Judith Rosen Counselling & Therapy

Individuals - Couples - Adolescents

Judy Talks About Guilt: Healthy and Unhealthy

Ah, guilt! This is one most of us know all too well. Guilt is creepy, it slips in quietly and slowly takes over. It can be relentless and never let you rest, and like a condemned prisoner, you have your sentence of guilt pain to serve. There are no pardons.
Guilt is not all bad and can function in a healthy manner. We do something wrong, we feel guilt. This motivates us to review our actions and in doing so, we feel remorse for our wrongdoing. We resolve not to act in this way again and, affirming this, guilt goes away. It does not return unless we return to this hurtful behavior. This is what I call healthy guilt.
Unfortunately, guilt does not always behave so well. It often hangs on, and even though we are no longer doing anything wrong, it continues to harangue us. It does even more. It clouds our moments and doesn’t let us enter into our lives fully. We are there, but we are not fully there. Given license to continue, guilt lowers our concentration level, dims our enjoyment of life, and eventually lowers self-esteem. It creates unnecessary suffering internally. This is unhealthy guilt. Most of us suffer in silence and feel too much shame to tell anyone.
Guilt disables us leaving little or no energy for transformation or positive action. We are consumed by this guilt and the thought of our worthless self. One focuses on one’s self, while the hurtful action and the people that have been harmed by this action are forgotten in the great need to punish the self.
Some feel that lingering guilt is a noble force which motivates us to be better people. I have never seen guilt act in this way. Unhealthy guilt casts a shadow between us and the outside world. We are never completely free to look clearly into the eyes of another. There is heaviness, a cloud around us. We don’t operate from a place of clarity or a place of connection. Unhealthy guilt disables us and can diminish our relationships. Often the most conscientious people suffer from this problem the most.
If you suffer from unhealthy guilt, I can help. Please phone me at 604-538-9796.