Snapshots of patients’ common enquiries –
“Doctor, I am anxious all the time! what should I do?
“I am so depressed, I can barely drag myself out of bed, what is wrong with me?” Or,
“My partner is so unreasonable, why can’t he (or she) admit he’s wrong?”
These are typical statements made by most of the patients. People are always asking questions like,”how do I get rid of these terrible symptoms and live a happy life?”
They are either married, unhappily or living with a significant other. They blame their negative feelings like anger, fear and guilt on their unhappy relationships. The reason behind such negative attitudes lies in the fact that they are already living in a bad relationship and are looking for a quick solution to their negative feelings.
What is irrational guilt?
There are things to know about irrational guilt. In fact, guilt is an effect of extreme anxiety, a self-flagellation that stems from low self-esteem, shame, and lack of boundaries.
Usually, the victims of irrational guilt feel that they are culpable for thoughts, feelings, and actions of someone else.
In marriage, it is common for codependents to take the blame for someone else’s behavior.
So, the effect of irrational guilt on relationships is actually bad, but that depends upon whether the person in concern is suffering from healthy guilt or shame.
Reasons behind unhappy relationships
Often people complain that their partner is either constantly picking on them (angry), or are too needy and dependent. Probing their family of origin might lead to uncovering a history of dysfunction, abuse or neglect.
They try to do better in adult life, but that might fail to draw the expectant result.
“Why do I keep picking angry men?’ ask the guilty- depressed woman.
“Why do I always end up with difficult women ” ask the anger- controlling man.
The answer to this condition is simple – we all grow up with an excess of irrational guilt.
What causes irrational guilt in adults?
There can be multiple reasons that have prompted the growth of irrational guilt in young adults.
1. Disobeying parental commands
Perhaps our mothers blamed us for not listening to them since we have been bad boys or girls for not wanting to go to sleep on time. Or, we should have been ashamed of ourselves for not obeying a parental command, and so on.
Such adolescent or childhood mistakes might have been unconsciously internalized as guilt and shame. We don’t even realize we have it.
2. Pleasers personality
At times, the same guilt leads to a personality that tries to please people all the time. This is called the guilty-“people pleasing” solution.
Pleasers think that the only answer to their guilt lies in their desperate attempt to please anyone and everyone. They carry the mindset that if they can get everyone to like and approve of them, then everything will be fine.
They fail to realise that life does not work that way.
3. Fighting authority
Again, there are people who try to fight authority, as an easy solution to the irrational guilt.
This “solution” can lead to compulsive anger and rebelliousness. This idea never works either. The situation is similar to what Grouch Marx used to sing, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”
These are the difficult people who always made sure that they get what they want and keep pushing to get their way. They always have to be right! When asked if they would rather be right or happy?, they always say, “Both.”
But, when you tell them they can’t have both, they insist they can!
Such people, if married, will tag along the same behavior into their marriage, thereby resulting in marital disputes and unnecessary quarrels.
Usually, the guilty ones try very hard to please the angry ones. When she or he fails, they either tries harder and gets depressed or they turn the guilt into anger. The angry one will end up saying, “It’s not my fault we are unhappy, It’s your fault!!!!”
The guilty one counter attacks, and so the matter goes out of hand.
How to eliminate guilt that is slowly draining your life away
Is there a therapy for guilt? Yes! The answer is to withdraw projected feelings.
In simple English, as soon as we stop blaming, we can become aware of our thoughts, inner feelings and beliefs.
We can see, for example, how our repressed guilt leads us to marry a blamer who, then gives us the punishment we (unconsciously) think we deserve. When we let go of guilt, we don’t need to be blamed anymore! On the other hand, the angry person needs to look inside and see that they are also in denial.
They are denying their own guilt. Instead, they are blaming others for everything. They can learn how to blame less and take responsibility more often.
If both marital partners “wake up” and take responsibility, a marriage can improve greatly!