Nearly everyone has a conscience, and sometimes that conscience can be really hard on us.
Guilt arises when we perceive that we have done something wrong, or that our behaviour has failed to meet a prescribed external standard. It may be a standard that a particular individual holds, or socially sanctioned standards that we’ve been trained to regard as absolutes (such as fidelity, honesty or bravery).
While guilt provides a useful moral compass that helps keep society ‘civilised’, it is only useful up to a point. When a healthy conscience becomes overactive, guilt stops serving a purpose. It becomes relentless, harsh and punitive, something that drains your energy and holds you back. It can plague you and impact your daily life in ways that aren’t immediately obvious, sabotaging your career, your relationships, your physical health, and of course, your emotions.
Is it time to seek help? Hypnotherapy, self hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), counselling and mindfulness therapy are all methods that clients have found effective in treating this problem.
Our trained therapists can work with you to start addressing the underlying reasons for your excessive feelings of guilt. We also recommend several options for hypnotherapy recordings targeted at excessive guilt and shame.
Call us on (03) 9557 9113 or use our contact form to see how we may be able to help you address your feelings of guilt.
What’s the difference between shame and guilt?
Individuals who are constantly wracked with guilt often feel enormous shame as well. The terms ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’ are often used interchangeably, but they are actually distinct concepts.
- Guilt refers to transgression — with having committed a ‘crime’ by breaking a specific rule, or failing to live up to a defined standard. Although it’s a loaded word, in many situations guilt is a straightforward fact — like being guilty of tax evasion or failure to do the dishes.
- Shame, on the other hand, refers to the feeling of worthlessness or humiliation due to that perceived or actual guilt. Shame can make you feel hopeless, bad, ugly, toxic and unlovable. It is an excruciating emotion, and many people understandably go to great lengths to avoid coming face to face with the shame they have buried deep inside. Shame can also be used to control or manipulate people — whether or not their feelings of culpability are justified.
It’s possible to get into a cycle of hair-trigger guilt and shame, where you feel those emotions for no good reason.
Some people feel so bad that they fall into a destructive cycle of self-punishment. Because of their shame over the transgression they believe they’re guilty of, they feel they don’t deserve to be happy.
Whether these feelings are warranted or not, it’s important to seek help when it takes over your life. Some consequences of chronic guilt and shame can include:
- Lack of confidence
- Lack of satisfying relationships
- Self loathing and self criticism
- Self harming behaviours (including addictions, cutting, eating disorders, and gambling)
- Physical symptoms such as digestive problems or headaches
- Failing to sustain relationships
It can take a serious toll on your mental and physical health, and many people will need professional help to address them effectively.
Please call us on (03) 9557 9113 to book an assessment at our Highett clinic or via a secure online connection. Your call is completely confidential, and there’s absolutely no obligation.
Frequently Asked Questions
The feeling you get when you've accidentally broken a relatives favourite possession, or you've lied to a friend to get out of meeting up with them, that's the feeling of guilt. Most of us experience it. A person's sense of guilt usually relates to their moral code.
Feeling guilty after making a mistake isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can lead to change, such as an apology or a decision to make different choices in the future. However, extreme guilt can become very unhelpful. It can cause physical symptoms, self-doubt, decreased self-esteem, and shame. It can be challenging to overcome these feelings, especially in the case of chronic guilt. But it is possible to get help.
If you are struggling with feelings of guilt, contact us at Bayside Psychotherapy to see if we may be able to help you.
Our counsellors provide online and in-clinic treatment customised to your unique situation. They’ll tailor a program to suit your history, goals and personal preferences. Depending on your therapist, this program may include psychodynamic psychotherapy, hypnotherapy or NLP, among others.
Your practitioner will consult with you during the initial assessment and throughout the program to make sure you’re happy with your progress. You can also download a targeted self-hypnosis MP3 recording that may complement your therapy.
Whether the burden you’re carrying is old or new, seeking help may be the most important step towards moving past it to a healthier and happier life.
Although certain clients may find they’re able to unpick the causes of their guilt feelings relatively quickly, this particular problem is often deeply rooted and complex. In our experience, most people who are experiencing intense guilt will need time to feel safe enough in treatment to be able to honestly explore, understand and resolve the issues causing it. Even when the origins and timeline are more clear, it can take many sessions of gentle therapy to change entrenched patterns of thought.
Your willingness to commit to counselling will make a big difference to the duration and success of your treatment. The guilt reflex can be a tough nut to crack, but it is possible with time and patience. The decision to get help and take action is very empowering in itself, and may even provide a jump start to the recovery process. Bayside Psychotherapy provides a safe and non-judgmental environment for your journey out of guilt and shame.
Note: Whilst we will do our best to assist you, we rely upon your commitment to and participation in the treatment process to optimise results. Although some of our therapists work with people presenting with this condition, no guarantees of any outcomes can be made.
03 9557 9113
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