WellBeing

Dealing with guilt

Guilt is a burdensome emotion. It can weigh you down with self-recrimination, damage your sense of self, erode your relationships, trigger anxiety or resentment and make you self-punish.

It is, according to cognitive theorists, a result of thoughts around your actual or perceived poor behaviour, behaviour that you believe has caused harm, malicious or unintended, to someone else and even to yourself. It is generated by self-recriminations around what you might have done—or should have done. It is often triggered by real events but can also be misplaced.

Guilty purpose

Like many emotions, guilt has its evolutionary role. As an emotion its primary goal is to teach us about the social and cultural norms of our group. It is essentially a warning that you have done something that has breached some social code. It gives you a chance to correct whatever you have done, to learn from it and move on, wiser and more aware.

Feeling guilt is common. Studies estimate that we experience mild guilt for about two hours each day, moderate guilt about five hours a week and severe guilt for around three-and-a-half hours a month. It

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