People who suffer depression and anxiety frequently spend much of their time feeling shame about the past or worrying about the future. It comes as no surprise that this is a more common problem that we face every day than we’d like to admit to ourselves. How we understand feelings of guilt and shame helps us to focus and deal with these immobilizing emotions.
Guilt and Shame From the Past
Often, we have a feeling that we might have done some unforgivable thing in the past and deserve to be punished. Guilt is the punishment that makes us feel that we are receiving what we deserve. The reality is that past issues may, or may not, have been your fault. However, the end result is that you end up carrying around the burden of guilt for years, occupying your present and potentially your future.
Guilt and Shame From the Present
You could be feeling guilt and shame over something you are currently doing. For example, you feel that you are being selfish or that you have “bad” thoughts. You may have resentments that you do so much for others but they do not return the favors. You then feel guilty for having such anger. Guilt can be over how you handle relationships, parents, spouse, children, and friends. Unfortunately, the feelings of guilt and shame end up being out of proportion to the “crime” committed. Dwelling on these feelings and “beating yourself up” over and over again will only cause you to have more negative bad feelings, not less.
Why Do We Feel Guilt and Shame?
Guilt is a great way to fill the “present moment.” Guilt allows you to avoid changing. By concentrating on the past it is hard to focus on the present or the future. Guilt makes you feel that others will think better of you for feeling the guilt and resulting suffering.
For some, the feelings of guilt are so comfortable and familiar that they prefer it to feeling good. Feeling good can bring on a great deal of anxiety because you think that you do not deserve to feel good.
Guilt for past wrongs is a great way to explain your present unhappiness and lack of satisfaction with yourself and your life. Guilt, and feeling at fault, may have been the way you were taught to feel by your parents who were angry and blamed, etc.
Guilt and shame fit with over-analytical, over-sensitive, people. It is easy to dwell on bad things, over and over again. Guilt feeling brings on feelings of self-hate–of course you hate yourself, that you are depressed, anxious, obsessive, not changing.
Healing Guilt and Shame
It is very difficult to let go of feelings guilt and shame on your own. You can start freeing yourself from their grip by taking a serious look at how you use guilt and shame in your life. Guilt, anxiety, shame, and obsessing distracts you from dealing with the real issues, the real you, the present problem, and the need to change.
Anxious and sensitive people are usually very bright, helpful, empathetic, understanding, and have a very special-intuitive-awareness that can be an asset if you can learn to manage, direct, and control it. This can also build your understanding of people rather than just reacting to situations. Know that you have a special asset that needs to be based more on appropriate focusing of your feelings and awareness.
Remember, the help of a trained professional therapist is often the next best step if these feelings continue to plague and haunt your life. It’s worth pointing out that there is no guilt or shame in asking for help in dealing… with guilt and shame.