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Guilt: Getting Rid of This Useless Emotion

Updated on June 25, 2018
Erudite Scholar profile image

I am an avid reader and a writer.I enjoy fiction and non-fiction books.

Person holding their temple

Person holding their temple
Person holding their temple | Source


Many of us become subjected to a conspiracy of guilt at some point in our lives. Guilt is a useless emotion and a waste of emotional energy because it immobilizes a person over something that has already happened. No amount of guilt can ever change what has already happened.

Guilt is not merely a concern with the past; it is a present moment immobilization about a past event. The degree of immobilization can run from mild upset to severe depression. If a person is merely learning from a past event in order to avoid its repetition, then this is not guilt.

A person only experiences guilt only when they are prevented from taking action in the present moment due to past behavior or actions. Learning from mistakes is healthy and it forms a cardinal part of growth. Guilt is unhealthy because energy is expended in negative feeling about past events.

How guilt arises

There are main two ways in which guilt becomes a part of the emotional makeup of an individual. The first is that guilt is learned at a very early age and remains with an adult as a leftover childish response. Childhood admonitions from parents are likely to be carried to adulthood by children.

Leftover guilt also surfaces in sex and marriage. It is evident in numerous self-reproaches and apologies for past behavior. Children develop these guilt reactions due to adult manipulation. In the second case, guilt is self-imposed by an adult for infraction of a code which he professes to subscribe to. The individual may feel bad for a long period of time.

For example an individual may create a budget for their income. When the individual purchases items on impulse, they may later feel guilty. This is the universal “buyers’ remorse”. Typical self-imposed guilt includes having told someone off and hating oneself for it.

Our culture has many forms of puritanical thinking. Many self inflicted guilt reactions can be traced to this kind of thinking. Some people are taught in childhood that sex is ‘wrong’ or ‘dirty’. Others are taught not to use certain kind of words or perform certain kinds of actions. Self-indulgence is also abhorrent to some individuals or groups especially religious groups and organizations.

People can re-learn to avoid guilt by taking responsibility for their actions. This is accomplished through thinking about the potential consequences of a course of action before taking it. Learning from mistakes is also critical since it aids in judgment. If someone does not learn from the past, they are bound to repeat it.

Parental induced guilt

Parents often induce guilt in their own children. The parent recalls all the hard times they gave up their happiness in order for their child to have shelter, food, clothing and or education. Guilt is an effective method for parental manipulation.

Sexual guilt imposed by parents is quite common. All sexual thought or behavior is fertile soil for the cultivation of guilt. Children are admonished and refrained from having sexual intercourse, masturbating or watching erotic films.

Parents wrongly think that socially appropriate behavior can be fostered by guilt. Children can learn socially acceptable behavior without the accompanying guilt.

Boy with his head on his arms

Boy with his head on his arms
Boy with his head on his arms | Source

School induced guilt

Teachers are notorious for fostering feeling s of guilt among their students. They use it to manipulate the students or punish them for certain actions. They induce feeling of guilt through metaphors or analogies. The feelings of guilt haunt their students for eons. Some students eventually commit suicide due to poor performance at school.

Institution induced guilt

Most penal institutions rely on the guilt theory for correction and rehabilitation. The theory states that if a person spends a long period of time thinking about the effects and consequences of their crimes they will reform and become better individuals.

The fact that a strikingly large percentage of inmates return to their law-breaking pattern has done naught to challenge this outdated belief.

Boy with his head on his arms

Boy with his head on his arms
Boy with his head on his arms

Religion induced guilt

Religion is used as a tool to induce guilt and manipulate people. People often experience feelings of guilt when they reflect on the precepts of religious leaders. They become susceptible to manipulation when they wish to atone for sins.

Some religious leaders use this form of guilt to extort their congregation. People often feel better after giving their offerings and tithes. They usually think that money absolves their sins.

Person with his head on his arm

Person with his head on his arm
Person with his head on his arm


Do you have feelings of guilt ?

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© 2018 Jeff Zod


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    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      6 months ago from Nairobi

      Hi Moon.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • cherrycrime26 profile image

      January Moon 

      6 months ago from NY, Now Living in Atlanta Ga

      Interesting Article, very informative !

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      7 months ago from Nairobi

      Hi Audrey,

      I really appreciate the feedback.Thank you for taking time to read my articles.Everybody is saddled with some kind of guilt.Guilt is like fear, it holds us back from achieving our full potential.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      It's good to learn how guilt arises. Thanks for writing about this. Childhood is where I learned to feel the burden of guilt and it stays with me until today.

      With appreciation,


    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 

      7 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Hi ES, Thank you.

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      7 months ago from Nairobi

      Do not be bogged down by guilt. Purge it from your life. #Guilt

    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 

      8 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Hi Jef, thanks for the feedback.

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      8 months ago from Nairobi

      @Fiberesima guilt paralyzes a person and prevents them from moving forward with their life.

    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 

      8 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Hi Jef Zod, I agreed with you. Mistakes made can be corrected. But guilt is another matter. I think forgiving yourself is better and forgetting the matter. Otherwise, depression and other soulisg illness follows.

      Thank you.

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      8 months ago from Nairobi

      Very true Cuan.I agree with you completely.

    • dredcuan profile image

      Dred Cuan 

      8 months ago from California

      Yes I did before. Guilt at times hinders people to grow, to explore, to discover one's full potential because at the very first stage of our curiosity, people around us started to control us rather than giving us advice then letting us decide if we would like to experience what we need to experience for us to discover the consequences of our actions.

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      8 months ago from Nairobi

      Guilt often drains the souls of people.I agree with you about empathy.It may aid in creating connections or it may destroy us emotionally.

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      8 months ago

      There is also guilt associated with having EMPATHY or the human connection. Lets say you did something that crushed someone's soul and you saw them laying on the floor crying out in agonizing pain just before you walked out of the door.

      That image and those sounds may replay in your mind over and over again causing you to {regret} your actions.

      Regret and guilt often go hand in hand. Thankfully sociopaths are in the minority. Most people do have a conscience and can be empathetic. Causing someone pain can lead to feelings of guilt.


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