It’s pretty tough for any human being to live totally guilt-free. No matter how careful we are, we may hurt someone badly, say something wrong, or do something we regret. At these times, it’s perfectly natural to feel remorse. When we have breached a moral standard or simply made a mistake, feeling guilty is what drives us to want to make it right. In that sense, guilt can be a valuable tool because it prompts us to make amends, repent, or apologize. But have you ever felt wracked with guilt over something insignificant, or that wasn’t even your fault?

Once you have done your best to right the wrong, it’s healthy and acceptable to move on and quit feeling bad. Given a little time, we’re usually able to do so, but sometimes, moving on can be quite challenging.

Where Guilt Comes From

Researchers have categorized guilt into a few different varieties, based on where that guilt comes from. 

Reactive: This type of guilt comes from breaking your personal moral code or going against your values.

Anticipatory: This category of guilt comes from knowing that you will do something that hurts someone else. 

Altruistic: Guilt that comes from experiencing empathy for those who you may have hurt.

Existential: This type of guilt comes up when we feel we are not living up to our expectations.

Non-related guilt: This type of guilt refers to feeling guilty without a clear connection to your actions. For example, survivors’ guilt would fall into this category.

Additionally, sometimes others might make us feel guilty for things we aren’t responsible for. Maybe guilt was a parenting tactic in your childhood home and that trapped emotional energy makes you prone to feeling guilt, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. Perhaps you’re so used to taking responsibility for everything that you blame yourself for the way others treat you, thinking you’ve done something to cause their behavior. Maybe your boss is verbally abusive, and you’ve borne so much criticism that you’ve internalized it.

Whatever the cause, if you’re wracked with guilt over things you should bear no responsibility for, then those guilty feelings aren’t productive — they’re destructive.

When You Can’t Move On From Guilt

While feeling bad about something you’ve done can be a healthy response, excessive or prolonged guilt can become a real burden that interferes with your life. If you’re always beating yourself up over your perceived failures, you may have a hard time feeling joy when you should.

  • Self-esteem may suffer
  • You might feel like you can’t do anything right
  • You may second guess your decisions out of fear of “screwing up” again
  • Feelings of sadness or worthlessness may develop

If you feel like the factors above are affecting you, it’s possible you’re feeling a trapped emotion of guilt or shame without even realizing it. Overcoming this guilt and releasing that energy may be essential to your emotional wellness.

Why Is Forgiveness Important?

Forgiveness can be a key step in releasing guilt or shame. Forgiveness means making a conscious decision to let go of negative emotions toward yourself or another person. By forgiving ourselves for our mistakes, we choose to let go of the past and move forward without guilt, shame, resentment, or bitterness. 

We might find it easier to forgive others, and more challenging to offer the same understanding and kindness to ourselves. Because we truly know ourselves, and the actions we have taken, it can be harder to let go of our own mistakes or wrongdoings. So, how can we forgive ourselves and move forward without guilt and shame?

10 Tips to Forgive Yourself and Release Guilt

  1. Talk about your mistakes: One incredible way to dispel shame and guilt is simply to talk about what has happened. Finding others who understand, relate to, and can empathize with your struggles will likely make you feel less alone. 
  2. Accept yourself as you are: We are all human! Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t hold yourself to a standard of perfection. The more you can accept yourself, flaws and all, the less guilt you’ll feel. Be compassionate with yourself!
  3. Banish negative self-talk: When we’re struggling with a challenging situation, we may drop into negative self-talk. Punishing yourself in this way won’t really help, it will likely just make you feel worse. Imagine what you’d say to your best friend if they told you about the same situation. You wouldn’t shame them, or guilt them. You would likely empathize with them, help them come up with a plan of action, and remind them of their value and many good qualities. Try being that kind to yourself!
  4. Take accountability for your mistakes: Accept any consequences that come along with your mistakes. While this can be a hard step, taking responsibility for your actions can come with a huge wave of relief! Identify what needs to be done to make a situation right again, and start taking action toward it.
  5. Apologize and make amends: If you’re feeling guilty about hurting someone else, start with a heartfelt apology. Acknowledge how you may have hurt them, own your mistakes, avoid making excuses, and ask for forgiveness. While you may not be forgiven right away, showing your remorse through actions moving forward is a powerful way to make amends. 
  6. Learn from the past: When we acknowledge our mistakes, it allows us to learn from them! Take some time to think through what happened. What led to this mistake? What would you do differently next time? What have you learned about yourself from this experience?
  7. Pause and reframe: Do you ever find yourself replaying situations you feel guilty about over and over in your mind? This is a very common reaction to guilt. However, this will likely make you feel worse, and it doesn’t accomplish anything positive! Instead, imagine you are literally pressing pause on the replay in your mind. Try reframing the situation with more kindness and understanding. Remember your positive attributes and the ways you’ve tried to make the situation right.
  8. Cultivate gratitude: It’s common to experience guilt when you’re going through a hard time and need more support than usual. Instead of feeling bad, remember that your friends and family love you and want to support you! Focus on being grateful instead of guilty. Try to shift your thoughts from “I feel horrible taking up all of my friend’s time complaining” to “I am so lucky to have friends who listen to my troubles.” Thank your loved ones for their time, and remember to be there for them in the future too.
  9. Speak with a professional: If feelings of guilt are prolonged and continuous, you might benefit from speaking to a professional therapist or counselor. No matter what, you deserve to feel loved and worthy – because you are.
  10. Energy healing to release trapped guilt:No matter the cause, if excessive guilt is affecting you, removing it is critical to your emotional balance. You might have a hard time finding joy until you get rid of that negative energy. Through muscle testing, you can find out whether guilt — or related feelings of shame or self-abuse — are a factor in the way you feel. Identifying and releasing those emotions is perhaps the best way to feel like yourself again, so you can move on — guilt-free.

If you have a feeling that trapped emotions are stopping you from forgiving yourself and letting go of guilt or shame, our professional energy healers can help. Find a Certified Emotion Code or Body Code Practitioner, and start releasing the guilt that’s holding you back!