Community

Guilty or Not

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | May 25, 2012 5:02 PM

Ever have someone tell you, "Don't feel guilty?" Well, why not? Guilt is healthy when it's real. Real guilt is the deep remorse you feel after you did something bad, mean, underhanded, sneaky, illegal, harmful to others or to yourself etc . Then, because you feel guilty enough, you don't do it again. You repair the situation. Sometimes, it builds up to a crescendo and it's too late to undo the damage by the time the guilt peaks. For example, the affair takes a life of its own and by the time you want to reverse the situation, there's no going back to a formerly-trusting relationship. Or, the overeating continues until health is irreparably damaged, so that even the new regime of diet and exercise, though very helpful, may not totally undo heart, endocrine or metabolic damage.But, other times, the guilt comes in time. You vowed not to shoplift ever again after one teenage dare and stay above board. The hurtful gossip stops and you only say good things about people. You scream at your family, feel guilty, and teach yourself to treat them with respect.

However, watch out for false guilt, like when you do something bad and keep doing it but say, "At least, I feel guilty." Self-righteous guilt,confessing your sins only to start over on the same path the next day, is meaningless. It serves as a rationalization to fool you into thinking you're OK, normal and have a right to feel better.

So, next time you feel guilty, listen to it. Make sure it's not just reverberating messages from your past about behavior for which there's no reason to feel guilty, like eating a normal treat which won't hurt you, taking a day off of exercise or a vacation, or not cleaning the house perfectly--things which won't hurt you or anyone. Weigh the consequences and morality of the behavior and commit to changing it if it is harmful, then make a new plan of action with checkpoints and possibly supervision from a family member, friend, or professional.Ever have someone tell you, "Don't feel guilty?" Well, why not? Guilt is healthy when it's real. Real guilt is the deep remorse you feel after you did something bad, mean, underhanded, sneaky, illegal, harmful to others or to yourself etc . Then, because you feel guilty enough, you don't do it again. You repair the situation. Sometimes, it builds up to a crescendo and it's too late to undo the damage by the time the guilt peaks. For example, the affair takes a life of its own and by the time you want to reverse the situation, there's no going back to a formerly-trusting relationship. Or, the overeating continues until health is irreparably damaged, so that even the new regime of diet and exercise, though very helpful, may not totally undo heart, endocrine or metabolic damage.But, other times, the guilt comes in time. You vowed not to shoplift ever again after one teenage dare and stay above board. The hurtful gossip stops and you only say good things about people. You scream at your family, feel guilty, and teach yourself to treat them with respect.

However, watch out for false guilt, like when you do something bad and keep doing it but say, "At least, I feel guilty." Self-righteous guilt,confessing your sins only to start over on the same path the next day, is meaningless. It serves as a rationalization to fool you into thinking you're OK, normal and have a right to feel better.

So, next time you feel guilty, listen to it. Make sure it's not just reverberating messages from your past about behavior for which there's no reason to feel guilty, like eating a normal treat which won't hurt you, taking a day off of exercise or a vacation, or not cleaning the house perfectly--things which won't hurt you or anyone. Weigh the consequences and morality of the behavior and commit to changing it if it is harmful, then make a new plan of action with checkpoints and possibly supervision from a family member, friend, or professional.Ever have someone tell you, "Don't feel guilty?" Well, why not? Guilt is healthy when it's real. Real guilt is the deep remorse you feel after you did something bad, mean, underhanded, sneaky, illegal, harmful to others or to yourself etc . Then, because you feel guilty enough, you don't do it again. You repair the situation. Sometimes, it builds up to a crescendo and it's too late to undo the damage by the time the guilt peaks. For example, the affair takes a life of its own and by the time you want to reverse the situation, there's no going back to a formerly-trusting relationship. Or, the overeating continues until health is irreparably damaged, so that even the new regime of diet and exercise, though very helpful, may not totally undo heart, endocrine or metabolic damage.But, other times, the guilt comes in time. You vowed not to shoplift ever again after one teenage dare and stay above board. The hurtful gossip stops and you only say good things about people. You scream at your family, feel guilty, and teach yourself to treat them with respect.

However, watch out for false guilt, like when you do something bad and keep doing it but say, "At least, I feel guilty." Self-righteous guilt,confessing your sins only to start over on the same path the next day, is meaningless. It serves as a rationalization to fool you into thinking you're OK, normal and have a right to feel better.

So, next time you feel guilty, listen to it. Make sure it's not just reverberating messages from your past about behavior for which there's no reason to feel guilty, like eating a normal treat which won't hurt you, taking a day off of exercise or a vacation, or not cleaning the house perfectly--things which won't hurt you or anyone. Weigh the consequences and morality of the behavior and commit to changing it if it is harmful, then make a new plan of action with checkpoints and possibly supervision from a family member, friend, or professional.Ever have someone tell you, "Don't feel guilty?" Well, why not? Guilt is healthy when it's real. Real guilt is the deep remorse you feel after you did something bad, mean, underhanded, sneaky, illegal, harmful to others or to yourself etc . Then, because you feel guilty enough, you don't do it again. You repair the situation. Sometimes, it builds up to a crescendo and it's too late to undo the damage by the time the guilt peaks. For example, the affair takes a life of its own and by the time you want to reverse the situation, there's no going back to a formerly-trusting relationship. Or, the overeating continues until health is irreparably damaged, so that even the new regime of diet and exercise, though very helpful, may not totally undo heart, endocrine or metabolic damage.But, other times, the guilt comes in time. You vowed not to shoplift ever again after one teenage dare and stay above board. The hurtful gossip stops and you only say good things about people. You scream at your family, feel guilty, and teach yourself to treat them with respect.

However, watch out for false guilt, like when you do something bad and keep doing it but say, "At least, I feel guilty." Self-righteous guilt,confessing your sins only to start over on the same path the next day, is meaningless. It serves as a rationalization to fool you into thinking you're OK, normal and have a right to feel better.

So, next time you feel guilty, listen to it. Make sure it's not just reverberating messages from your past about behavior for which there's no reason to feel guilty, like eating a normal treat which won't hurt you, taking a day off of exercise or a vacation, or not cleaning the house perfectly--things which won't hurt you or anyone. Weigh the consequences and morality of the behavior and commit to changing it if it is harmful, then make a new plan of action with checkpoints and possibly supervision from a family member, friend, or professional.

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