I think of lot of people could benefit from helpful tips for dealing with guilt. There are a million reasons to feel guilty, but not quite as many ways to deal with guilt once you feel that way. You might feel guilty because of a fight, because someone in your office got reprimanded, because you hurt someone you love, or because someone important to you died. While guilt occurs for many reasons, and the types are quite different, there are some universal similarities and standards. That being the case, learning how to deal with guilt using these tips should help you regardless of the circumstances.
1. Why Are You Guilty?
As mentioned, there are many reasons for feeling guilty, so one of the most essential tips for dealing with guilt is to understand why you feel the way you do. Sometimes guilt is actually good, because it helps you grow. However, it's incredibly important to understand your feelings first. If you feel guilty for hurting a friend, then you'll have to follow a certain set of steps to deal with your feelings. Then again, feeling guilty because of the loss of a loved one or because of something entirely out of your control requires a different path.
2. Be Accountable
One of the reasons guilt can be good is because it makes you responsible. You have to own what you've done. Often, guilt is your conscience's way of letting you know that you've done something really bad. Maybe you did something seemingly small, like buying a dress you know your friend wanted. Maybe it was worse, like going after a guy in whom your friend is interested. You might have cheated on a test, or cheated to get a promotion at work. Either way, hold yourself accountable. Admit what you've done, and done make justifications or excuses to try and make yourself look better. Sometimes that simply isn't possible.
3. Think about Your Options
Once you've admitted your guilt and you understand what you've done, what happens next? It really all depends. If your guilt, again, involves the passing of a loved one, you can't apologize and likely have no reason to. Still, survivor guilt is common, and it's incredibly painful. In that case, talking to someone professionally might be your best option. Joining a group is helpful as well. If you've done something for which you can apologize … well, I'm getting ahead of myself.
4. Make Amends
Owning your culpability and making amends are the best tips for dealing with guilt. I know apologizing is sometimes difficult, but it's also essential. If you can admit to yourself that you're wrong, then you can admit it to the person you wronged as well. Saying that you're sorry goes a long way toward successfully dealing with your feelings of guilt – but remember, you can't force someone to forgive you. Sometimes apologizing simply isn't enough, and at that stage, something deeper is necessary.
5. Talk It out
Talking to the person you've wronged is one of most helpful ways to deal with guilt, because it helps you and the person you hurt. If an apology doesn't cut it, then sit down and talk to the other person. Let them tell you why they're so hurt, preferably without interrupting or justifying; let them get it all off their chest. Then you'll have your turn, after you've thought about how they feel. This one also applies talking to others in the same situation, especially in the case of survivor guilt.
6. Retrace Your Habits
Do you have a habit of doing things that cause others pain and thus make you feel guilty? Think about all the times you've felt this way. Do the incidents have any common elements? Maybe you gossip a little too much and end up hurting people's feelings. Maybe you're not always honest, or maybe certain feelings of insecurity get in the way and cause you to act out. Become aware of these, because...
7. Learn from Your Mistakes
You have to learn from your mistakes. Of all the tips for dealing with guilt I've offered, this is one of the most important. If you frequently do the same things that cause other people pain, think about why so that you can learn from your past and stop repeating the same behaviors. You'll be much happier for it, and so will the people closest to you.
I really, really hope that you'll find these tips for dealing with guilt helpful. Guilt eats away at you, leaving you sad, anxious, and depressed. Sometimes, making the situation better helps; at other times, that simply isn't possible. However, you can still do everything you can to assuage your feelings, as long as you're willing to learn up to them. What helps you as you're learning to deal with guilt?
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