E M O T I O N S:

What is it? Guilt is that feeling you "should" do something even if you don't want to. Or you "shouldn't" have done something you did. Or that you "ought" to be doing something right now other than what you are doing! So you feel really guilty.

Where is this coming from? We often internalize messages we learned from people we look up to. (Parents, teachers, other relatives, etc.) These messages can be helpful at times and even guide us through a difficult situation. They can also create "guilt" when we chose not to listen to them because of the inner struggle between what we want to do and what we feel we "should" do.

A certain degree of guilt is not necessarily bad.

It is important to experience this inner struggle so that we can make choices and develop our own inner voice and point of view. This is a normal part of growing up.

Sometimes guilt can be your friend! Guilt will help you make responsible choices. For example, suppose you and your boyfriend (or girlfriend) have an agreement not to date anyone else! And while they are away you go out with someone else. You may start to feel "guilty." It's your conscience saying you are acting in conflict with what you think is right. You are being sent messages and memories that will force you to deal with the situation. Hopefully you will be honest and tell your boyfriend or girlfriend what is going on! (If you start keeping secrets from friends, you'll really feel guilty!)

When is guilt a problem? When it keeps you from enjoying life and listening to your own inner voice. Maybe you feel you "shouldn't" be having fun when there is so much work to do. Or that you "should" buy your little sister a treat even though she's being a brat. Or that you "shouldn't" be enjoying time with your friends when someone you know is home with the flu. (Some people with eating disorders actually feel guilty whenever they eat anything. So they just quit eating. Now that's a problem!)

What can you do?

To fight back against your inner feelings of guilt:

  • Figure out where you stand - not what you believe you "should" think, feel, or do but what you actually think, feel, or do.
  • Talk to yourself using words like "I think" and "I feel" ... instead of "I should" or "I shouldn't."

After a while you will find yourself guided by your own inner voice and not listening to other people's "shoulds."



If you need more specific help,
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