Guilt. Some of us feel like we’re born with it. Our parents or our cultures perpetuate it. We may even wallow in it. And if we do, we can be so overwhelmed by it that we experience physical discomfort. We can be so distracted by guilt that we can’t focus or concentrate. Our self-esteem erodes over time and we develop such distress that our relationships suffer.

In today’s world, when disparate demands push and pull us in many directions, you can suffer from a steady stream of guilt. When you’re at home, you feel guilty if you don’t answer a few work emails. When you’re at work you feel guilty that you’re not at home spending quality time with your partner. You know how it is.
If you are prone to feel guilty, a little voice in your head is always telling you you’ve done something wrong. Even though it’s entirely possible that you haven’t. Your brain is just set on guilt default.

Feeling Guilty About Feeling Guilty

You’ve heard it said that guilt is a useless emotion. So you can even feel guilty about wasting your energy feeling guilty! You feel bad about any pain, large or small or even imagined, that you may have caused and need to fix.

Luckily there’s a silver lining. People who are prone to feel guilt are also well tuned in to the pain they cause others. So if you have a strong guilt response, you are empathetic and feel terrible about what you’ve done to hurt others. You’ll probably go out of your way to rectify the situation.

Own Your Guilt

So instead of feeling guilty about having your brain default to guilt, you can own it and see it as a positive attribute. As a person who is prone to feel guilty, you’re more like to understand your partner’s emotions. And because you don’t want to feel guilty, you’re less likely to cause your partner harm in the first place.

Restore Your Peace of Mind

Once you accept and own your guilt, consider that there are times when you may have no cause to feel guilty. Consider that you may be wired to feel guilty, and you might have nothing to feel bad about. If you think you have done something to hurt your partner, try putting yourself in his place. Turn the situation around and reverse roles. Imagine if he had committed the wrong you think you did. Would it upset you? Would it hurt you in any way? If not, you’re probably fine. If you’re still in doubt, ask.

When you receive a guilt alarm, examine it. You may be getting an incorrect message. Try being as understanding with yourself as you are with others. Avoid taking on guilt when you don’t have to. You’ll feel better. When you are less hobbled by guilt, you are free to enjoy more peace of mind. And that is a state in which relationships flourish.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: