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Help! I Can't Stop Feeling Guilty!

Updated: Mar 18

Ever felt guilty about something you did or didn't do? Or even about what you want to do? You're not alone. Guilt is one of those feelings that everyone bumps into now and then. But have you ever wondered where all this guilt comes from? Or how we can flip it from making us feel bad to helping us grow? Guilt is pretty complex, and it's got a lot to do with how we were brought up, the pressure we feel from ourselves and others, and how we deal with it all.

So, guilt is like our inner alarm system. It goes off when we think we've stepped out of line or gone against what we believe is right. It's there to help us stop, think, and make things right if we need to. But here's the thing: the reasons we feel guilty can get pretty tangled up. A lot of us grew up being told that to be good people, we need to put everyone else's needs before our own. That sounds noble, but it can make us feel guilty for having our own needs and wants.

Ever been told setting boundaries is selfish? That's where a lot of guilt starts brewing. But, honestly, setting boundaries is healthy. It's about taking care of ourselves so we can be our best for others, too.

There's healthy guilt and then there's the not-so-healthy kind. Healthy guilt is when you realize you've messed up and you want to fix it. It's about learning and growing. The unhealthy kind? That's when you beat yourself up over and over, often about stuff that's not even your fault or things you can't control. This can make you feel stuck, anxious, and super tired.

I’ve found Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy is deeply effective in helping us deal with these feelings in a unique way. IFS says we've got different parts of ourselves inside, like the inner critic, the caretaker, or the scared kid. Sometimes, these parts are in conflict, which can make us feel all mixed up inside. IFS therapy helps us get to know these parts, understand what they need, and help them work together better. It's like being the leader of your inner family, making sure everyone gets heard and feels okay. This can be a game-changer in dealing with guilt because it helps us see that we're not just our mistakes or our guilt. We're a whole bunch of parts trying to do our best.

Also, we've got to talk about that inner critic—the voice inside that's way too hard on us. Plus, there's pressure from culture, religion, and our families. Sometimes, we're put in the position of having to take care of our parents' feelings, or we're blamed when things go wrong. This stuff can make us feel guilty for things that aren't really on us, like other people's happiness or problems. Here's where it gets interesting: guilt is about feeling bad for something we did or might do. Shame, though, is when we start thinking we're bad at our core. Knowing the difference helps us transform these feelings.

So, how do we deal with all this? First off, recognizing what's making us feel guilty and understanding it's okay to take care of ourselves. It's also about learning to talk to ourselves more kindly and realizing making mistakes doesn't make us bad people. IFS therapy can be a big help in this journey, giving us tools to understand and calm the parts of us that feel guilty or ashamed.

In the end, dealing with guilt is about growth. It's about moving from feeling bad about ourselves to understanding and forgiving ourselves. This journey might not be easy, but it's definitely worth it. It leads to being more genuine, kind to ourselves, and free from the heavy stuff that holds us back.

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