Question : I was having a candid discussion with my childhood friend and we accidentally kissed each other which has caused me to feel extreme guilt. How do I come out of this?
Thank you for writing to us about your concern. I can imagine that you are feeling guilty for something which you didn’t expect. It must be causing you so much grief.
Guilt is an emotional warning sign that most people learn through their childhood social development. Its purpose is to help us identify when we’ve done something wrong, to help us develop a better sense of our behavior and how it affects us and others. It prompts us to re-examine our behavior so that we don’t end up making the same mistake again.
Having unresolved guilt that persists over time can make it difficult to think straight in everyday life. These thoughts may overflow into your work life and your personal life when you are trying to concentrate, be productive, and make decisions. Here are some tips which can help you overcome your feeling of guilt.
Make amends or changes immediately: If the feeling of guilt is for a specific and rational reason – e.g., it’s healthy guilt – take action to fix the unhealthy behavior which possibly led to the feeling.
Accept your mistake and move on: If you did something wrong or hurtful, you will need to accept that you cannot change the past. But you can make amends for your behavior, if and when it’s appropriate. Apologize, or make-up for the inappropriate behavior in a timely manner, but then let it go because you can’t do any more than that.
Learning from our behaviors: The feeling of guilt is trying to get our attention so that we can learn from our experience. If we learn from our behavior, we’ll be less likely to repeat it in the future.
Nobody is perfect: We all make mistakes and many of us go down a path in our
lives that can make us feel guilty later on when we finally realize our mistake. The key, however, is to realize the mistake and accept that you’re only human.
Forgive yourself: Understanding your state of mind at the time of the harmful action(s). Dialogue with the other(s) who were negatively impacted by your actions. Acknowledgement of the actual pain caused without exaggerating or minimizing/maximizing what happened. Forgiving yourself is important because that way you get closure from yourself and do not need to wait around for the other(s) to do the same. It is good to know if they have forgiven you or not but it is essential that you remain compassionate towards yourself.
Be mindful that not every emotion, and certainly not every guilty feeling, is a rational one that has a purpose. Focus on the guilt that causes loved ones or friends harm and also if it has been caused due to a rational reason. Remember, you are not perfect just like all of aren’t.
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