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Learning not to beat yourself up with guilt


How often do we find we beat ourselves up over, something we didn't say but thought we should? 

Or something we did say and want to take it back. Or not acting when we should have, or, acting when we shouldn't? Or taking responsibility for something which was not our fault? 

Or find other people trying to put the responsibility onto us for something we are not responsible for? Or, knowing we actually do need to apologise but don't know how? This wee piece does not replace professional advice, sometimes working through guilt requires a more formal intervention. The aim is simply to share that guilt is one of the many emotions we all have and learning to use it in a healthy way, is better for our wellbeing.

Now some may think, no guilt is bad………not always so! 

We all have a moral code which we seek to live our lives to, now it needs to be noted, we may not share the same code. However, there are some acceptable standards most of us would identify with e.g. don't be unkind to someone, just because you are having a bad day. Now say we are having a bad day, and we snap at someone who was only asking a question, our guilt act can act as a reminder this wasn't fair, and we should apologise. 

Or, perhaps we are tired and can't be bothered in work, we see something needs to be done, but pretend we don't, or make an excuse we cant so someone else can do it instead. Later we may feel guilty we weren't a good teammate, and this may prompt us to make a different choice next time.

There can also be 'guilty pleasures' this can be something totally harmless which we enjoy but don't want to admit to other people e.g. we may know, or, work with people who are always doing something physically active and we hear of the latest Munro they have climbed or, a new target for walking, when they were off on holiday and we think, mmmmm!! spent a whole day in bed catching up on a box set been meaning to watch for ages! 

Now not saying we shouldn't be physically active, just sharing can be hard to admit you enjoy relaxing watching box sets when everyone else is talking about hill climbing, mediation retreats, walking hundreds of miles!

However, guilt sometimes is not helpful and can have a real impact on our wellbeing including loss of confidence and increased self-doubt, there can also be the impact of others blaming us for something which was not our fault, but we hear so often 'you did'. 'you said' 'you didn't 'you should have' that we don't know what to believe any more. 

Please if you are struggling with chronic guilt do speak to someone. 

These wee tips are for general self-management sometimes we need more help to work through how we feel e.g. people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder can have a heightened sense of responsibility, to a point they feel responsible for trying to make everyone happy, or, fix it, and as it wasn't their problem in the first place, they can't, but still exhaust themselves trying.

We can also feel guilty as we aren't able to do the things we usually do, we may need to take time off sick from work, or rely more on others to help us do things we normally do for ourselves. 

We may find we feel guilty if we laugh, or, have a good day, maybe either because we feel guilt at laughing when we are relying on others, or fear that others may think we are not actually ill! 

This isn't helpful and when we are ill, we need our energy to get better not to be used on guilt. So, remember, people who care about you want to see you happy! You didn't ask to get ill, it just happened, sometimes sadly, things just happen. Feeling guilty because you are ill accomplishes absolutely nothing as you haven't done something wrong you can fix; you didn't get ill on purpose so apologising for something that was beyond your control, that doesn't make sense? And people who care about you, will stand by you, what would you do for someone in the same shoes? If the answer to that is ''maybe not a lot'', then don't waste energy on guilt, think about how when you feel better you can use what you learned about the need to not feel guilty to be there for someone else.

We can also feel guilt over our behaviours e.g. if we gamble. It may be as we move into recovery and stop being affected by gambling harms the guilt kicks in perhaps reflecting on the harm caused to others as a result of the gambling harms, money wasted, time not spent with children, family events which won't come round again. This is why speaking to someone if you are affected by guilt is so important, and if you are affected by guilt through gambling harms do speak to someone. 

Maybe to begin with even download the Recover Me App or speak to your local Gamblers Anonymous group journey of 1000 miles begins with a step and those who love you can learn to trust you again and forgive you, however, you need to take that step towards forgiving yourself and learning to live your life free from gambling harm and this often needs help, so please do seek that out. There are other pieces on this site around gambling harms.

This is only a wee piece, the research on guilt is significant and if you want to find out more, visit some reputable sites. The final point we want to close on here is Survivors Guilt. 

his happens when someone believes they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others died or were seriously injured. This can happen in any traumatic situation, a car accident, war, a house fire. However, we want to mention this in particular around COVID-19. This is an infectious virus, however, even when we do everything we can not contract it, or, infect someone else, no matter how careful we are, there is still a chance this may happen and we need to know, it was not our fault. 

We need space to talk to someone about how we feel and to share these thoughts as they can leave us feeling anxious, unable to sleep, tearful, nauseous and a whole range of other negative feelings and thoughts. It may also be we find because we haven't been adversely affected by COVID-19 we find we feel guilty about the number of people who are falling ill or dying, or businesses collapsing, or people losing their job, or charities not able to secure funds from usual sources putting more adverts on television of people and animals suffering.

One real challenge with guilt can be, it can get in the road of feeling happy, as you feel, if everyone else is miserable, then it's not right I am not miserable. It's great that we are finally getting to a point in mental health awareness when we can share when we are not okay, and that's okay, however, its also really important to remember if you actually feel ok, that's okay too.

These wee tips offer some more thoughts on guilt, they don't replace professional advice, and if you are struggling with guilt, please do speak to someone. Be kind to yourself and if you are beating yourself up with guilt, learn to forgive yourself, move on, or make amends where this is needed. You do matter,

Guilt can lead us to have thoughts of suicide, if you are thinking of suicide, please speak to someone Samaritans call 116 123 for free.

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