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  • Fe Robinson

Is guilt a bad thing?

Sometimes clients come into therapy wanting to be absolved of guilt when they have done something they regret. Guilt is painful, and this is a natural instinct. The first step is working out whether the guilt is realistic, or dysfunctional in nature.

It is perfectly normal, healthy, and appropriate to feel guilty when you have done something you would judge someone else for, guilt is a helpful emotion to help us reflect and grow so that we don’t continually repeat the same mistakes. Guilt is only problematic and dysfunctional when you have nothing to be guilty for.

So how do you tell? As a quick test, you can be specific with yourself about what you feel guilty for, and then mentally turn it into a video of you doing it. Then, substitute yourself in the video for someone you love very dearly. Watch your mental video with your loved one doing what you did. If you judge that person for the action, the likelihood is you have good reason to feel guilt.

If this is the case, a therapist can help you to come to terms with your guilt and potential shame, and help you identify how you want to make reparation to heal yourself and others.

If you do not feel your loved one deserves guilt, perhaps you do not deserve your guilt either? In this case, help is out there, both EMDR and integrative psychotherapy can be useful in helping you overcome the misplaced feelings you are suffering.


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