Guilt – does it serve any useful purpose?

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    Kathy Kruger

    Since I’ve chimed in as a participant on ‘Shame’ I thought I’d set up a new topic on Guilt. Not the best things to be interested in/expert on (unless you are Brene Brown, who is really an expert on these topics). My Catholic up-bringing gave me a ‘great’ start on being an expert on guilt.

    I wanted to pose the question about guilt – whether it serves any useful purpose? Does it make you re-evaluate your life, act better next time, seek forgiveness, somehow atone for what you have ‘done’?

    I think guilt is useful in that it separates the psychopaths and sociopaths from the rest of us, but beyond that I think it is a horrible, negative emotion or state. It eats you up inside, and often it is self-created guilt that bears no resemblance to the thing you have done (and often not done) that is supposedly so bad. What I reckon is necessary is awareness, when we recongise we could have done something better or differently, with the intention of changing or being better. All else is self-judgement grounded in guilt. And when our actions or inaction hurts people, then I reckon it is all about acknowledgement of the hurt, and intention and action to move forward and be better, fix things if we can. Otherwise it is guilt-laden regret. Anyway, just some thoughts from someone who has felt and analysed how I feel about guilt over many years (including totally unfounded guilt when we were goin through infertilility). Love to hear your thoughts…kathy

    Edit Danilian

    This is an interesting topic, I’m glad you started it! I’ve dealt with trying to figure out what guilt means, but unfortunately I don’t think I have a good answer. For me, a lot of my feelings of guilt have tied into things I could not do (for example, be able to give the support and help someone might need from me). I have also realized the physical feelings of guilt are very simliar to when I am dealing with anxiety. So, for me, I have to sit down and pick apart my feelings – really break down the root of what I am feeling and why. I deal with the feelings of guilt/anxiety by forcing myself to deal with the reality of the situation. I feel that this makes me re-evaluate my actions, my morals, my motives, at times making me realize I would act different (or NOT differently) next time. I think it gives you the opportunity to re-evaluate yourself and should be taken advantage of. Guilt is a way of realizing you might not have held true to yourself and your morals. However, it’s best to make sure you have looked at the situation realistically and make sure you are not being too hard on yourself (something humans tend to do a lot! be reasonable!) Sometimes you realize you have no reason to feel guilty at all!


    Hi Kathy and Edit,

    Thank you for such thought provoking doscussion on guilt. A subject I have always been fascinated by.

    I think of guilt as regret with a poisoned dart. That is pointed inwards. Although it is wonderful to use regret as a way of assessing what could have been done better, guilt doesnt leave room for any reason or compassion, it feels too final and like a death sentence. Every person should have their next breath be a new change at change, including yourself. And guilt, in my opinion, dosnt allow for that.

    More over, guilt is one of the tops signs of clinical depression, and has been linked to attempted suicides. Thanks for starting this important and often neglcted topic Kathy.

    I’ve also written a post on how to deal with guilt. Here is the link if you are interested: http://talk-doctor.com/how-to-survive-and-heal-from-guilt/

    Sending you both love,



    Kathy Kruger

    Hi Kavetha – I read your post and found it really helpful – especially coming from your personal experience of holding on to guilt when it sounds like you had nothing to feel guilty about. I like your analogy about the poisoned dart and the uselessness of guilt. I agree with Edit that the introspection aspect of feeling guilt would seem to be useful – but I think we just need to keep the introspection and lose the guilt! I hope we get some more comments in this thread, as you say – we all feel guilt, we just don’t like to talk about it much.


    guilt = the imbalance felt when some harmony has been violated, it also means the person is still under the foot of the mistake and no it serves no other purpose, than a warning similar to pain, the pertinent action/solution is to immediately pursue freedom and liberation, whatever it takes, and from then on to walk with foresight not hindsight, yes it can be done. if Ego is replaced with humility and peacefull detachment.


    @ Kathy: I’m glad you found the post helpful Kathy. Yes, guilt is such a burden to the bearer and colors our perception of life itself. I have yet not had a child myself and am the eldest child for my parents….so I can somewhat relate to the guilt of not “doing what you are supposed to” in reproducing. Hugs.

    @ traveler: I think persuing liberation/freedom is what each of us aspires to, but is easier said that done.

    Also, I’m not sure if ego causes guilt…to be honest, I think its the super ego (which is absorbed from our upbringing) that adds to feelings of guilt…just my 2 cents 🙂

    For folks who have not had a chance to listen to Brene Brown, she is awesome speaker and an expert on shame,guilt and vulnerability. Check out her TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html




    Dear Kave, its easier than you think, it is as natural as breathing, but not to the ego, what people call ego, really does not exist, it’s a figment of our imagination, the superego on the other hand is our true self, the energy that we are and exists before we were born physically into the realm perceived by the senses, which were given to us to interface with that realm temporarily, the super ego is freedom, our true self is freedom.  ?freedom from what?  from not knowing who/what we really are, once you “become” (how can you become what you allready are?),  freedom then you become a human agency against bondage in others.


    Hmm…interesting perspective traveler 🙂


    Dear K: some may tell you to think about, wrong advice.  your intellect, your mind is not you, not only your mind is not, it is not even on your side. as long as you think it is interesting or cute, you are keeping yourself at arms lenght of yourself.  the right advice is. Don’t think about it. be still and know, really know. with your inner intuition, your real self, when you sit at the computer you are the operator in control not the computer, your mind also creates a fictitious ego and if you don’t notice. now your mind is controling, instead of being your servant and your tool like the computer. yes the mind bumps the person out of the seat, and the person sits on the ground asking. ?why did I do that again, if I know better?.  your real self is so perfect, if you could see it you would almost worship it. and that goes for everybody, we are all the same, sharing on the same consciousness. no this is not a cute or interesting perspective, if you are lucky,  “perspective” vanishes. example: someone asks  ?what is the purpose of life?  and he is told, that is easy  the purpose of life is love,  and it will be interesting, untill he sees that life and love are two names of the same thing, then the question vanishes.     No, i thank You.



    Hello everyone,

    One thing that has helped me with guilt is to do what I can to the people/situation that is remaining now. For e.g: I said something hurtful to an aunt many years ago, and she passed away before I could ask for forgiveness. After much thought, I spoke to her daughter, gave an outline of what I had mis-spoken in the past to her mom, and asked for forgiveness. I beleive the healing is still real, because I had openly acknowledged it to the most closely related person/situation that remains NOW, asked for forgiveness and that helped assauge my guilt too.

    The past is gone, not real anymore. Never will be. But the present is here and in our hands. Every small act TODAY, practised with loving kindness toward yourself and others, helps.

    Have a wonderful day!


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