Can you remember a moment in your life in which you have done something so bad for which you have regretted a lot in your life? Not only have you, many others who live around you often experienced this pain of regret which affects them so badly later in life for the mistakes they make in their life. The very impact of guilt is that it makes you to take bad decisions in life which rewrites the entire script of your life with pessimism. You later carry that burden of guilt in your heart, affecting your mind and body so badly. Guilt is an emotion that you experience when you do something wrong to others or against yourself. It is an emotion that makes you feel that you have done something wrong in other words it is your sense that you have committed a moral transgression against you or someone else. That happens because; you have violated the morals you valued the most which you built in your belief system of your mind. So when it gets violated by your mistake as a result of emotional urge, you experiences guilt. This guilty feeling harbors regret which cultivates inferiority complexes, affecting your mental well being and productivity in life. A person, who experiences guilt at its epitome, rarely thinks of what others or the public think of his mistake. Because the feeling of guilt arises only when a person is self focused. For example, he decides that he will not get angry at his spouse because he values the importance of marital happiness in life, but unfortunately he slips his tongue and uses painful words at her out of anger outburst when she says something he doesn’t like at all, which ultimately resulted in a fight between them ending that day with the worst experience ever. He after three hours seeing her in tears often regrets for hurting her out of his anger. That regretful and painful experience is known as guilt, a painful feeling of committing crimes against themselves or others, without thinking of what the others would think of him if they come to know about the fight he had with his wife. Guilt cultures are seen predominant in the western cultures like the United States and European nations.
When you experience guilt, there happens a heightened neural activity in certain regions of the brain, which is studied intensively under neuroscience. It is observed that there is a heightened activation of the Fusiform gyrus, Middle temporal gyrus, Amygdala and the insula in both hemispheres of the brain just because of their negative imagination on the consequence of making mistakes on matters they values the most in their belief system. The very negative emotion of guilt can even decrease the secretory immunoglobulin A produced in the gastro-intestinal tract to combat infections. As a result, the person gets predisposed to get Garsto intestinal diseases from pathogenic microbes. More than that, the feeling of guilt can even increase the pro-inflammatory cytokines like Tumor necrosis factor alpha RII and stress hormones like cortisols, predisposing body to develop disorders with inflammatory pathologies. Rheumatoid arthritis, Vasculitis and Glomerulonephritis are some of the somatic disorders that are associated with guilt in psychosomatic medicine.
We can adopt certain strategies in life to overcome this negative feeling of guilt that harms our mind and body. I will list five different strategies that you can use in life to overcome this feeling of guilt, which haunts and torture your mind wherever you go and whoever you are.
- Accepting the guilty feeling with mindfulness: Do not blame others for your mistakes, blaming others will not heal the pain we have. Blaming only suppresses the guilt more and more, making it more painful. Instead, welcome the pain and accept the pain you experience mindfully. You can sit for a session with an expert in ACT, Acceptance and commitment therapy or Mindfulness.
- Mindful meditation: Overcome over thinking on regretful thoughts arising from guilt as it only makes us feel bad most of the time. You can overcome such thought patterns with Mindful meditation.
- Reflect instead of regretting: Every mistake in life is a step for self succession to higher enlightenment. Reflection is crucial to re-consider and re-evaluate on things you value in life because there will be things in life, that might not need so much to be valued. If it is so much to be valued, reflection on mistakes will give us clarity on how we can improve by adopting new strategies in life instead of hurting ourselves without hope in recovery from guilt.
- Self compassion practices: Forgive yourself mindfully, as with forgiveness you can expand your heart with compassion. Forgiveness can erase the feeling that makes you feel that you are a bad person and can give you a feeling that you are someone who can improve to your best. Never be a prisoner of a perfectionism, as perfectionism itself is a poison that aids in the formation of guilt. Find out an expert at self compassion practices in the field of psychology.
- Guided Imagery: Mental images of guilt can often haunt you. Such images formed in the mind are called intrusive imagery in neuroscience. Using guided imagery, we can transform such haunting mental images to positive vibes or even shrink it until it causes no more psycho-physiological disturbances.
(1) Petra Michl, Thomas Meindl, Franziska Meister, Christine Born, Rolf R. Engel, Maximilian Reiser, Kristina Hennig-Fast (2014) Neurobiological underpinnings of shame and guilt: a pilot fMRI study, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, (9)2 Pp150–157
(2) Dickerson, Sally S. MA; Kemeny, Margaret E. PhD; Aziz, Najib MD; Kim, Kevin H. PhD (2004) Immunological effects of induced shame and guilt. Psychosomatic medicine.66 (1) 24-131