Putting it simply, guilt is a natural feeling or emotion that arises when we feel that we have done something that is not right and has caused harm to someone. Let us agree that each one of us is carrying some burden of guilt on our shoulders; one may be guilty just because he spread a rumor about someone s/he disliked, a working mother may be guilty of not being able to spend enough time with her family, so on and so forth.
Our guilty conscience keeps poking us to make amends, and it is a sort of a healthy way to rectify or at least realize our wrongdoings. However, Osho says that guilt is an unnatural phenomenon and has been created by priests in order to exploit humanity. Whether it is natural or unnatural, guilt is something that can eat us from within if not handled in a mature manner.
Here are a few things you must know on how to deal with guilt.
Guilt can be broadly classified into two types - proportionate and disproportionate. Proportionate guilt is the healthy guilt that arises from an action or wrongdoing that affected other people negatively. You are accountable for it, and you must own up.
Disproportionate guilt is something that you are not responsible for and has arisen from a situation that was not under your control. For example, you being praised for delivering a presentation that was mainly worked on by your colleague. This kind of guilt makes you feel ashamed of yourself and fills you with resentment.
When you are dealing with a feeling of guilt, it is imperative that you first realise and identify what kind of guilt you are carrying within yourself.
While a proportionate guilt directs you towards making amendments for your actions, disproportionate guilt is unwanted and serves no rational purpose, whatsoever.
It is very important for to analyze if the situation or act that has instilled the feeling of guilt in you was under your control or not. If it was something that you could not control - example a car accident that took the life of your co-passenger you exchanged your seats with earlier - then it is better not to dwell in guilt. This kind of guilt will linger if you let it take charge of yourself.
If you let others push your buttons and allow then to make you feel guilty of something, then it is just going to add to your problems.
Learn to distinguish between your inner doubts and reality and face it with a clear mind. Do not let people pick on you and make you feel guilty based on your inner doubts. Always have a clarity of mind and think before you react. This is the best way of dealing with guilt.
Most of the times, you have set too high a bar for yourself, and if you fail to reach it, guilty conscience starts building up inside you. We agree that helping others and placing others before yourself is what has been taught to us but understand that you cannot practice it in every situation.
When trapped in a bus that is falling, you will, by default, first try and save your family and yourself before lending a helping hand to others. In case, someone falls to death in the meanwhile; you are not to be blamed.
Even though you are one of those few good people residing on this planet, you have to understand that you have only so much of yourself to offer to others.
Pick and choose the situations or people who are in greater need instead of trying to lend a hand to everyone and anyone. Focus on what you should be doing instead of what you could not do.
Forgiving yourself by apologizing or expressing your remorse to the person who has been affected by your act is a good idea. Whether the other person chooses to forgive you or not should not be your area of concern. Get over your guilt and let others take time to think and act.
Make a journal of the act, feelings and details of the guilt to analyze and learn about yourself. This will help you improve your behavior and relieve yourself of guilt.
Osho also tells that self-acceptance comes from meditation. It is crucial that you observe your behaviour and realise which aspect needs to be looked into. Have compassion for self and gradually work towards making a better person out of you.
Not making amends or apologizing for your wrongdoings will never let you come out of the feeling of guilt. It will only feed your ego and leave you more resentful and ashamed. Hence, take the first opportunity to make repairs if you want to get over your guilt.
Lingering on to the past is nothing but crying over spilled milk. Our experiences in life are to be learned from. Take lessons from what you've done, make amends, forgive yourself and move on. Do not carry the baggage of guilt with you if you wish to lead a happy life.