Dealing With Guilt

Rule 1: Don't be too hard on yourself

It is important that you develop realistic views of the world that will help you to deal with guilt. You can either hold a view that renders you vulnerable to guilt, or the healthy alternative whereby you believe that you are as important and as fallible as others.

 

If you think and act in the latter, which in turn are consistent with rational beliefs, you will become less prone to guilt.

People develop views of the world as it relates to them. Self talk that renders you vulnerable to guilt such as 'Whenever I am involved, I must make sure that nothing bad happens, or that others' feelings are not hurt. If I don't, then it is all my fault and I am a bad person'.

By focusing unduly on things you have done that you think are wrong, or focusing on your failures to do the right thing and the hurt you think you have caused others, are guilt-based views that effect you much more widely.

The following are views that render you vulnerable to guilt and ways to help you to deal with guilt:

1. A view that renders you vulnerable to guilt

Other people's desires are more important than my own.

A healthier view

My desires are no less important to me than other's desires are to them. I can flexibly and healthily prioritize my desires in the same way as others can flexibly and healthily prioritize theirs.

 

2. A view that renders you vulnerable to guilt

When I am involved I have responsibility for the hurt feelings of others.

A healthier view

When I am involved, I have responsibility for my actions, but ultimately I am not responsible for the feelings of others. They are.

 

3. A view that renders you vulnerable to guilt

In my moral domain, I expect more of myself than I do of others.  

A healthier view

In my moral domain, I can expect the same of myself as I can expect of others.

 

4. A view that renders you vulnerable to guilt

It is possible to always act morally.

A healthier view

It is rarely possible to always act morally since if you do the right thing from one perspective, you may be doing the wrong thing from another perspective.

 

5. A view that renders you vulnerable to guilt

Saying no to others is a sign of selfishness.  

A healthier view

Saying no to to others may be selfish, but is more likely to be a sign of healthy self-care. 

How to practice healthy self-care:

In order to practice healthy self care, you need to do the following:

  • Develop a healthy general rational belief that 'I am a fallible human being, and if I don't look after myself then nobody will. I am not a bad person if I put myself first even though doing this is uncomfortable.
  • Put this into practice and rehearse shortened specific versions of this general rational belief before you take self-care action, while you do so and after you have done so. 
  • Remember, practice makes perfect, so although acting this way to begin with may be difficult, it gets easier with continued practice.

Good luck.