Guilt is a negative and very unpleasant feeling for most people. What is it and what are the costs of being guilt-intolerant? Today we are going to tell you and give you peace.
Evolutionarily the purpose of feeling guilt is to seek to recognize, repair, and apologize for a fault committed, to restore our social value, and become part of a system of relationships.
However, just as there are people who may not experience it, there are others who do not tolerate their experience and not only catastrophize it, but anxiously rush to do whatever it takes in order not to feel it. What is it and what are the costs of being intolerant of guilt?
What is guilt?
A negative feeling that people experience when they evaluate that they have violated a social or personal norm or moral code.
This is regardless of whether such a violation is real or perceived.
It is composed of a feeling of
Repentance (I wish I hadn't acted like this) and
Remorse (I feel really bad about what I did), as well as
Sadness (because we know we are capable of harming or the effect on others of our harm) and
Anger (for having damage).
But guilt also involves the
To the consequences that transgression can have on our reputation, image, or social value
Before ourselves (causes embarrassment or low self-esteem) or
In the face of others (danger of exclusion from the social system).
Guilt is socially learned because it does not exist without created codes or norms to violate.
Society determines which behaviors are appropriate and which are not.
In polygamous societies, you don't feel guilty, and you don't blame others, for having more than one partner at a time, for example.
Why is it experienced as something so unpleasant to feel?
Different theories state that feeling guilty limits us to performing behaviors that hurt us in a personal or social way.
It is unpleasant precisely so that we avoid feeling it or seek quickly to get out of it.
Guilt moves us to repair, to ask for forgiveness, or even to forgive ourselves when the above is not possible or sufficient.
What can we call "Intolerance of guilt"?
It is also known as guilt sensitivity.
It is the highly negative evaluation of feelings of guilt, to the degree of provoking anxiety and seeking to avoid them at any cost.
It is the subjective perception that guilt is very threatening, to a greater degree than for most people, that makes it intolerable.
Any action thought, or impulse that may inspire guilt causes extreme anxiety and seeks at all costs to "cleanse" oneself of it.
One may even irrationally believe that one is at constant risk of harming others with any behavior or omission.
Why does this happen?
Inability to accept uncertainty.
As you do not wait to make an objective assessment about whether or not you are guilty, you choose to go to the "safe" and take the blame for whatever it is to immediately seek to eliminate it.
There is an important correlation between guilt intolerance and some anxious processes.
When you developed the belief or learned that you were very responsible for whatever happened in your family, you lived in constant threat and were constantly being blamed (and possibly punished).
This causes a kind of trauma in you where you no longer question the responsibilities you accept or assume very easily and want to avoid failing so as not to re-experience the guilt you learned to have.
What effects does guilt intolerance have on our lives?
You accept requests or situations that you don't like because for you everything is more bearable than the guilt you feel of saying no or hurting someone's feelings if you don't agree.
You even blame yourself for what you didn't do.
Let's remember that guilt has an objective and a subjective component.
Some guilty people don't feel it.
And those who feel it don't have it.
You hasten to ask for forgiveness, only for freeing yourself from the feeling.
But that does not give you time or full recognition of what happened so you have no opportunity to become aware to learn and thus be able to repair genuinely.
You could pay a very high price for obtaining forgiveness.
It's a bit like the law of supply and demand. If your need is great and the supply is small, the price of forgiveness will become higher.
For example, if you run into an abuser or manipulator, he will identify this weakness in you and seek to exploit it for his benefit.
Let us remember that to free yourself from guilt, you are willing to accept that you have it when you do not.
You punish yourself.
If you do not find redemption, forgiveness, or the possibility of reparation, what is left to atone for your guilt by taking the punishment by your hand?
You can punish yourself by doing something that hurts you, by not doing something that benefits you, or by depriving yourself of something that you like.
Should we aspire to nullify feelings of guilt?
No, but we should seek to take advantage of the opportunity offered by feeling it.
Avoid: Damaging behaviors
Repair: In some way, the damage is done (to others or our reputation or image) or to ourselves, with changes in attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors and adjustments to our scale of values.
Asking for forgiveness: To whom we may have hurt
This is regardless of whether the other decides to forgive us, because he may be present or absent in our lives.
When one cannot repair or receive forgiveness from someone, one can, after acknowledging the fault committed and the harm caused, seek to forgive ourselves by being compassionate and indulgent, but not complacent.
The point is to avoid its most damaging effects.
Like toxic guilt, which is the guilt you feel without it, or when you experience an inordinate responsibility for something that has happened.
Or the guilt that leads to humiliation or submission.
What can we do?
Adjust your expectations about your responsibility.
Make an assessment and act:
If you are guilty,
Then ask for forgiveness
Then repair if possible
Forgive yourself by being compassionate and forgiving, especially if you have not been forgiven or cannot be repaired.
If you are not guilty or having done the above, you still feel that you are:
Seek to tolerate a little more guilt before you rush to act to remove it.
It takes time to act to get rid of guilt, even if it's a few minutes at a time incrementally.
The idea is for your mind to learn that feeling guilty without being guilty is not objectively dangerous.