Guilt is rooted in actions of the past, perpetuated in the lack of action in the present, and delivered in the future as pain and sufferingDavid Roppo
Everyone experiences regret and remorse over something they have done in the past, some action that took a wrong turn, something that could’ve been changed. Guilt is an adverse feeling or rather an emotional state where a person feels that they are responsible for something bad that has occurred.
Despite its usually negative nature, guilt is an important emotion because it helps to keep things in check. A moral code is usually involved when concerning guilt. Because you feel that you have committed a wrongful deed, you will try to make amends and be wary of repeating it in the future.
However, when this feeling of guilt persists and follows one like a shadow, it is termed as guilt complex.
The Guilt Complex
The guilt complex is a continuous, persistent feeling of guilt, and self doubt in an individual. The person blames him/herself for any mistake that has happened in the past (knowingly or unknowingly). He/she lives in a state of complete blameworthiness and finds the urge to over-apologize constantly for the mistakes.
Signs That One May Have the Guilt Complex
- You overthink and overanalyze everything.
- You feel guilty all the time.
- You constantly find yourself apologizing and feel that you have done something wrong.
- You often wonder if you could have performed better than you did.
- You bash yourself over tiny things that went wrong.
- You are often paranoid.
- You may go in a self-denial mode
- You may not let yourself succeed because you feel like you do not deserve success and happiness.
What Causes Guilt?
The reasons behind this extreme emotional reaction are ordinarily not that huge.
You may be guilty about something you should or should not have done, or something you thought you did but didn’t. Sometimes you may even feel guilty of the fact that you are doing better than someone else, who according to you deserves more than you do.
Survivor’s Guilt– In a car accident, someone died, but the one who survived feels guilty over the fact that they survived while the other person did not.
Causes of the Guilt Complex
The following are the causes of the Guilt Complex:
- Social Systems
Everyone has certain principles and visions of right and wrong in their mind. These are the moral etiquettes we learn from our social systems, i.e. family, friends, community, school, etc.
These values may be embedded in you deliberately or otherwise but they play a crucial part in shaping your personality. When these attributes are crossed by you, you feel guilty.
- The Need to Be Socially Acceptable
A person is not born feeling guilty. It is the social values that result in him/her feeling bad about something. And because all human beings need to be socially acceptable, you stick to it blindfolded.
Oftentimes, a person hides their true selves just to fit in the crowd. This in extreme cases, results in a person having an identity crisis and other mental and psychological problems.
- Let someone Else Take the Fall
Another reason behind this is the human tendency to blame others for the wrong that occurs in one’s lives as a form of self-defense.
“She talked behind my back. That’s why I started the rumor.” If we find no one else to accuse, we blame it all to destiny or God.
This impulse of ignoring our shortcomings to make ourselves look good in the eyes of others and ourselves eventually results in you building up and hiding away your true emotions.
Besides, a major reason behind such reactions maybe because of the people one hangs out with. Many a time people twist the meaning of a situation for their personal gains which leads to you feeling shame over something you did not even do.
As people close to you have a stronghold over you, their scheming response triggers you into rethinking your life choices.
When you constantly compare yourself with others, you will never feel good enough. We live in a society where everyone seems to be in a race for excellence.
Parents pressurize their kids to be outstanding in every field. If the child fails to do so, he/she is looked down upon.
Such pressure and competitiveness highly affects the child’s psychology. The child (or even adults in some cases) will always feel grief over the fact that they are not the best while others seem to be doing pretty well.
This would lead to self doubt and the lack of self confidence.
Whatever the reason behind guilt is, it seriously affects people’s behavior.
Effects of the Guilt Complex
- Mental Health Problems
All psychological processes are intertwined. Many psychologists believe that suppressed guilt may be an underlying reason behind a person suffering from complex mental disorders like depression, OCD, anxiety, etc.
A person struggling with guilt complex constantly feels despair over being ineligible, undeserving, and deficient. This results in them never being satisfied and always desiring more from themselves and others.
- Negative Repercussions in Other Area of Life
Guilt can build up over years and even decades if you neglect it. A small white lie that you told to that one person ages ago, may still poke you, especially when you are feeling down. Naturally, it will create problems at your workplace and in managing social relationships.
- Barrier in Success
Besides, suppressing guilt takes energy, the effort that you could be applying elsewhere doing something productive. It makes your metal state gloomy and becomes a major barrier on your road to success.
How to Overcome the Guilt Complex?
- Remove the magnifying glass and see the situation for real
You may be amplifying the size of the situation more than what it truly is. Okay, so you did not score well in that math exam but does it truly carry as much importance as you are giving it in the long run? Is it okay to doubt your existence over that grade?
Dig deep and try to see the hidden cause of the guilt that you are feeling. What is the reason behind you feeling this way?
A lot of times, you may be experiencing ‘healthy guilt’. This happens when you are genuinely sorry for a mistake or a fault. As a matter of fact, this can help one evolve into a better person.
But at the same time, your guilt may have deeper routes pointing to your upbringing and surroundings. The ideal thing to do is to completely comprehend the situation and take the necessary steps.
Acceptance of the situation, emotion, and self is important if you want to conquer your emotions. Talk to a friend or a loved one. Don’t deny it.
Acknowledge that there is a problem. The truth is ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Rather, it will make the problem worse.
- Take Control
Apologize and bring the necessary changes in your life. If you have been too harsh on yourself, forgive yourself a little more in the future. Do whatever it takes to rectify your past mistakes and bring the necessary changes in your lifestyle and attitude.
Remember, you’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked out. Try approving yourself and see what happensLouise Hay
Everyone makes mistakes and unlike what people may say, no one is perfect. Stop with the entire negative self-talk. Instead of saying, “I am an idiot. I will never succeed.” say “I did my best and I am gonna leave the rest for time to unravel.” Be considerate of your thoughts and sentiments.
- Be Realistic and Let it go
After you have done everything in your power to make things right and made the necessary changes in your behavior, learn to let go.
Worrying about why things do not go according to your plan or why do bad things always happen to you will get you nowhere. Instead, look at things realistically, and not strive for perfectionism. Take one little step at a time.
If your guilt complex is extreme, seek professional help. Especially, if it is long-standing and toying with your mental health you must consult a psychiatrist.
Everyone makes mistakes. The past is something that can never be changed. Thus, blaming and stressing over the past will only make the future worse.
But incessantly blaming oneself over past mistakes is never a solution. If you face such problems and suspect yourself to be suffering from the guilt complex, talk to your loved ones. Seek medical help. Everyone has their problems and it’s perfectly fine to ask for help.
~Written by Rishika Dembani