William Shakespeare once said “Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind”. I’ve also heard it said, “The guilty flee when no one is pursuing.” Guilt makes us feel unsettled and at times it is hard to imagine that anything good could come of it.
Yet, guilt is a natural emotion that occurs when we go against our values and structured beliefs.
Guilt can help us know when we have strayed from our values and have gotten off track. When I make a mistake, guilt can encourage me to make amends by bridging the gap between my values and my misplaced thoughts and actions.
However, guilt is not always healthy. Some guilt is attached to detrimental beliefs. These beliefs keep us in a powerless place, where we try to seek the approval of or control others , in order to avoid perceived criticism.
Healthy guilt can be a positive force for change. However, when we dwell in unhealthy guilt, it can become extremely damaging, interfere with self-acceptance and limit our happiness and growth.
To rid ourselves of unhealthy guilt, we need to realize that the feelings we are experiencing is just helpful information telling us that something with our current reaction is out of alignment with the way we want to live. Once we realize our inappropriate action we gain the ability to realign the choices we are making to fit with how we truly want to live.