relationships, or positively influence our self-esteem.

Many people go through their lives riddled with guilt, which may become an overwhelming burden for them. There have been instances where individuals have let their guilt feelings rule their lives, not realizing that everyone makes mistakes, and that everyone deserves a second chance; the important thing is that one deals with and addresses the guilt that they are feeling; appropriate or inappropriate, and deal with it accordingly. We have to accept the human experience as it is; and even though it is truly remarkable and wonderful, it is definitely not perfect.

 
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