Guilt is the emotional reaction people may feel if they believe they are directly or indirectly responsible for something bad happening. Feelings of guilt arise when you feel bad about your behavior and its consequences. This is different from the feeling of shame, because people who feel shame are evaluating themselves as badnot just their actions. For example, if you feel bad for telling a lie, that would be a feeling of guilt. However, if you feel bad for being a liar, that would be a feeling of shame.
There are two main functions of guilt. It can serve as a way of punishing oneself for bad behavior, or it can also be a catalyst for changing whatever situation caused the feelings of guilt in the first place. Both of these functions can help people to have a better social conscience by caring about how their actions affect other people. In fact, people who don't feel guilt and remorse from time to time are considered mentally ill. However, guilt can also have harmful effects when it causes people to withdraw from others. Also, there are occasions where people feel irrational guilt for things that are beyond their control. It is only natural, but in this case it is counterproductive.
People may be prone to guilt if they around other people who use it as a means of manipulation. Because guilty people often feel the need to make up for the harm they have done, manipulative people can take advantage of that by guiding people towards conclusions that leave them feeling guilty. It may be entertaining on television when a character gains something by convincing someone else that the situation was his or her fault, but the resentment of being manipulated in real life is no laughing matter.
Experiences that occur in childhood can make a person likley to experience guilt. If children are involved in arguments and chaos, they can feel responsibility for being the cause and hold themselves responsible. It is important for friends and loved ones to offer reassuring words during times like these. Of course, the opposite kinds of words will only make the feelings of guilt multiply if children are constantly told that they are a burden or that everything is their fault.
There are two types of guilt; healthy and unhealthy(toxic). Guilty feelings arise whe something really is your fault. When you feel guilt in this situation, it is your conscience at work, and that is a very good thing. What kind of a world would this be if most people didn't care when their actions had adverse effects on other people? Healthy guilt involves people holding themselves responsible for their actions. Although those actions can't be undone, healthy guilt will motivate people to find ways to better the situation that they caused.
Unhealthy guilt stems from feelings that aren't based in reality or rationality. This can occur when people feel guilty for situations they did not cause or control. Unhealthy guilt often gets its roots from guilt and unworthiness that a person has been conditioned to feel. Unhealthy relationships and environments sometimes cause people to feel responsible for things that are really outside of their realm of responsibility. For example, we can't always be held responsible for how our actions cause other people to feel. It would be healthy to feel guilty for making weight jokes about a woman who is sensitive about her weight, but it would be unhealthy to feel guilty for becoming a doctor when your mother always wanted you to be a lawyer.
To overcome healthy guilt, it can be as simple as doing what your conscience naturally tells you to do. Of course, it all depends on the seriousness of the action for which you feel guilty. It may take a long time to undo the damage you have done, and even the right thing to do isn't always an easy thing to do.
Overcoming unhealthy guilt can be more difficult. It may be necessary to work on it from both the outside and inside. On the inside, it is helpful to think logically about causes and effects to ensure yourself about what is and is not within a person's control. It is also important to reflect upon all of the things you do which make you an important person who is worthwhile to be around. Surround yourself with people who reinforce these ideas and don't tear down your self-esteem. Professional therapy is also an option.
Above all, remember that negative feelings like guilt have a place in all of us. Without them, the good feelings would have nothing to stand out against. The most important thing is to make negative feelings work for you instead of against you.