Overcoming Guilt: A Practical Guide

Overcoming Guilt: A Practical Guide

by Lynda Bevan


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Overcoming Guilt: A Practical Guide by Lynda Bevan

If you can recognize your guilt, you can use it for self-improvement

Ask yourself:

  • Do you want to learn how to forgive yourself?
  • Do you want to correct mistakes instead of hiding them?
  • Do you become angry very quickly? (over-reacting)
  • Do you get caught up in blaming and assigning guilt?
  • Do you often ask yourself "Why did I do that?"
  • Are you afraid that if you don't do everything your partner asks then he/she will leave you?
  • Do you often put down or attack others before they can hurt you?
  • Do you sometimes believe that nothing good can come your way?
  • Do you opt-out of responsibility when possible?

    If you answered YES to more than one of these questions, then this book is for you.

    This is the book to help you overcome your unwanted emotional burden. Be ready to embark on a journey of discovery of the many different types of guilt and shame. You can use this little book as a manual to overcome emotional insecurity issues and to give you a clearer perspective on your own emotions of guilt and shame.

    The exercises in this book will enable you to see yourself as you really are "warts and all" and further exercises will help you in eliminating destructive feelings and actions.

    "It is hard to believe how much useful information the author has packed into this slender tome."

    --Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited

    Learn more at www.LyndaBevan.com

    Book #6 in the 10-Step Empowerment Series

  • Product Details

    ISBN-13: 9781615992386
    Publisher: Loving Healing Press
    Publication date: 05/01/2014
    Pages: 98
    Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.38(d)
    Age Range: 1 - 17 Years

    Read an Excerpt


    Step 1 - What Is 'Guilt?'

    'Guilt' is primarily an emotion experienced by people who believe they have done something wrong. Guilt is an affective state in which one experiences conflict at having done something one believes one should not have done (or, conversely, not having done something one believes one should have done). It gives rise to a feeling that does not go away easily and is driven by conscience.

    Guilt is a destructive, powerful emotion linked to shame. You judge yourself by trying to live by standards dictated to you from your early-learning role models and your environment, your culture, and from the belief system that you have brought with you into adulthood. Some of these beliefs are out of date and inaccurate, having been indoctrinated into all your life in order to maintain control during your childhood.

    Before you feel guilty, you have to say or do something that your belief system identifies is wrong. If you believe something you said or did was wrong, it might be because you have been brainwashed with a code of behavior that was passed on to you during your childhood. In today's culture, it is possible that your code of behavior might be considered old-fashioned and inappropriate. During childhood, you are dependent on your role models to show you what is right and what is wrong, and the answer to this question, and other questions, forms your basic belief system. But what if the information that is passed to you is wrong or outdated? What happens is that you still believe it. You accept, without question, the stuff that pops into your head and stick to it, believing it to be right.

    Everyone is familiar with 'guilt.' If you don't have a conscience, then you won't feel guilty (sociopath). Guilt is what you feel when you believe you are responsible for an action or statement that you now regret.

    How is Guilt Classified?

    True guilt is the guilt you feel when you know you have said or done something that goes against your moral code of conduct.

    False guilt is the guilt you will feel even when you have done nothing wrong at all. It feels like shame, even though you have no idea why it is that you feel ashamed.

    Negative feelings resulting from social and/or personal causes act as 'breeders' of guilt. Thus, one may harbor guilt associated with shame, embarrassment, and/or humiliation.

    Here are some examples of why you feel guilty:

    You feel guilty when you believe you are responsible for any set of circumstances that you are or were involved in;

    • You feel guilty when you have a strong (moral) belief in right and wrong that hinders your enjoyment in doing something you want/wanted to do;

    • You feel guilty when you take responsibility for someone else's problems;

    • You feel guilty when you look back on your life and regret having done or said something;

    • You feel guilty because of an irrational belief;

    • You feel guilty when you have said or done something to someone who is now dead;

    • You feel guilty when you believe you are responsible for stuff you are definitely not responsible for.

    An example of a mother's guilt:

    I have counseled many women who have left their partners/ husbands for one reason or another, and most of these women have felt very guilty that they have taken their child/children from their Dad and the home the family once shared. Weeks, months, and years later, the guilt can remain the same. In fact, as the years roll by, the guilt of divorce can increase. A lady who was referred to me by her General Practitioner had left her ex-husband, the father of her two children, some 18 years ago and still felt the tug of guilt in the pit of her stomach. She tried to overcompensate her guilt by being there, purchasing items, and doing all manner of things for her children. She truly believed that she had caused her children deep emotional pain by leaving her husband, their father.

    This lady compared herself to her peers who had sustained their marriages and relationships and who were now entering midlife and retirement together. She craved the normality of having remained faithful and committed to one partner. She felt she was a failure and believed that she should have stayed in the marriage for the sake of the children. During one session, she brought along her eldest daughter and asked me if it was possible for her daughter to join in the session. I agreed.

    During the session, the issue of her divorce and the resulting feelings with regard to her children was discussed. Her daughter was amazed by her mom's revelations and wholeheartedly disagreed, saying that she remembered when she was a young teenager witnessing her father's behavior toward her mom and followed her mom, when she went into the kitchen, and said to her mom, "Why don't you tell Dad to go because he treats you badly?"

    'Guilt' — the word sounds ugly, doesn't it? It is a word that carries with it the most terrible, haunting feelings that stick to you like glue. The questions you ask yourself cannot be answered by you on a rational level. You are burdened with the deed and the word, and you feel you cannot escape or even believe that you don't deserve to be free of the feeling of guilt. You hang on to guilt as if by some illusion feeling guilty makes you atone for your misdeeds.

    Here are some examples of the questions you ask yourself if you feel guilty:

    • Why couldn't I have done more?

    • Why did I do what I did?

    • Why did I say that?

    • Why didn't I see what was going to happen?

    • Why have I got to live with these feelings?

    • Why didn't I wait longer before leaving as I did?

    • Why didn't I lock the car?

    • Why did I drive too fast?

    • Why did I run away?

    • Why didn't I say goodbye when I had the chance?

    • Why didn't I take him/her to the doctor sooner?

    • Why didn't I take the chance/opportunity when I was offered it?

    • Why have I got to put up with this?

    • Why did I cheat?

    • Why did I lie?

    • What have I done that makes my life so awful?

    • What have I done that is bad and is the cause of making my life such a constant struggle?

    Guilt is an unpleasant emotional feeling that sticks to you like glue. It will never go away until you forgive yourself for that which you feel guilt about.

    Here are some examples of where guilt comes from:

    • Knowing you have said or done something wrong;

    • Knowing that you have said or done something inappropriate;

    • Your childhood role models, environment;

    • Your early learning experiences at school, with friends and family;

    • Your religious beliefs;

    • Blame put on you by another person.

    I am sure you can add to this list.

    Whatever the circumstances of your guilt, you are left with feelings of remorse and shame. One of the main reasons you carry guilt is that when you look back, you can see that you could have done more; you could have handled a situation or a person differently; the outcome could have been so different, probably better, who knows? The fact is that you can't turn back the clock and re-do anything. You have to accept what you did, said, and believed and decide to let go of the guilty feeling and move on. The emotional weight of guilt is a burden which is extremely heavy and you don't want it anymore.

    An Example of Guilt

    A man I knew was very guilty because he was having a romantic and sexual affair behind his wife's back. This was bad enough; but to add to his guilt, he believed that God would cast him out of heaven for this act of betrayal. He was a religious man and attended church services every Sunday regular as clockwork. He held quite a senior position in the church and helped out whenever he could. The congregation and the Preacher thought very highly of him, which added to his feelings of remorse. The problem was that he genuinely loved the woman who had walked into his life some 13 years previously. He believed that she was his twin soul — kind, loving, caring, thoughtful, sincere, supportive, and helpful. Indeed, all the traits that others had remarked, he had himself.

    'What could he do?' he asked himself. He had never felt this way before and didn't want to lose this woman he loved so much. He lived for the times that they could be together (which amounted to half-an-hour once a month). They would meet in a safe environment and make love together. He had never experienced such passion and openness. The sexual relationship they had answered all his fantasies and dreams. He telephoned this lady twice a week and realized that he could say anything to her. He was open and confided all his problems, feelings, fears, worries to 'his' woman, for this is what he called her. He had been unable to share these things with his wife. His wife, I later learned, was a bit of a cold fish, unresponsive, lacking in passion, and unforgiving. She regularly 'put him down' and humiliated him in front of family and friends. He had told her not to do that, of course; but she believed that she was always right and wouldn't consider the possibility that she was wrong in anything she said or did.

    This couple had been married more that 35 years, but he admitted that there was never passion between them. Sex was rigid and inflexible, and he believed that his wife was just 'glad to get it over with'. This man was referred to me for counseling by his doctor because he was due for retirement, and he found it very difficult not only to come to terms with his retirement but also because this would ultimately mean that he could no longer see 'his' woman. The reason for this was that his wife was very controlling in the marriage and would make sure that he did what he was told and went where she demanded that he go. He was tied in, trapped with no visible escape. He was distraught. He knew that his relationship with this woman would have to end and he just couldn't come to terms with that thought. What would his life be like without her in it? Who could he talk to in the future the way he could talk to her? He didn't even try to answer these questions, preferring to bury his head in the sand and hope that the situation would work out in the end.

    The weight of this secret was heavy on his heart. He wanted to leave his wife but felt he could not do this because of his faith. 'Thou shall not commit adultery'; he had, he was committing it, and he hated himself for doing this. 'His' woman helped him all she could. She tried everything to comfort him and even suggested he should talk to his Preacher to have some support and advice on what to do. He balked at this suggestion as he believed that his Preacher would tell him to 'drop the woman' and be a good husband to his chosen partner. He couldn't go through with this suggestion. Every Sunday he went to church and sat there feeling unworthy of being amongst God-fearing folk. He couldn't pray. He believed that he had no right to God's ear because he was a sinner who continued to sin. How did this situation end?

    It hasn't. He continues to live with his head in the sand and hang on to the hope that 'his woman' would continue to wait for him and see him whenever he could escape from the prison that was his home. Even today, this man goes through the motions of living his life, constantly thinking of how it could be and how it should be. What was holding this man back from being with the woman he loved? Was it his religious beliefs? Was it because he would have felt ashamed? Was it because he believed that his family and friends wouldn't like him anymore? Was he afraid of experiencing change in his life?

    I had and still have no answers to all these questions. Many months after his retirement, I saw him briefly once. He told me that he was trying to make the best of his life and his decision was to put his faith and his children (all in their 30s) before himself. In other words, he 'martyred' himself and continues to be unhappy, unfulfilled, and still guilty."

    What are Your Negative Beliefs when You Feel Guilty?

    You believe that ...

    • You cannot stick to the rules;

    • You can decide to ignore the feelings of guilt for as long as you can (burying your head in the sand);

    • You can decide not to feel guilty, believing guilt is for fools;

    • You are above having feelings of guilt because you are always right in all that you do;

    • You can make excuses for yourself in order to assuage your guilt;

    • You should blame someone else for your deeds and resulting guilt;

    • You will continue hurting and punishing yourself endlessly;

    • You should hate yourself;

    • God will punish you.

    There are many more that I am sure you can think of. The list is different for each of you. Just like every otheremotion, there is a positive as well as a negative side to guilt.

    What are Your Positive Beliefs when You Feel Guilty?

    You believe that ...

    • You must stop whatever it is you are doing that you believe is wrong;

    • God loves you no matter what you are doing;

    • You should love yourself;

    • You believe in fate and should accept what happens to you;

    • You can stick to the rules, and do so;

    • You should face your fears and work through them;

    • You should do the right thing and learn to live with the consequences.

    Guilt can be pro-active as well as re-active. There is a negative and positive side to all emotion, and guilt is no exception.

    Positive Guilt

    Guilt used positively can be used to define the difference between right and wrong, moral and immoral. This type of guilt is important and essential to maintaining a moral code of living. The Ten Commandments is an example of a basic moral code for living. If you fall from grace by disregarding and disrespecting one of the Ten Commandments, you will be guilty of not adhering to the moral code set down for you by God. Your actions will be regarded as sinful and being sinful is a disgrace.

    Here are some examples of positive guilt:

    • Guilt demonstrates that you have a conscience;

    • Guilt that has turned from negative to positive can make you closer to your partner (paying him/her more attention, and being mindful of their needs) ;

    • Guilt helps you recognize when you have said or done something bad and gives you the opportunity to rectify the situation;

    • If you have experienced guilt, you will be better placed to recognize this feeling in someone else, and you can empathize with this person and try to help them overcome their guilt feelings;

    • Guilt allows you the opportunity to say sorry;

    • Guilt allows you the opportunity to make amends for any wrongdoing;

    • Guilt can provoke a change in your attitude, leading to more positive thinking;

    • Guilt can provoke a change in your action and reaction;

    • Guilt can motivate you to be sensitive to someone else's issues;

    • Guilt can move you toward helping other people having guilt issues;

    • Guilt can reinforce your doing things the right, moral way.?

    • All the above and there are many more examples.

    What Can Negative Guilt Do to You?

    Negative guilt is damaging to your overall wellbeing in a number of ways.

    Here are some examples of what negative guilt can do to you:

    • Guilt can make you physically unwell;

    • Guilt can make you anxious;

    • Guilt can make you depressed;

    • Guilt can make you stressed;

    • Guilt can make you sad;

    • Guilt can make you obsessively conscientious to the point of continuously second-guessing yourself;

    • Guilt can stop you from doing or saying something (in fear of doing or saying the wrong thing);

    • Guilt can make you too sensitive to the needs of others to the point where you neglect yourself;

    • Guilt can stop you from making decisions;

    • Guilt can make you emotionally blocked.

    Feelings of guilt may also be induced in you by the people around you.

    Here are some examples how people make you feel guilty?

    • People can make you feel guilty if you don't react to them in the way they want;

    • People can make you feel guilty even when you know they are wrong;

    • People can make you feel guilty by reinforcing your irrational beliefs;

    • People can make you feel guilty by blaming you for something you did in your past or present;

    • People or partners can make you feel guilty when they are not personally responsible for their actions;

    • People can make you feel guilty when they are not accountable for their part in your relationship with them;

    • People can make you feel guilty by their continual judgment on things you do and say;

    • People can make you feel guilty by behaving like a 'victim' and expecting you to do things for them;

    • People can make you feel guilty by being 'martyrs'.


    Excerpted from "Overcoming Guilt"
    by .
    Copyright © 2014 Lynda Bevan.
    Excerpted by permission of Loving Healing Press, Inc..
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

    Table of Contents

    Step 1 – What Is 'Guilt?',
    Step 2 – Understanding Different Types of Guilt,
    Step 3 – 'I Am Too Good',
    Step 4 – 'I Want Something I Shouldn't Want',
    Step 5 – 'How Dare I!',
    Step 6 – 'I Am Being Selfish',
    Step 7 – 'If Only!',
    Step 8 – 'I Should Be Doing Something Else With My Time',
    Step 9 – How Does Guilt Differ From Shame?,
    Step 10 – A Fresh Start in a Conscious Marriage,
    About the Author,

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